My 20lb dumbbells sit in the corner of my room, gathering dust and indenting the carpet underneath. The fitness application on my iPhone would be my best point of reference as to the last date of their usage. In fact, I don’t believe I’ve ever used my dumbbells as more than just a daily reminder to exercise. They’re more of a symbol of an idea. Originally, I purchased the pair because I thought owning them would make exercising more convenient and that I could be more productive with my day. Oddly enough, I’ve found that I prefer to boost my heart rate away from home, away from my room, and apart from these cursed dumbbells. (Yes, I’m actually going to bridge the gap between dumbbells and telecommuting, but remember, this is a blog post. An anecdotal one for that matter.)
Telecommuting can be defined as simply working from home or a remote location, separated from a centralized office space. With numerous studies on work-life balance, environmental benefits, psychological factors, differences of occupation, etc. on the table, the final verdict on remote work is still up in the air. Just like any idea or opinion on best practices and how work should be accomplished, there are those throwing rocks at each other on either side of the fence. What we do know is that roughly 20% of the global workforce telecommutes with India leading the charge. In the US, telework accounts for about 16% of the total workforce; California has both the largest percentage of teleworkers in a Metropolitan area (San Diego) and the fastest growing area for telework (Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario). Not surprisingly, Silicon Valley’s percentage is on the upswing. Across the board, telecommuting has sharply increased throughout the United States. From a personal perspective in the IT industry, my candidates are more incentivized to consider a new role if the opportunity offers some form of telecommute throughout the week. Moreover, there is a general consensus that software engineering is an occupation that can be based, in part, away from the office.
Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo!, had such disdain for the concept that she eliminated the company policy altogether after being appointed. HP CEO Meg Whitman followed suit thereafter. Both women were proponents of a collaborative and ultimately innovative workspace that could only be realized by being in close physical proximity to your colleagues. On the other hand, Richard Branson, entrepreneur extraordinaire, condemned the Yahoo! move as a “backwards step in an age when remote working is easier and more effective than ever.” Both a Stanford and Beijing University study reported an increase in productivity and efficiency in a randomly assigned control group. The New York Times published an article by Jennifer Glass that defends telework in an article entitled, “It’s About the Work, Not the Office.” The rise and popularity of collaboration software such as GoToMeeting and Cisco’s WebX should not be ignored either.
I am not a true telecommuter since I drive to our Orange County office daily. However, 100% of my work is done for our San Francisco and Silicon Valley offices. In essence, I am using the “work dumbbells” that sit in my room and so far, I have been relatively effective in my role. However, I believe that the quality of my work is partially dependent on those physically around me. I hold myself accountable to their presence. My work ethic is strengthened by an office space and the individuals with which it is filled. What motivates you to pick up the dumbbells? Are you camp telecommute or team office?