Do You Really Want To Work From Home?

Even in my quasi-retirement, I manage to keep to a fairly rigid set schedule. I get up around 3:30 a.m.; scan e-mail, Web sites, Twitter and so on; quaff a pot of coffee; and then hit the concrete or the elliptical trainer for an hour or so. And hey. I still manage to get to the office most days by 7:30 or so.

Short commute: 13 stairs, and generally no traffic heading in either direction. Sound ideal? Well, for the most part it is. But it’s a big change, particularly after 40 some years of jumping in a car every workday and racing to and from a real-world office. And I’m not convinced it’s ideal for everyone.

I was thinking about that this morning after I read an article by Petula Dvorak in The Washington Post, “Dispelling the fantasy of working from home.” Dvorak is a WaPo reporter who worked at home while her office at the newspaper was being renovated. Her take on what she describes as “the home office fantasy”: It ain’t easy working at home — given family pressures and interruptions.

Then there is the issue of being isolated — of only being connected to others via the Internet, e-mail and mobile phones. I’ll admit it. I’m delighted — for the most part — that I’m not commuting to Kent State every day now — but I miss the contact with students and faculty.

And I expect this idea of being removed and isolated from associates and workplace friends will become an increasingly important issue and concern as more people work from home (either for an organization or on their own) or as they join the nation of nomads who work — or in many cases these days, look for work — out of coffee shops, book stores and so on.

Here’s from Dvorak’s article:

The coffee shop owners are in a tight spot, their stores serving as the new harbor for a good deal of the recession’s white-collar detritus. The people laid off are haunting the java joints with their laptops, searching for a routine that gets them out of pajamas and away from “Wheel of Fortune.”

Or they are now freelancers and consultants who create their own cubicle, complete with Wi-Fi, electrical power and a latte for just $4. The baristas call them campers or squatters. And I became one. I know where the free Wi-Fi is, where they kick you off the system after two hours, where the outlets are ample and the seats comfortable.

But in all these places, what was missing was real human contact, something beyond “tall, skim, cap.” We all came there to be together, away from our homes, but once inside, we didn’t interact. There is something essential about having a community of people. And for parents, if possible, having adult time, adult space.

Wow. “There is something essential about having a community of people.”

Go figure.

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