Perks and Pitfalls of Telecommuting

-

The soup got torched, again. Zesty flavored whence removed from the can, the now smoky-flavored Trader Joe O’s went to school, anyway, in a pink thermos in the tin Blow Pop novelty lunch box. This, after a cursory taste test confirmed the impossible: She wouldn’t know the difference. Never mind that the cauldron it bubbled fiendishly in was tortured beyond repair. Never mind that she dissects her green beans to remove the bad parts before eating. I was reasoning with the clarity of Lenny from Mice and Men? Show me the rabbits, George. Nah, better not. I’ll probably burn them critters, too.

“Did you burn it while you were working on the computer in the basement?” she inquired, in that accusatory, sassy tween tone reminiscent of the damaged young stars of twit-coms. “Yes, I did it while working in the basement,” I confessed. “I’m so sorry. It won’t happen again.”

-

Appallingly, I also was exposed at school upon pick up time. The school secretary reported there was something wrong with the way the kid’s soup smelled. “It smelled off,” shared Juanita, scrunching her nose like my Pug dog, Mr. Jones, when ordering him to stop licking the Bounce sheets. Yeah, lady, what smelled off was my motherhood. Time to set some boundaries, right? Or at least install a kitchen timer in the basement.

Truth is, working from home via the computer is certainly a good way to go, but understand the perks and pitfalls. You save huge amounts of money and fuel by going about your business online. Commuting to work by car and writing it off is still commuting. No, telecommute if you can, even if the mouse in your house is a huge distraction – keeping you from becoming the Alice Waters you aspire to be.

Clearly, more of us are clicking with that mouse to earn a livelihood. The U.S. Census Bureau reports sizable increases in the number of Americans working out of their homes. It shot up from 9.5 million in 1999 to 11.3 million of us in 2005.  Half of all home workers have college degrees and earn at least $75,000 a year, and also work longer hours than the average worker to make that dough, about 11 hours per day.

Studies also show growth in the number of employees telecommuting on multiple days of the week, from 2.3 million in 2005 to 2006 up to 2.8 million workers from 2007 to 2008. Chances are it will keep rising, and want-ads will reflect that rise rather than the sprinkling of telemarketing options available now.

-

In the year 2010, telecommuting is hugely viable and still not always acceptable to backwards employers, who argue nothing replaces relationships formed at the cooler. Not even forgoing costly commercial rental space.

But those who understand the benefits admit technology has outmoded the need to traverse the country in jet planes and rack up business class frequent flier miles to do business. It has outmoded the need to show up to a cubicle every day with your tail wagging to get a bone. That way of doing biz is up in the air and destined to being grounded for good if we keep it up. I know you know what I mean by keeping it up.

Meanwhile, back to the soup. There are unavoidable pitfalls and some avoidable ones to multitasking in too comfortable of an environment, namely, one that you control 100 percent.

Unavoidable

You will find the cut-off time to be elusive when your office is where you also shower, cook, social network, pay bills, wash clothes and generally manage your own life and or the lives of children and other living things. Yes, plants count.

You often cough up your own medical insurance unless the employer has it covered, struggle to squeeze in exercise which actually is easier to do once you are already out and about, and may decide to screw the housework which you would ordinarily fit in before work in the morning or when you get home. Ah ha. See, you don’t leave and you don’t come home. Hello piles of dirty clothes and towels, sink of dishes, unmade beds. Wouldn’t you rather work than tackle those unpleasant chores? Isn’t it because you hate housework that you dive into work in the first place?

Avoidable

Over-scheduling. Don’t do it. It will lead to overwhelm which will lead to wine with lunch on the couch. You can still stick to a schedule like any office rat, just give yourself a window of completing must-do tasks and prioritize as you go. Then visualize the stop button on the treadmill and push it when the time comes to clock out. Warning. If you devote time to social networking during much of your down time, there will be no down time. Limit that as well.

And do place that timer in the home office. My sister gave me one years ago and when I reorganize the kitchen drawers I bet I’ll find it. No school secretary deserves to smell rotten soup. Sorry Juanita. If I can hyperlink, download images, Facebook and Twitter, I should be able to time a pot of pasta soup on the stove. I won’t give up, won’t  resort to peanut butter and jelly and return to the cold and rigid environs of a corporate work setting.

Keep telling yourself that. Better yet, send a Gmail reminder to your Yahoo account, print it and tack it on the bulletin board in front of your computer. Add the affirmation, Telecommuters rule. Then get out of your pajamas, have some lunch, do a load of laundry, say hello to the mailman, and get back to work.

Images: Fabio Bruna; SuperFantastic; Shari Thompson

Luanne Bradley

Luanne Sanders Bradley is the West coast Editor at EcoSalon and currently resides in San Francisco, California.