My daily commute is 50 minutes one way or 1 hr 40 minutes every day.
I take public transit, so I don’t have to worry about traffic. But on days when it’s pouring or snowing outside, I just wish I could telecommute instead.
So which one I do prefer: commuting or telecommuting? Both approaches have props and cons which I will discuss below.
1. The interaction
What I love the most about being physically in the office is the interaction with my co-workers.
I know with Skype, Google Hangout, Zoom, and a telephone, you can talk to anyone in the world at any time of the day.
But it just can’t replace the small talk, the smile and the laugh you can have seeing your co-workers in person.
When I’m in the office, my boss or colleagues just drop by my desk any time they need me without having to set up an online meeting. And I’m happy to be of help to them.
Is it worth spending 1 hr 50 mins every day? It’s totally a personal preference. But for me, it is.
Sometimes I just run into my colleagues in the hallway or kitchen who I normally don’t work with. I talk with them and find out details about their work that turn out to be really helpful for me.
I also talk a lot with the colleagues who sit close to me. They tell me about their lives and family, and offer me great advice when I have problems. Those are the kind of things we usually don’t set up a formal meeting to talk about.
2. The free food
You read that right. Our office has events and meetings with free food every once in a while. We have an end-of-the-year party that a lot of telecommuters just can’t join given their distance.
Eating delicious food: score! Saving money: score!
3. The change of atmosphere
I’m totally fine working at home. But if I sit at my desk for too long, I feel suffocated and bored. A change of ambiance every day from the office to home, though repetitive, is enough to make me feel happy in the morning when I go to the office and in the evening when I come home.
1. Transportation fees
I pay almost $200 every month to commute to work. This is not a small amount. The time spent on the commute is also long (1 hr 50 min). When there’s a mechanical/technical issue with the public transit, it might turn into 2.5 – 3 hours.
Do I like that? Not exactly.
But I have figured out a way to spend that time wisely: listening to podcasts about real estate, finances, and retirement. There’s not a lot of space for impatience since there’s not much else for me to do.
2. Clothing expenses
When you need to show up in an office, you might have to invest more in business attire which may not be cheap. Every morning, I need to check the weather forecast and decide what to wear. And it does take some effort.
1. Short commute time
Your commute may consist of a one-minute walk from your bedroom on the 2nd floor to your office on the 1st floor. You have more time to spend with family, go for a walk outside, or watch a movie during lunch time if you choose to.
2. No transportation fee
Imagine I can save $200 a month and spend it on something else!
3. No need for high heels/fancy clothes
Of course, you still need to look presentable for an online meeting. But if you know you don’t have any meetings on a certain day, pajamas would suffice.
1. Feeling isolated
Like I mentioned above, a small talk in the kitchen with your colleague can give me a great update on their work. Sitting by yourself in an office with no one else around you can make you feel extremely isolated and not up to date with what’s going on in the office.
Unless you’re self-disciplined, you can get distracted easily from work with a couple of minutes here and there on social media or phone calls from family/friends.
I know this can also happen at work, but it’s at least limited since you know someone else is watching over your shoulder and might report you to your supervisor.
3. No free food
You just can’t enjoy the free food in the office if you’re not there.
I do wish to have some days where I can telecommute every once in a while (i.e. snow days). I think I enjoy telecommuting more when I don’t get to do it often.
But overall, I like to be physically in the office. There’re things you just can’t measure or compare to time or money. For me, it’s the sense of community and togetherness I feel when I interact with my colleagues in person. And for that, I’m fine with a long commute every day.