Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Get out and ROWE

This morning on NPR I heard a story about "Results Oriented Work Environments" - the office environment of tomorrow, today!

In ROWE workplaces, people can work remotely, for the most part, unless they're scheduled to cover some face-to-face customer service type meeting. This means that "cubicle farms" are left mostly empty while workers rotate who's actually present. Managers of ROWE offices claim that the workers who do this are more productive because the hours they are working are actual working hours, rather than "butt in a chair at the office" hours (or what they call "presenteeism"... a term that's a bit too cute for my taste).

My taller half disregarded this idea, saying it's just another way to squeeze even more hours out of workers, for the same pay. As I was commuting to my office, though, I found myself wondering just how much of my job I could do from somewhere else... and whether I would be more productive and possibly happier if I tried it.

Which inevitably got me thinking about how much more time I could spend in natural light.

You see, at my workplace I have my own office, which I understand is a luxury, especially for someone my age. To be able to close a door is very nice on days when I need to be on the phone for a while, or am working on number crunching that needs concentration, or just don't want to deal with interruptions (though a closed door isn't necessarily a guarantee of that).

But my office is windowless. I spend hours of my life sitting at a desk, facing a wall, under fluorescent lights, and seeing zero natural anything, unless you count the plant that lives on my metal office shelf. I'm fairly certain this contributes to the lack of fulfillment the job gives me, which I've written about before.

Really, I could just as easily call people or reconcile receipts from... anywhere. Except for running the occasional conference and being secretary for the occasional meeting, I could do, probably, 80% of my job remotely. And the rest of that stuff could be scheduled for days when I plan to be around.

Heck, if I was able to work from somewhere else, my boss could give me a cubicle and assign my office to someone else.

Listening to the story about workers telecommuting, or only going in to the office once a week, I caught myself dreaming about setting up shop on a screened-in porch, with my coffee, in jeans and a sweatshirt, and logging my work hours to the sound of birdsong.

(Note: I don't have a screened-in porch. But it sounds nice, doesn't it?)

All this daydreaming is made worse by the fact that my desk at home just got moved and rearranged (does anyone else out there correlate "rearranging furniture" with "fun weekend"? Or is that just us?) so that it now faces two windows. As I was finishing a class project yesterday, I enjoyed swaying trees, changing evening sunlight, and puffy clouds. Just the occasional glance up helped my mental state considerably, and I got the project finished hours before I had originally expected to.

Of course, the usual tradeoff of working from home and/or working someplace comfortable is that you'll just never stop. This is certainly the case for most people I know who work from home, but the difference is that those people work for themselves. They're either running small businesses or they're independent contractors. My brother is a solid example of this: he has a home office, which means he works, like, 18 hour days, then staggers down the hall and falls in to bed, basically. And he's usually doing that six or seven days a week. He's got to be the most demanding boss ever, but he's his only employee, so nobody complains.

But if instead of running your own business you were reporting to a supervisor via e-mail and Skype, would it work? In a mostly self-managed job like mine, I think it would. And I think I'd be willing to give it a try.

Perhaps it's time to chat with my boss.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. I think that is excellent that you made the distinction btw working for yourself from home, and just working from home, because that would/does effect the hours. During college, I spent one summer nannying for 3 delightful girls and their mother worked for a computer company. She worked in their upstairs office, and was out of town about one-day per week. The girls knew that their mother was "at work" when the office door was closed, and it really did feel like she was gone. But, she got to have 3 meals per day with her kids during the week! The flip-side is the lack of adult interaction, but I'd rather prioritize adult interaction with my friends, than have it forced upon me by spending time with colleagues.

    In short!!, I like the idea :)

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Be nice, now.