Monday, January 5, 2009

Reverse Telecommuting

From the Sunday New York Times, this article details a new trend: people telecommuting not to their jobs, but to their lives. It's a symptom of the times: people are not in the mood to turn down a good job for any reason, and are willing to make significant sacrifices to make things work. In these examples, there are a few factors contributing to the telecommuting working out one way and not the other.

In all cases, the nature of the work is such that you really have to be there to do the work. Things like being a college professor at a prestigious university, or managing physical construction projects are not well suited to getting them done virtually.

The current market for executing real estate transactions, it sucks. People facing selling a house in a really down market (move real estate in Detroit, for example? Yeah, I didn't think so) just can't do it. And so if you're trying to advance your career without dragging your family to the poor house, maybe just the worker goes and the rest of the family members keep the home fires burning until times get a little better. Plus there are the usual reasons for families to not want to relocate: kids in schools, the other spouse has a career that s/he doesn't wish to give up, and so on and so on.

So the same technologies that would help a remote worker get into his office can help an on-site worker get into his home.

I'm not sure what I think about all this. At my old employer, there were a number of notorious cases where we made a significant hire and only the hired person made the move, leaving behind the rest of his or her family. And this arrangement worked for, like, six weeks, and then the new hire went slinking back from whence he came. And then the next person who was hired into that position left after six months to marry someone who lived and worked in Las Vegas. The running joke became that unless the person interviewing for that position showed up for the interview with a moving van and his whole family in tow, we wouldn't even talk to him.

Ha ha. It's not funny any more, because clearly people are willing to do whatever it takes and sacrifice quite a bit to get and keep their jobs.

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