I live in Colorado, and today we all woke up to a nice, thick layer of snow. And ice. And slush.
I drove my elementary school kids to their bus stop a couple of miles from home, and it was a typical slippery morning. Not icy enough to delay or cancel school, but icy enough that I saw a local woman’s car high centered on a median on my route home. She couldn’t have been driving more than 20 mph.
I instantly flashed back to all that miserable driving to and from work in the early to mid-1990s. I remember one bus ride home that took four hours to get from the office to my home. Seriously. Including my 1.5-hour commute to work that morning, I spent almost as many hours in snowy traffic as I did working that day.
I hated that.
And soon after that experience, I convinced my employer to allow me the opportunity to telecommute at least a few days each week. The suggestion brought deep skepticism and doubt, mostly because it was virtually unheard of at the time. I mean, how do you know if someone is actually working 40 hours a week if you don’t physically see them in the office?
But my employer reluctantly (and graciously) agreed.
When I made the transition, I found some surprising personal results. First of all, without constant interruptions, I was way more productive at home than I was at the office. And, of course, since I didn’t have the massive commute, I had a lot more personal free time as well. There were definitely a few kinks in the system, however. Dial-up was still a popular Internet convention at the time, and I had to do a lot of planning to ensure all the computer files I needed were safely saved on the floppy disks I would bring back and forth once or twice a week. ”Sneaker-net” was how I shared files. And if I forgot something, it sometimes prompted an unplanned trip to the office. I’ve also been known to have a difficult time hanging up the “worker” hat and relaxing at home at the “end” of the day. The office is open all the time if your office is in your home. Nonetheless, it was worth it to me, and I loved the flexibility.
Flashing forward a couple decades and it’s amazing how much has changed. I’m no longer one of the few who touts the advantages of working from home. It’s embraced by both workers and employers now that employers have recognized some of its advantages. Minimal overhead without office space to rent. Cloud technologies finally make it easy and affordable for even the smallest businesses to access and share their data so it’s accessible anytime and anywhere without the hassle and cost of purchasing a server. And employers are no longer limited to the geography of their workers, so their labor pool no longer has borders.
I thought about how much I love my work now. Other than the trip to the bus stop, I don’t have a commute. I typically walk a whopping 30 feet from my bedroom to my office. My computer boots up as I heat up a cup of tea on the stove. And then I plunge into my day.
And on a snowy day like today, it’s absolutely perfect. I cuddle up with my cup of tea while I read my e-mail; then I look out the window and think, “let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.”