John Klossner: Telecommuting heck

Blogger John Klossner's interview with a teleworker in his own home gives insight into working outside the office.


My daughter once came home from her elementary school to tell us how embarrassed she was because that day someone was speaking to her class about careers and asked everyone whose parents went to a workplace to raise their hands, leaving my daughter as the only student with her arms by her sides.

We'd like our children not to be ostracized at school, but we also like working at home. I have not gone to a workplace for anything other than a meeting with a client for over 20 years now, and my wife, who works part time for a federal agency, goes in one day each week, working the rest of her hours from home.

(As an aside, the president works from home, doesn't he? Does that mean that the people who go into a centralized workplace are the exceptions? Or is this merely executive privilege? When asked the same question, are the president's children singled out among their classmates? I've never seen the president with a half-finished bowl of cereal on his desk in the Oval Office, but I assume that's something that's off the record.)

I suppose I can't call myself a telecommuter. I have been working from home since before the term "telecommuting" was coined. I assume that in order to telecommute, you have to be telecommuting from some central office. Also, I would suggest that one of the rules of telecommuting be that you know what the person or people on the other end of the telecommute look like. I rarely know what the people I'm working with look like and, if I do, it is always by accident.

My wife is probably a more official telecommuter. She works part time -- 18 hours -- for a federal agency, half of that from home. When I recently reached her in the kitchen, I was able to ask her a few questions about her fed telecommuting experience.

What are the pluses to your telecommuting experience?

Not having to commute, obviously. The time and money saved by not commuting. Could you pass me the sugar? And the flexibility of being here. There are no interruptions, and I'm able to be more productive.

And the minuses?

I feel out of the loop, but that might be because I'm part time. I think this causes my co-workers not to ask me to do as much, because I'm not there to ask. Communications are harder on my end -- sometimes I can't reach someone I need to talk with as easily as if I could go into their office. Are you going to the store today?

Is lunch better at work or at home?

Much better at work, because I go out to lunch there. I think my office relationships are better from my telecommuting. We make a more concerted effort to connect with each other when I'm in the office. Speaking of which, don't eat that leftover salad in the fridge -- I'm saving it for my lunch.

How has working from home affected your relationships with managers?

I think everyone who works at home feels a sense of guilt by not being at the office. I've always had bosses who understand that productivity is more important than the time clock. I've heard of bosses who are constantly checking in to make sure the workers are at home. Not that I'm not.

I've got you covered.

Can you remove that? I don't want to give the wrong impression. I'm very productive.

I know that. I don't think I should remove it. You have nothing to hide.

No. Seriously. Please remove it.

But then it will seem like this interview is hiding something. I want it to be a truthful experience for the reader.

How can it seem hidden if the piece isn't there to begin with?

This is a very savvy reader group. They can pick up on these things.

C'mon. Please take it out.

No. It will be okay. Trust me.

I'll let you have my leftover salad.

No, thanks.

See if you ever get an interview with me again.

I'm sure that I can find another federal employee in a pinch.

Think they'll let you have their salad? Fat chance.

Maybe I should consider going to an office.

You? I'm sure there are all kinds of openings for a cartoonist who watches old Jack Benny clips on YouTube for an hour each day.

That's pretty harmless on the list of potential flaws. Besides, it gives me ideas.

I've got to get to work. See you at lunch.

Can I have this salad?

NEXT STORY: IT execs confer with Obama

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