January 30, 2003

Working at home

My recent reference to an Tom Yager article about employers and trust seemed to hit home for Diego and Bryan. Like Bryan does now I worked at home for about a year and half, so that part of the discussion still holds a lot of interest for me. I got a lot done when I worked at home, but I also let it bleed into my non-home life too much as well. After I moved to a new job I tried it again and the same thing wound up happening. So, no more of that for me, at least doing it full-time. I could see doing it one or maybe two days a week, but not beyond that.

My objections are strictly personal, a perspective sometimes lost in this whole back-and-forth. I've found this topic inspires a lot of emotion in programmers and management; there was a heated discussion about 18-24 months ago on the mod_perl mailing list with one side saying that companies who didn't allow telecommuting should be avoided, they were dinosaurs, keeping programmers down, etc. And the objections were practical (difficult communication, etc.) but that doesn't help in religious discussions. (Unfortunately I can't track down the link.)

Anyway, my objections: I need more discussion with people, face to face, to hash out a topic or to feed off someone else's energy and vice-versa. I need to overhear that someone is stuck on a problem and that triggers a memory that I solved this before but then there's another way to do it that will solve this other thing I'm working on. In a word: serendipity. I can get things done by myself, but it's more fun, dynamic and unplanned with other people. Some people can do it by themselves, and some get this same energy off IRC or the phone. Fantastic, that's great, rock on. But you can't force a solution either way. Some people will be able to do well, some people won't. And some people will benefit from doing some of both. Managers need to keep on top of what's actually done rather than when and in what time it was done. (That's good advice anyway, of course.) But I think the time when coders could just sit in a corner -- of the office, of their home, whatever -- and code is going going gone.

Update: Mark posted a related but separate thought on this later.

Next: Attack of the POJOs
Previous: Supplying data to your tests