15 things this telecommuter misses about the office

What do I miss about working in the office? Let’s start with the way to any man’s heart: his stomach.

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What do I miss about working in the office? Let’s start with the way to any man’s heart: his stomach.

1. Unfettered access to all the fast-food restaurants located just steps from CIO.com’s offices: Wendy’s, Panera and my personal favourite, Taco Bell. There’s nothing quite like trying to get your work done with an afternoon Taco Bell food hangover.

2. The “just stopping by” visit by colleagues. In the Lakes Region of NH (where I telecommute from), the only “drop by” I get are from the loons in the summer who love to sing their sometimes startling songs and passing snowmobiles in the winter. It’s nice and all, but there’s not a whole lot of dialogue going on.

3. There are no children in the office. I’m going to go right ahead and point out the “double-edged sword” effect of working at home: You get to see your family more often…which can be both good and bad, depending on whether the “Scooby-Doo” theme that wafts up the stairs can be banished from your head and you don’t mind almost blowing out your ankle on a Transformers robot every afternoon. I’ll shut up now.

4. Having IT people in-house to solve your tech problems in person. I get just a little bit nervous when our IT people remotely “take over” my PC. (Not that I have anything to hide. Really.)

5. Image protection. Even if you’re not doing a lick of work when you’re in the office, you’re still “in the office.” The boss and colleagues can physically see you.

And no one suspects that you’re still in your PJs and watching Will Ferrell video clips all day long. (Not that I’ve ever done that.)

6. There’s no stinky laundry piled up outside your cubicle.

7. The free-food find: Whether it’s the serendipitous Friday a.m. doughnuts brought in by some benevolent coworker or the “seagulling” free-for-all that happens when you find a feast of lunch food left over from the bigwigs’ executive luncheon. (Mmmmmm…five-hour-old ham sandwiches!) Never happens in the home sweet home.

8. I’m not one to spread untruths (so you didn’t hear it from me), but a little harmless gossip never failed to keep the day moving along. It’s just not smart to send those golden pieces of juicy office rumor and innuendo over e-mail. Especially in these times.

9. Not having to log on to the temperamental VPN every time you want to get something off of HQ’s servers. (Still trying to figure out why iTunes and VPN don’t mix.)

10. If you leave your work PC at the office, there’s no way you can do any work on it over the weekend. When you work out of the home, it’s always there.

11. Meeting intelligence. Know all the uncomfortable intra-staff interactions and exchanges (rolling of the eyes, exasperated sighs, awkward glances) that happen during company meetings? Without videoconferencing equipment, I miss out on all the subtle body language and dirt on who really despises who.

12. Human interaction. Man cannot live by e-mail, IM and Twittering alone.

13. Listening to Howard Stern in the mornings on the drive to work. It’s just not the same at home.

14. Enjoying a lunch away from the office. At home I feel compelled to sit at my desk and eat lunch and (naturally) keep working.

15. Those Friday afternoons, when everyone’s burnt out after a long and successful week and just sitting around shooting the bull (including the bosses). Of course, I get to knock off on Friday without having to end my week with a commute from hell. But still.

Telecommuting’s Unspoken Disadvantages

While the above items could trigger some “office nostalgia”, they’re unlikely to make your re-consider your decision to telecommute.

But there are other issues related to telecommuting that are far more serious and may have lasting effects on a team’s ability to collaborate and on an employee’s belief that he is a valued member.

Here are nine you need to seriously look at and find solutions to before you can effectively telecommute.

1. Travel Budget? What Travel Budget?

When you signed on as a full time telecommuter, everyone (from management on down) agreed how often you would spend a week in the office (say, once every three or four months). But when the budget gets tight, the very first thing to be cut is the travel budget for your on-site trips. Doesn’t that make you feel special and valued?

2. It’s hard to read emotions from afar.

This might sound like a “little” thing, but it has big ramifications: you miss body language, intonation and serendipitous hallway encounters that help build an organization’s integument. Despite e-mail, instant messaging and social networks, it’s not the same. (Which is why those quarterly visits are so important.)

3. The lack of immediate, nonverbal feedback.

When you attend a meeting in person, you can see when people look uncomfortable at an idea you propose, or when their body language indicates they are offended by a joke you tell. It’s hard to fix social or team problems that you can’t see.

4. You have to work harder to form interpersonal relationships.

There’s no small talk while getting coffee from a vending machine during a break in the meeting. That limits group effectiveness, but more importantly, it sucks a lot of the enjoyment out of the work experience.

5. You could miss out on crucial office info (also see point 8 above)

This might sound like an advantage to those who are weary of never-ending tattletales, but it’s yet another way for telecommuters to fall out of the loop.

On a personal level, it means you don’t know about a coworker’s family bereavement so you can sent a card; you don’t learn that someone got engaged, became a grandparent or took a leave of absence.

Professionally, it means you don’t hear about decisions that affect your work, and you miss general news from other departments, such as staff promotions and transfers.

6. Your family and friends don’t understand that you’re working at home.

You aren’t hanging around, ready to take on any “honey-do” task and infinitely interruptible. Too many people assume that you have all day every day to take care of logistics, with no work responsibilities.

Training children that “Daddy’s working” is hard. Training spouses is worse. (Pets, however, believe that your keyboard is the best place to sleep. That’s not necessarily a disadvantage, though.)

7. Out of site (pun intended), out of mind.

Telecommuters can sometimes feel as though they wear an invisibility cloak. You have to make an extra effort to connect with coworkers and clients.

You can’t just stop by somebody’s office to get a quick question answered; you need to wait for him to respond to an e-mail message or phone call. Few people treat those communications media with the same urgency as someone standing at their office door.

8. Some employers make telecommuting difficult.

Some companies still frown on telecommuting because they are sure that anyone working at home cannot be trusted to actually, gasp, work at home. Thus they put ridiculous and arbitrary barriers in place.

For example: requiring staff to create a work plan with management approval on what you would work on, then file a report a day later indicating how much you got done. (Yes, that’s a true story.)

9. Employees who prove the distrustful management view to be accurate.

Some people are not self-starters and treat their own work-at-home days the way their managers fear: I’ll dial in for the meeting, I’ll poke at some of my work, and I’ll spend the rest of the day playing on Facebook or doing personal errands.

Those “telecommuters” imagine that everyone has as poor a work ethic as they do.

Such workers give the rest of us a bad name, and enrage telecommuters whose major problem-the much more common one-is that they can’t stop working. (Your computer calls to you. Constantly. Nights and weekends.)

That’s just the start, however. I’m sure you could add your own telecommuting pet peeves to the list-minor and major. Contribute your own in the article comments.

Source: CIO.com

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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