Diary of a Network Geek

The trials and tribulations of a Certified Novell Engineer who's been stranded in Houston, Texas.

10/12/2011

Inflexible Time at Work

Filed under: Career Archive,Deep Thoughts,Geek Work,Life Goals,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Monkey which is in the late afternoon or 5:56 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

I recently finished reading 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss.

I have to admit, I like the idea of working four hours a week and then pursuing my own interests the rest of the time.  You may not know it from how little I’ve posted here lately, but I do have interests beyond working a lot and high-tech geekery.  Realistically, because of how I do what I do, an actual four hour work week would be pretty difficult.  Of course, the book advocates doing something all-together different than a “regular” job.  Naturally, one of my major concerns as a cancer survivor is health insurance.  The book doesn’t talk too much about dealing with the health insurance issue.  However, it does talk about alternative revenue streams and different ways of generating income.  At least, generating income enough to live in an entirely different way than most of us “9-to-5-ers” do currently.  Or, for people, like me, unwilling to give up their “regular” job and the security it represents, Tim talks about working remotely and having flexible office hours and availability.
Personally, I’d be thrilled with getting out of debt and have some more flexible hours.

In fact, in my industry, things like remote work or flextime are quite the buzzword lately.
Now, keep in mind I mean “data technology and networking” as my industry, not the company I currently work for, who builds cranes.  In the networking world, we’re often asked to provide solutions of varying scales to let people work remotely, whether from home or elsewhere in the world.  For example, even though we’re a “little” company that makes great, big cranes, we still have people in multiple permanent locations on two continents.  Well, at least, several locations here in the States and one in the U.K.  But, I have service people who might be literally anywhere in the world.  Our cranes are pretty much in every off-shore oil-field now, so I may have people who’d like to get to a central server from almost anywhere.
And, besides the people who travel for work, I know that there are certain circumstances where people would like to work from home.  For instance, our Sales department is pretty tiny, so they’re always working.  And, if they have a big project, their day could easily stretch into more than ten hours or bleed over into the weekend.  I’m sure they’d love to be able to work from home sometimes.  Not to mention the engineers or draftsmen who might have a family emergency.
Or, even me, on occasion.  A lot of what I do I could probably do remotely or over the phone.

But, here’s the thing; not everyone feels that way.
I know from at least the anecdotal evidence in Tim’s book that people can be more efficient and productive working away from an office.  Certainly, with fewer distractions, I seem to be able to accomplish more.  And, when I get more done, I’m happier!  But, according to Baseline Magazine on-line, there are “risks” involved in flextime.  Frankly, I question their methodology for data collection.  For instance, they list several of the negative consequences of flextime, and by extension remote working, as “negative comments from supervisors”, “unfavorable job assignments” and “denial of promotions”.  But, those are pretty damn subjective and rely on opinions of workers who are using flextime, not actual facts.  Another “criticism” of flextime is that managers think that the best employees should be available 24/7 to handle whatever comes up and that the fewer personal commitments an employee has the more productive they are!  Well, of course!  The ideal employee is a robot who exists to work without ever taking a break!
Frankly, this sounds like someone pumping up junk research to make an article out of it.

Most people I’ve known who work from home actually put in more hours than they would at the office.  And, clearly, a lazy employee who needs structure to perform well is not going to produce when working remotely without someone to micromanage them.  Clearly, this won’t work for everyone, since lazy people will be just as lazy at home as anywhere else, but I don’t think that’s a valid criticism of the entire concept!

Well, in any case, I know that I’ll be looking into ways for people to work remotely that are low-cost or free.  If anyone knows of a free open source equivalent to Citrix, please, let me know!  I may start to look at the free OpenVPN as a possibility, too.  If anyone has any experience with that, I’d love to hear it!


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