Cutting down the commute and missing co-workers: Remote work


I’ve been doing it for about two years now. Working remotely.

My past commutes to work consisted of highways, hills, subways and trains. But now there are no crazy commutes in a car listening to the local news and traffic jams on the highways, hitting a drive through Starbucks to break up the stress, and tuning into the heavy rotation of RnB morning mixes.

Now it’s simple. I have to rise up, advance to the coffee maker if time permits. Bialetti and I have an intimate moment, then I head to the home office

There is no need to wake up extra early to miss rush hour jam packed like sardines N subways to get from Brooklyn to Union Square, then catch a coffee and people watch the mix of people passing through U square on a morning before 9:00 am from the top of Whole Foods sat on the large tables positioned in front of the big glass window.

There is no waking up at dawn, having some coffee and bread and walking through the dusty town or strapping on rubber rain boots to walk up hills that are muddied from rainy season, dodging bulls, cows and chilled wind during June and July.

There is no waiting at the train stop avoiding or engaging with co-workers while waiting on the platform for the ride in. If there’s time we'd hit the bar for a quick stand-up caffe machiatto, and if we’re in the mood we'd gobble up a sweet cornetto.

Now it’s simple. I have to rise up, advance to the coffee maker if time permits. Bialetti and I have an intimate moment, then I head to the home office. Minimal commute, still with coffee, and less human contact (given Bialetti is a metal mocha coffee maker.)

I’ve always thought I’d love remote work. The idea of a 9-5, office cubicles discouraged me early on. The long highway commutes behind the wheel also is a thing of the past for me. I vowed to myself after that job, never again. Times are changing. More people are given flexible hours for working and able to put in that time from home. More and more companies and organizations recognize the advantages of offering remote work, whether it is all the time, or certain days and time a week.

I mean think about it. How much time and energy is drained and wasted siting in traffic, wedged in between passengers on a subway. Perhaps climbing up a mountain in a remote village was inevitable and only horseback (or donkey back) could have eased that situation, but waiting for the train to Civitavecchia that was late by 30 minutes for the third day in a row, definitely made your blood boil. My favorite announcement, "The train has been canceled, thank you for understanding."

There are many perks to remote work and a lot of it, in my case, comes from having clients and partnerships with those who I have built trust with and with whom I continue to deliver on my work. Apart from streamlining my commute, I can “multi-task” and switch between professional and personal spheres with ease. This is a grand perk, especially managing different roles and activities in both spheres.

One minute we are having a sidewalk chalk activity with the neighborhood kids, and then moments later I can be on a call for organizing an international meeting and next onto to creating lunch with leftovers in the fridge, then finishing editing a 10-page report for a board meeting. 

I actually don’t like the term, “multi-task” I prefer the idea of doing multiple tasks back-to-back rather than all at the same time. However, inevitably there are moments where you find myself still in pjs by the later afternoon, bouncing an infant with one foot in a bouncer while running a conference call, taking notes and whatsapping my husband on what to pick up from Carrefour to prepare a semi-healthy dinner. It happens.

What I miss are aspects of the commute. The modes of transportation. The comraderie amongst fellow commuters, especially if there is a harsh weather or an incident. Or coming together to rant about the lack of efficiency of the public transport services which cost more and more to run each year.

I also miss colleagues. I miss grabbing a coffee to discuss a project. I miss venting to my office mate about a mishap. I miss asking for a second set of eyes on revising a radio announcement. I miss organizing a lunch outing and deciding where to go. I miss people contact.

What’s the answer? I’ve tried frequenting coffeeshops, but it still feels a bit lonely, as you have your head down, focused on the laptop and breaking up the work only to run to the bathroom, take a call or order another café crème. Then again, there is this concept of shared spaces, where you pay a fee for wifi access and some space to plug in side by side next to others who are remotely working, freelancers and the independent consultants. Essentially, they fulfill all that I miss in the above paragraph, but I suppose it's a different feel.

I’m not completely sure. What would you do? Have you ever tried a shared space? Did (do) you like it? What are other options?