On telecommuting while collaborating

My selfie skills are not on point today, but the sofa is comfy and the light is bright

It seems everyone has their own Very Clear Opinion on telecommuting, and I am no exception. My own background contributes to it, of course–not just because I enjoy working from my comfortable sofa in front of a big window (though we have established that it is my favorite place to work)–but also because I have seen so many ways that it can make life better for everyone.

Happy employees will stick around, and employees who have to sit in traffic for 2 to 4 hours every day will find another place to be. I have a good friend from an old contract of mine who would walk into the office on days when he couldn’t telecommute and immediately say “this is not beneficial for me.” We all agreed. A two-hour commute followed by an eight-hour day followed by another two-hour commute is not beneficial for anybody. As for being the owner of an emerging business, I may be willing to put in ten or twelve hour days, but I should not expect the same from my employees.

It goes beyond traffic though. Because I want the best employees. I want people who can understand my vision and run with it. Those people may not be in Northern Virginia or even in the DC Metro Area, and why should they necessarily uproot for the sake of sitting in front of a screen in a different city? I have had writers contact me from Baltimore, from Pittsburgh, and from California to work with me, and if they are capable, why not? In 1998, I collaborated with a team that lived in South Korea, from my office in Arlington. In 1999, courses in collaborative communications were being taught in my MA program at George Mason University and, though the collaboration software was crude, it was certainly usable. Twenty years later, I have found it is more unusual for a team to sit together every day than it is for them to have a robust Skype presence and the ability to virtually meet to discuss a project.

We are, as the saying goes, living in the future. Technology allows us to form our best teams regardless of location while also allowing those team members to keep more of their family time and free time. If we can free ourselves of the stressors of traffic, of lost family time, and even as business owners of the extraordinary cost of office space, do we not owe it to ourselves to do so?

(This article was written on the sofa, in the trampoline park, and back on the sofa on a different day. Because we can.)

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