Monday, October 05, 2009

Remember the Telecommuting Hype?

I've been working at home more lately - one of my primary production clients has scaled back operations (the City of Los Angeles!). As always, my work with Freshi Films is a mixture of field, office and what used to be called telecommuting. The remainder of my work is strictly in my home office. At the moment, that means completing my "Bollywood Steps" documentary, and expanding my networking base.

I have a love-hate relationship with working at home. I find it incredibly productive - I can get much more accomplished without the distraction of an office environment, particularly in the case of editing, but I also can become stir crazy! Social interaction is part of the fun of what I do for a living, and when home-based, I have to make specific efforts to balance my home office time with activities that maintain business relationships (and friendships) on a personal level.

After the 1994 earthquake, I visited the home office of a JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) executive who ran a department that was involved in the development of remote desktop technology - the webcam, audio and sharing technologies that today are commonplace. In those days, such technology was very rare, and this executive was one of the pioneers.

(JPL, for those of you that are unfamiliar, is the quasi-governmental arm of Cal Tech responsible for some of the most innovative developments in space exploration. They are responsible for virtually all of America's unmanned space probes, including the Mars landers and rovers, and the deep space vehicles that have been throughout our solar system and beyond.)

The JPL executive had been home in Lancaster, a distant suburb about 40 miles from his Pasadena office. When the earthquake struck, freeways collapsed and travel between the two cities was impossible for several weeks. However, because he had a video-audio connection with his office, he could continue some of his supervisory functions remotely. His employees could remain in touch with him by simply sitting at his desk and communicating with him, face to face. He found the arrangement effective - but only to a point. In light of the dramatic events, he missed the personal touch during a time when his team was going through so much trauma. He couldn't lend 100% of his support.

We don't hear the word "telecommuting" as much anymore - perhaps because we now understand that it's not an end to itself, and doesn't hold a specific definition. Many of us that are self-employed, myself included, work in ways that combine so many different methods that our base shifts constantly. We conduct work in an office, at home, in a coffee shop, and with a smartphone. Keeping the balance between all of these options, I think, is the key not only to being productive, but happy with the challenge inherent in earning a living.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"All your base are belong to us!"
It's not a typo. Look it up.