Sunday, January 10, 2016

Working at Home

There are times in everyone’s life when both pleasant and unpleasant surprises can throw you for a loop. An unexpected health issue is an example of the unpleasant sort. My wife was hospitalized this past Christmas Day due to a sudden medical emergency. She spent three nights in the hospital while her condition stabilized. She’s now recovering at home but because of my concern for her welfare, I’ve temporarily reduced my hours at Robertson/Sherwood/Architects so that I can spend as much time with her as possible. 

I’m adjusting to this change in my work schedule. My coworkers have been great, picking up the slack on the projects I’m working on despite how full their own plates are. I’m also doing some work at home, which, because of today’s communication and computer technologies, is an increasingly practical option. 

Telecommuting, remote working—whatever you call it—makes a great deal of sense. I don’t have to be in the same building (or country for that matter) as my colleagues in order for us to work together. Experts say about 20 percent of workers around the world work remotely, with almost 3 in 10 dividing their working week between home and the office. The ability to work from home has especially proven to be a boon for parents of young children. 

Most people understand both the advantages and disadvantages of working remotely from the office:

The advantages include:
  • Flexibility
  • Reduced cost
  • Work at your own pace
  • Fewer sick days
  • Proximity to home and family
  • Reduced stress
  • Increased productivity
  • Better work/life balance
The disadvantages are equally well-known:
  • Lack of routine
  • No workplace social life
  • The challenge of the work/life balance
  • Difficulty separating home from work
  • Need for high self-discipline
  • Distractions
  • Complete dependence upon technology

I do not foresee working remotely becoming a regular part of my routine. I know myself too well: the disadvantages listed above would eventually outweigh the benefits. Additionally, the way my coworkers and I practice architecture is very much reliant upon face-to-face interaction on a daily basis. By its nature, architecture is a collaborative pursuit, demanding efficient teamwork. Despite rapid improvements in the technology, teleconferencing by Skype, GoTo Meeting, WebEx, or other platforms cannot yet fully replace the freewheeling, spontaneous dynamic typical of architectural offices. Real-time, online collaboration and sharing of documents in the “cloud” are certainly a reality today, but virtual interactions are still hindered by the limitations of the technology. In too many instances there remains no substitute for literally being able to sit side-by-side with a close collaborator, pencils in hands, scribbling on the same drawing. 

Thankfully, my wife is doing well and improving daily. I hope to quickly return to a full-time schedule, maybe as soon as a week or two from now. I also hope to resume a more regular pace of blog posts; my blogging has definitely taken a back seat to my concerns about my wife’s health. I’ve needed some time away from both work and my various extracurricular interests (which include blogging but also my taiko drumming) for both her sake and my own. 

The ability to effectively work from my home is definitely a benefit today’s technology affords many of us. I appreciate being able to work remotely when I need to, especially when my life’s circumstances compel me to do so.


Eric said...

First off Randy, Paula and I wish Lynn all the best. Hope her path to recovery is a speedy one. Our health is something so easily taken for granted until it fails us, and only then do we gain a fuller appreciation of what a delicate mechanism life is.

Second, I believe your analysis to be spot on. When I started my practice out of my home, I found that the company of others was a huge plus I hadn't really considered when I made my first higher. There is something else that working with others can tend to do and that is drive your best work. There can be a healthy sense of competition that brings out that extra push to make that one additional design reiteration, or that discussion that triggers an insight or an overlooked weakness. Their is still a lot of design work that still finds its home in the surrounds of solitary thought, but the evaluation of that work is always stronger with some collaboration.

My final thought on your blog is how randomly I ended up hear. I have found as I pursue my career, my families, and my cows, that it is easy to become isolated from the happenings in others lives. Perhaps that is part of what Facebook's niche is, although I find that more applicable to family and non-worked related friends. My most recent example of this is Mike Roberts stroke, which I learned about from a consultant whom I used to meet with and Mike on a fairly routine basis a decade ago. I guess I'm looking for the technology fix for professional gossip in a sense. Our world spins in the arena of making realities of our clients spatial dreams, and that means we have a constantly evolving cast of associates that move in and out of our lives. How best to keep tuned in, even when a busy life can buffer us from such news? Perhaps a Facebook for professional groups? Perhaps it's already there and I just don't know it?

In any event, best to you both, in your current sojourn.

Shawn and Becky said...

It's nice to have the options to do both and find a balance everywhere.

Randy Nishimura, AIA, CSI, CCS said...

Eric: LinkedIn has professional groups where folks share advice, etc. but maybe not gossip so much. I don't think there's a local LinkedIn group for Eugene-area design professionals, but I may be wrong. I don't know about a Facebook group. You could create one if you'd like and maybe people will join in. One thing I've noticed is that the number of Eugene architects actively involved in Twitter or LinkedIn discussions is small. Like you say, people are busy, maybe more so than a generation ago. Or am I simply nostalgic for a simpler, less frenetic past that never existed? Have people always been so busy?