Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Lure Of The Desert And The Miracle of Telecommuting

When I went Palm Springs to look at the condo we eventually bought, a friend and I were discussing how easy it is to fall in love with this desert town.  He said, "People come here for a long weekend, then a week and then they move here."

I thought having a second home in Palm Springs is where that storyline had completed.  PS would be a beautiful getaway from Atlanta and everything that goes along with living in a very urban area...a place to relax, breathe and refresh before going back to reality.  The truth is, the more you're there the more Palm Springs becomes your reality.

Technology is an amazing thing and it can change your life in ways you never imagined.  It grows by leaps and bounds every day.  (After all, this blog format has been considered old-school for years.  I should be Tweeting, Instagramming, Vining or Meerkating this if I wanted to be in fashion.)  Technology provides me  the opportunity to work from wherever I'm at.  I spend all day on conference calls and Live-Meetings with people around the country and the world.  Whether I'm sitting at a desk in Atlanta or Palm Springs is of little consequence as long as I have a phone and internet connection.

My company encourages telecommuting as a way to make a positive environmental impact and they have a program that allows you to work remotely a couple days a week in order to reduce the number of commute hours on road.  For people that live outside the city's perimeter, that can mean two hours a day and really does have an impact on their lives.  I live in the heart of the city and can get to work on local streets without having to touch the interstate, so for me, telecommuting locally isn't that big a deal.  My Atlanta home office is the dining room table, so even the accommodations aren't that great.

If you're working two days a week at home, that's about 40% of your time.  Over the course of a year, that's 4-5 months.  It's easy for me to justify working from Palm Springs that much, then.  I just lump the time together instead of doing a little bit each week.  Four or five times a year I go to Palm Springs for a month, telecommuting and enjoying just being there by sitting poolside and looking at the mountain.  It's been great.  And every time I have to pack up my laptop and head back to Atlanta it gets more difficult.

When you think about how we interact with each other socially it's rarely in person.  Texting, messaging, video's a special occasion when we're meeting somebody face to face.  A phone call is even becoming rare.  Our work lives are headed in the same direction.

Our office is going through a major renovation that is changing the work space areas to open floor plans.  I when I say open, I mean OPEN.  Unless you're a vice president, you're in a cube and those cubes have low walls.  And when I say low, I mean LOW...just 12 inches above the desktop.  They're also going to a "landing pad" concept which means that visitors, employees from other offices and even Atlanta employees from different buildings can plop down in a landing pad area, plug in and work.  

My nearby coworkers have the same job I do, so when we're all leading conference calls at the same time, it can be a little distracting.  It's almost like they're begging us to telecommute and I'm happy to oblige.  

I've had a conversation with my boss about this and communicated pretty clearly that I'd prefer to spend as much time in Palm Springs as possible.  He was very supportive, which didn't surprise me too much given that there's not much of an argument to be made for having to have your butt in a chair at the office.  His only concern was that maybe I would lose valuable "face time" with executive level people at headquarters and maybe that would have an affect on my career prospects.  I told him that this was a concern of mine as well, but even when I'm conducting meetings that involve people that are located in Atlanta we rarely schedule a conference room.  Even then, everybody is dialing in.

The company isn't at the point of "telecommute as much as you want", but I think that's the direction we'll eventually go.  I hope someday soon I will consider myself a resident of Palm Springs with a toe-hold in Atlanta instead of the other way around.  Nothing would make me happier.