Working at Home


There are both pros and cons to working at home. And there is an added twist with advent of environmental consciousness becoming more mainstream.  Previously I thought I was not disciplined enough and neede the routine of clocking in. But this past week, I worked at home while waiting for an urgent delivery.

Before settling into my desk, I went through my morning routine and even eating some breakfast. That seemed to transition me into the attitude of “going to work.” I spent the morning diligently focused on coding invoices, answering e-mails, and contacting vendors on my home computer. Of course some of the advantages are fewer distractions, and I can listen to music without bothering my cubicle mate.

The green or environmental aspect of those who consistently work at home is that their employer benefits by not paying overhead on office space, electricity, heat, and air conditioning. The employee also saves by not driving a car and polluting the environment. The Consumer Electronics Assocation ( studied an estimated 3.9 telecommuters and their gas consumption in 2007. The survey found that those workers who spent one  “just one day of telecommuting saves the equivalent of 1.4 gallons of gasoline and reduces carbon dioxide emissions by 17 to 23 kilograms per day.” (Stoll in Information Outlook)

Many employers are more flexible these days because the tools exist. Home computers are so common, Blackberrys and cell phones are prevalent, as are Skype for long distance,  and open source software like Google Doc’s or Open Office. But still workers need to build a business case for working at home and proving what tasks are well suited to telecommuting. Stoll’s article in Information Outlook outlines some criteria for writing a proposal.

Personally I would miss the staff interaction and I needed to remember to still take a coffee break. Some things are hard to explain by e-mail and you might want to walk over and tell Sam something. Striking the balance between working at home and being productive, but still going into the office for face time and meetings must be tough for those who telecommute as part of their regular routine. I just got a taste of advantages and disadvantages.

Also some of my tasks, like fulfilling interlibrary loan requests or shelving books, are not suitable to telecommuting. Perhaps Bob Fortier, president of the Canadian Telework Association, said it most suitable to work at home.

Telework is most successful when the right teleworker, the right manager, the right home office and the right technology exists,” Mr. Fortier says. (Source: Virginia Galt, “Telecommute – and save the environment,” Globe and Mail April 27, 2007)

I think that I will leave telecommuting to my friends in marketing.

— Brenda

Other Reading:

Virginia Galt, “Telecommute – and save the environment,” Globe and Mail April 27, 2007

Christina Stoll, “Going Green : Info Pros as Telecommuters,” Information Outlook, Vol. 12 No 10 October 2008.

John Sullivan, “Time to Telecommute,” Workforce Management (2008).

TransitCenter, “The Impact of Commuting on Employee; How Commuter Benefits Can Help, ” Business Week (2008).

Office-Office v. Home-Office (or, A Tale of Two Jobs), January 23, 2009 post by Emma Wood


2 Responses to “Working at Home”

  1. 1 Karen

    Funny, after reading your post and Emma’s turns out I’m working at home today! I’m taking a sick day, but since I have access to my work computer desktop through VPN, I’m trying to keep up with email requests (I can actually listen to my voicemail as well if I want to). Still, isn’t the point of sick days to use the time to get better? I guess it’s the 24/7 mentality that makes me feel like I need to keep working!

  2. 2 Brenda W.

    Karen brings up an important point. With home computer connected to the office e-mail and access to voicemail, one may work longer hours outside the 9 to 5. Being so accessible is likely a bad thing as people can be obsessive and workaholic. However, a positive aspect is that the same technology can facilitate those workers juggling elder care or child care issues with staying on top of work.

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