Take Homework Seriously
Surajit Agarwal | 24 May 2010
Take Homework Seriously
By SURAJIT AGARWAL
On an average, I spend a little over two and a half hours getting to work and back. The average for my city, Mumbai, is about one and a half hours, which means that a lot of people are spending a considerable amount of time in places they would rather not be. The averages for the rest of the country are no better. The worldwide average commuting time is a whopping 1 hour 20 minutes per person per day.
While the mathematics of lost productivity would be too tedious to calculate, I think all of you do understand the colossal waste of time getting to our offices everyday is. Add to that transportation and ecological costs, and the fact that commuting time is increasingly rapidly, and you understand why commuting is almost a cuss word for most of us.
The solution to this nightmare has been with us for years now. Geeks have been screaming from rooftops, websites, and blogs; basically any and every form of communication platform, about telecommuting. The technology has been available for years and it gets more robust and usable with time. Yet, as a community, we seem to shy away from adopting flexible working environments. Our desire to get to a place of work is almost as addictive as any narcotic out there, and like a narcotic, it has dangerous implications in terms of time lost, ecological disaster and stress-related illnesses that are sending more business to urban doctors than they can handle.
So this issue, and more specifically, this column is another small attempt to keep the flame of telecommuting alive. I do try and achieve a happy balance of getting to work on days I absolutely have to, like when the magazine closes every month. But equally, I try and work out of home when I feel I can stay away. But that is just not good enough. What would be really great is if the whole CHIP team, or for that matter, the tech2.com and compareindia.com teams, do not show up for work for a day every week and yet the work gets done as normal.
That day happened for us on May 4. Local trains were off due to an agitation and about 70 percent of the workforce could not come to office. Yet we had more stories up on tech2, more products on compareindia, and surprisingly, neither Jamshed (the guy who runs CHIP) nor Kamakshi (his counterpart at CHIP Plus) asked for an extension of their deadlines. Everyone worked from home and ensured that we had a perfectly productive day. The best part is the teams were more relaxed the next day in office. After all, a mid-week break in peak summer is always welcome.
There is little point in discussing advances in technology, the power of the PC, speed of bandwidth (or its costs) and the ancillary benefits of chilling at home, playing with your kid, and at the same time, ensuring your work gets done. The point is that we have everything we need to be totally productive from any location. Advances in cloud computing and even Microsoft’s latest move with Office 2010 pretty much ensure that we are no longer tethered to one desktop or laptop. My peer group has long since adopted the smartphone as an integral part of their existence, so being plugged into office or work at all times is a given. Yet, we continue to resist the allure of a better quality of life.
Telecommuting does not work for everyone; agreed. The sales teams, for example, have to get out there and meet their clients. Factory work can only be done at a factory, and infrastructure cannot be built from home. It probably also does not work out every day. But most surveys point out that the majority of us apparently just go to office and come back home. So it’s this chunk that can benefit, and by staying home, make it easy for the rest to spend less time on the roads or in crowded trains and buses.
So let’s beat the summer heat, the morning and evening rush hours, the heightened stress levels, and the bad canteen food by simply deciding to work smart. We can begin slowly, see how it feels, and as we get more comfortable, increase our time away from our daily addiction.