Over the past couple of decades (yes, I’ve been around that long and more!) there have been cycles of interest in what was once called ‘worker mobility’ and is now referred to as ‘virtual workplace’, among other things. Call me a traditionalist but based on my observations of human behaviour and my own personal experience, the idea of ‘working from home’ never really appealed to me.  I have done it in the past successfully, but found that the demands and distractions of a young family, and the sheer isolation of working without interacting with others made it my least preferred environment. Given the chance, I couldn’t get back into an office environment fast enough!

Now, some of you may think this is because I’m one of those ‘social butterflies’ who is constantly talking and socializing with others in the office – let me assure you nothing could be further from the truth!  I’m actually the introverted person who will be sitting quietly in a corner, doing my work and not interacting much with anyone directly – but I’m still aware of and paying attention to what’s happening around me. I guess I like working in the proximity of the energy of others. Working at home ‘virtually’ has always lacked that external ‘buzz’ that I liked – even though I could often get more work done away from others than surrounded by others.

Over the past few months, I have been working occasionally at home because of the nature of my consulting work and interactions with clients by conference calls and web. It’s simply easier to do that at home than in an open office environment.  This winter, the weather has also provided strong motivation to reduce driving risk and loss of time, by just working at home. I know that I get more work done, have less distractions and – bonus – feel like I’m contributing environmentally by driving less. (Think about it: one day working at home per week translates to a personal reduction of 20% in car gas consumption and emissions!) Not to mention, of course, the hour or more a day that I can dedicate to other quality of life activities (…or for me, more work…).

But what about the social connections issue, you ask…and this is the part I find so ironic! With the growth of social networking, and the variety and level of interaction available, I find that I’m not missing the office ‘buzz’.  In fact, perhaps because of my naturally introverted style, I seem to have more interactions with others (including work colleagues) through LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook than I ever would ‘in person’!  The irony of this does not escape me: that by adopting a more physically isolated work environment, I am actually becoming more socially involved, not less.

After several years of resisting the push for ‘worker mobility’ and warning others about the inherent risk of social isolation, I’m ready to change my position. As long as I have good network connections, cell phone, webcam and my growing social networks, working from my home office becomes the more convincing rational decision. I guess we’re never too old to learn something new!

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