The benefits of not working from home

Published 10:29 am Friday, June 17, 2016

Tom Purcell
I don’t care what the new study has found. Working from home is getting old for me.

The study, by TinyPulse, finds that full-time workers who work from home tend to feel “happier and more productive than those who have to make the daily commute to the office.”

Maybe so, but telecommuting has its downsides.

I’ve been self-employed since 1993. In addition to writing this newspaper column, I provide communications services to a variety of clients all over the globe — and I’ve been able to support them from home or the nearest coffee shop.

I am able to do so, of course, because of modern technology. My laptop battery lasts up to 10 hours. It allows me to collaborate virtually on Internet work-share sites. I can send and receive large files. I can even talk “face to face” using video-chat applications.

I sit in coffee shops most days and pubs most nights. I sit in the corner and peck away on my keyboard. There’s no need for me to go to an office anywhere ever. People frequently tell me how envious they are of my freedom to work from anywhere.

But I can’t take it anymore.

For starters, there is no separation between work and leisure. I find myself working all hours of the day — sometimes into the wee hours of the night — and never enjoy the blissful feeling of arriving home after a long day at the office.

The busier my workload gets, the more isolated I become. The postal carrier and the Fed Ex driver avoid me now — because I keep trying to engage them in conversations about sports and the weather.

At one point, I called a nanny agency and attempted to hire a thirtysomething au pair. They assured me that I had to be a family.

When religious fanatics knock on my door it is they, not I, who are first to get antsy.

Religious fanatic: “Satan will have your soul unless you read our pamphlet.”

Me: “Great. I hear it’s going to rain tomorrow and what about them Penguins!”

I’m a bit burned out on telecommuting at the moment — which is why I accepted an assignment that requires me to work from an office building in downtown Pittsburgh.

It is a glorious change of pace.

I wake at 5 a.m. and must be on the road by 6 a.m. to avoid heavy traffic. I also must wear the nice clothes in my closet that I used to wear only at funerals and weddings.

I love my 12-mile commute. I’m greatly enjoying the intense competition with other drivers who won’t let me merge on the Parkway. They clearly respect my ability to cut in though. Why else would so many keep giving me the “you’re number one” sign?

The office experience is glorious, too. I work with real people in person. During meetings, we talk about issues and challenges and sometimes, to emphasize a point, I use hand gestures and facial expressions. Try doing that during a virtual phone conference!

Modern technology is dramatically changing the way we live and work, and it makes a lot of sense for companies to allow more employees to work from home. Why not spend less on office space? Why not reduce road congestion and fuel consumption?

I’m just saying that too much of a good thing can go sour.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a meeting to attend with real, live people. We usually begin by talking about sports and the weather.

Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970’s Childhood” and “Wicked Is the Whiskey,” a Sean McClanahan mystery novel, both available at, is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact or call (805) 969-2829. Send comments to Tom at