Posted by Tim Stobbs on February 20, 2014
My workplace is currently undergoing a bit of a shift since for years the entire department was centralized into one building, but that has recently changed and now there is staff across the entire province. So being the sucker for punishment that I am, I volunteered to do a presentation on working remotely for our next full department meeting in March.
Yet to make a good presentation I obviously needed to work from home myself to find out the pit falls and other issues that could come up. So my boss approved a half day experiment to give it a try. I choose last Friday for a very good reason, I had already planned to be off that afternoon and I also wanted to attend an school event from about 8am to 9am. Since I start normally at 7:30am, this obviously would normally been a bit of commuting nightmare, and hence my proposal of an half day experiment.
So overall I have to say I now fully get why people rave about working from home (or frankly anywhere but the office), you are WAY more productive when you aren’t in the office. Why? No interruptions with people asking you questions or stopping you mid sentence to discuss a completely unrelated issue. Despite my hour off at the school during my experiment I still managed to get the same half day amount of work done.
Yet of course there are downsides to doing this. The first thing I realized was that despite all this great technology to do this, our company still doesn’t have everything setup to be as productive as we could be when not in the office. The issue was certain programs were missing from our company VPN setup so there are limits on what you can work on when not in the office. It didn’t impact me much, but it could depending on the work someone needed to do.
Another fact that could come up for some people is you trade one set of distractions for another set. For example, my wife had kids at the daycare for that morning so I had a fair bit of giggling and the odd scream from small kids. I personally didn’t find it that hard to ignore, but I could see that being an issue if I had spent more time on the phone.
The last issue that came up was it happened to be literally the only time I can recall my Director asking me if I was in the office. She was off herself and needed something to be done by someone physically at the office and I couldn’t help. It wasn’t a huge deal as I suggested a few other individuals that could help, but it was ironic.
So overall I felt the entire experiment was a bit of success as it did make me more aware of what people who work remotely have to put up with and what they gain. I would work remotely again in a heartbeat as it is a great way to get some uninterrupted time in on a project.
What’s your experience with remote work? Have you done it yourself? If so, any other tips or observations? Obviously I never got to do this for a long period of time so I’m not sure what other impacts that come up.
Posted by Tim Stobbs on January 31, 2014
So after going a week without a car I thought it would be appropriate to give you all a report on how that went. Overall I have to admit I didn’t actually mind most of the experience.
Ok, I won’t lie. The one day it was a -44C windchill during my walk to the bus sucked…there is utter no way to sugar coat that. Yet if you dress properly for it (like minimum of two or three layers just about everywhere) and only have a small area to allow you to see you can endure it. I had no frostbite during any of my trips.
I think what I noticed the most about going careless was having to plan more about my trips. For example, taking the bus to work was fairly easy, but when I headed out one night to a meeting I had to look up which bus to take to get there. Not a big deal, but a different mind set. Also I noticed a loss of convenience, I just couldn’t stay later at work to finish something up for 10 minutes…I would miss my bus, so I had to consider if I was willing to wait for the next one in 30 minutes.
The experience also made me grateful for the friends who offered me the occasional ride. Often it wasn’t a big deal for them to help me out (in one case it was literally a one block detour), but it often could save me a half an hour or more on my day. I also enjoyed walking more to get some of my local errands done like picking up some books from the library. I did notice I had to watch how much I was carrying around since anything heavy could be a problem to walk around with for too long. I noticed the backpack helped a bit, but doing our major grocery run would require a cab ride home as there is just too much to haul.
So could I go careless on a permanent basis? In theory, yes, but given our transit system I would likely avoid doing that in Regina. It would be too big of a lose of convenience for us, given a lot of places we go on a regular basis aren’t well served by the transit system. Yet the experience did make me consider how much I am driving and make me appreciate what I do have. That old line from Big Yellow Taxi by Joni Mitchell seems to cover it “Don’t it always seem to go. That you don’t know what you‘ve got. Till it’s gone.”
So what have you went without? Did you ever go back or did it change your you?
Posted by Tim Stobbs on January 23, 2014
So today begins an interesting experiment for our household. We are going carless for a week. Why? Well the timing is good. Our car was involved in an accident a while back and is finally going in to be fixed. When I booked the appointment I was warned that they would need it for at least five business days or in reality a week.
Given how much we spend on our cars the reality is they are likely the second biggest driver on your retirement expenses after your house. Having and maintaining a car can easily require an extra $100,000 or more in retirement savings per vehicle. So dropping to one car is good for your retirement, better yet? Going carless.
Rather than take the easy way out and get a loaner or rent a car while ours is being fixed we have decided to try out the other side of the equation and do without the car for a week. I’m curious how this will turn out since this really isn’t a nice time of year to do this kind of experiment. In fact, it is often bitterly cold outside at times around now so this week should give me a fairly good idea of what life could mean if you don’t own a car.
So how are we getting around? Well to work and back I’m taking the bus, that used to mean losing like an extra hour of my day. Yet recently the bus routes have changed and there is now an express route downtown that actually has a travel time around the same as my usual drive home. So other than the walk to the bus stops my commute should be very similar.
For more local things we plan to just walk around. The reality is I’m perhaps a 30 minute walk at most for any appointment or errand I may need to run in the next week (except the work commute). Long, but certainty not horrible if the weather isn’t bad. If the weather is awful, I also have the option of taking a bus.
In the end I’m sort of excited to try this out, since I admire places with excellent public transit where you really don’t need a car. Yet I’ve always dismissed that as an option living here. So it should be enlightening to actually know what the issues are and exactly how bad they can be.
So if anyone has some tips on not having a car I would be glad for the help. Or if you do have a car, what could you do to use it less?