All I want for Christmas is to telecommute

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My commute blows.

Okay, a lot of people fare far worse. I once had an editor who commuted from Philadelphia to New York City—that’s 95 miles. And for this story I wrote on commuter couples, I interviewed folks who on Monday mornings head not for the train station but for the airport.

Me, I live just about as close to the city where I work without actually residing in one of its zip codes. My house is in Leonia, N.J., a mere 10 miles from my office building in midtown Manhattan. But because my destination is one of the world’s great workplace hubs, the commute is a crapshoot. Depending on the time of day, the mode of transportation, the weather, the traffic, the flap of a butterfly’s wings half a world away, the commute can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour and a half.

I think of all this as I read this Washington Post story about a survey on telecommuting:

A survey released Tuesday by Citrix Online found that 23 percent of American workers regularly do their jobs from someplace besides the office, and that 62 percent of respondents who cannot work off-site would like to.

What’s more,

The survey also found that workers prized the ability to telecommute more highly than stock options or on-site child care.

A number of recent changes are making my commute less attractive. For one thing, it’s costing more and more. Starting next week, according to Newsday, all fares going into New York City will rise–bridge and tunnel tolls, subway fares and rail tickets.

For another, like many companies, mine is trying to cut costs by scaling back on employee services. One perk of working past 8 p.m. on winter evenings was that a car service would take us home. A luxury, I know, but try hiking through the bitter cold to the Port Authority and catching an off-peak bus. We don’t get paid overtime, and yet are often required to work quite late, was the reasoning; the least the company could do was ensure we got to our doors safely. Starting in January, though, the service will be rolled back to 9 p.m., and its use is being strongly discouraged.

As far as I know, my company hasn’t issued a decree about telecommuting. At my own magazine, it’s tolerated at best, but management makes clear it likes to see its minions toiling in company-owned real estate. But the silly thing is that the company is losing money by my being here. When I’m in the office, it pays for my electricity use, my refuse disposal, my transportation (after 9 p.m.). It loses at least two hours of my productivity in the time I spend on the bus. Most importantly though less quantifiably, the quality of my work suffers.

In my absence, it loses my valued input at meetings, my glamourous presence at the coffee counter, my evocative scent. I kid. It loses little if not nothing. I am the boss of no one, and therefore dispensable in physical presence.

All I want for Christmas is to work from home. What about you?

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