Humor Column: Telecommuting

| By Rod Thorell |

Do you think that maybe remote working is for you?

Uncle Rod is here to tell you everything you need to know that you won’t get from that article your friend sent you from Forbes that he saw on Linkedin that was mentioned in a TEDx talk.

I do happen to work in my pajamas.

Every telecommuting article will talk about needing to maintain a normal routine, get a shower and dress in business clothes. Overrated. You know there are days that you want to just crawl out of bed and throw on an old T-shirt and shorts. Here’s your chance. Or maybe that is even too much. I have a friend who entered a teleconference with her hair in a towel, wearing a bathrobe. With clients on the line. It wasn’t until about halfway through that she realized her camera was on and she did the rationale thing — slammed her laptop shut. Gives everyone a great story to tell and no harm done. It was not that long ago bosses got all excited, letting you know that on casual Friday you can wear khakis and a golf shirt (but no jeans, that isn’t appropriate for the office). I should mention that I work in technology, so I have seen people wear pajamas to the office since the early ’90s. You get a lot of leeway when you are a wizard in machine code.

rob in a robe

Up and ready for work. I assure you that despite appearances, my breath is as minty fresh as the wall behind me.

Your boss really doesn’t want to see you anyway.

I know, you think they hired you because you were the best qualified candidate and most likely to make an impact on the company. You want to make sure you get every opportunity for the boss to see what a great job you are doing. The reality is that you were the third most qualified. The second most qualified person was too old (I mean, they can’t say that, it would be illegal, but the grey hair and 1979 graduation date kinda gave it away). The most qualified person irritated the boss so much during interviews that she figured they were going to be a pain in the butt and she could not imagine having to deal with them every day of her life. She wants you not to be that person. Do your job and delight her with your absence from her office.

Girl, you got interrupted.

You have seen many of those videos and memes of dogs and children running amok in the background of teleconferences. First off, why is this recorded? Who’s work life is so devoid of joy that they are going back to watch a 45-minute review of second quarter credit memoranda?  However, these videos are an accurate depiction of daily life when working from home. Our two dachshunds have the awful habit of trying to get my attention when I am in the middle of a meeting. They do this by running and failing in their attempt to jump up to my lap, their nose hitting my groin at full force, causing loud groaning and gasping heard on the line. “Sorry, Dave, that wasn’t a reaction to the Q2 numbers.”

dog nose

Yes, you luvs him soooo much. But nobody wants to see this on your webcam.

Note: You can read more about this particular bundle of joy here.

You might be more productive. Maybe a lot more.

The line between working and not working that is so defined by traffic patterns and train schedules is now gone. And you might not believe it, but over-working is as likely as under-working. The alarm goes off at 6 a.m., take a quick glance at email and decide to reply. All of a sudden it is 9:47 a.m., you are still sitting in your underpants and haven’t had coffee yet. (Did the kids even make it to school? Did the dogs get fed? Get your act together, Brenda!) The exec in your 10 a.m. meeting expects everyone to turn their camera on. But they can’t smell you, so quickly brush your hair and throw a shirt on. Just don’t stand up.

Your Fitbit is not going to get much love.

Unless your kitchen is a half mile away, you won’t be getting that 10,000 steps in every day. All those steps you do going from the car to the desk to meetings all add up. The only days I get 10,000 steps are when I take a 6-mile walk in the morning. (No, of course I don’t do this. But I could, in theory.) Don’t worry, all you have to do is eat a lot less to make up for the lack of movement. Easy-peasy.


Actual picture of my step count. What’s worse, this was 3 p.m.

No one steals your lunch. Except your teenagers.

If the food isn’t better, then shame on you. Go meet somebody for lunch instead of eating a reheated frozen pizza at your desk for a change. The good news, no one is reheating fish head soup in the break room microwave (this actually happened in a former job). You know, the microwave that sits right by the air return vent so everyone in the office knows within 23 seconds that Joel from Finance burnt the friggin’ popcorn. Again. None of that any longer, except during the summer when the kids are home. (You ought to teach them to cook. Or buy one of those fancy microwaves that has a popcorn button. You know, with all the savings from not commuting and not buying work clothes, now you can.)

Decorate to your heart’s content.

Freedom also extends to adornment of your work area. You can do whatever feels comfortable, and no fear of anyone stealing your precious Cleveland Indians World Series banner or Darth Kitteh mug. Just make sure that spot behind you is clear of anything that would be an embarrassment when you turn on the webcam. Yes, I am talking about your autographed “Kelly Kapowsky” poster. This is also the worst place to dry unmentionables. And by unmentionables, I mean underwear. (Sorry, mentioned them. But you needed to know that.) No one at work should ever see your skivvies hanging behind you. And yes, that is a real thing that maybe happened.


Decorating your desk at home means you never have to explain why the skeleton of a fairy is riding a brass duck. Donald Duck giving the side-eye to Edna Krabappel is self-explanatory.

You’re no longer tied to a desk, so don’t just be tied to a different desk

On one hand, you should get a Keurig. On the other hand, carve out time to go and see real people, maybe even pet a dog. If you have time open on your schedule from meetings and some work you can do from anywhere, make the most of your telecommuting and improve your quality of life. Doesn’t have to be “working from home.” I have a friend who has taken this to the extreme. He and his wife sold everything that was nailed down, bought a truck and a camper, and now they work remotely. The entire winter was spent on the Florida Gulf Coast. Summer was in the Midwest. Last I talked to him, he was in the Badlands of South Dakota, will be heading over to New England for the fall. The ultimate in remote working.

Be the change!

Whether you still stick to your schedule or not, stick to a dress code or not, or don’t even stick to working from your actual home, you will gain freedom. Not, like Mel Gibson screaming out loud kinda freedom, but a measure beyond what you have now. No more boss sneaking up on you to ask if your TPS reports are filed. No more awkward silences while riding in the elevator. No more begging for a lump of coal in the stove on a chilly Christmas Eve. If after reading this, you have right kind of job and now decide to give it a shot — good for you!

I would stand and salute your decision, but I’m not wearing any pants.

head shot image newsiesGrumpydad Rod Thorell and the love of his life, Donna, relocated to Clermont in 2015, where he works from home helping create software. You can follow his misadventures on Instagram, @grumpydad_goes_to

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