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Tom Purcell

Tom Purcell: Home alone no way to work

| Monday, Aug. 6, 2018, 8:03 p.m.

Just as more private-sector organizations are calling telecommuting workers back to the office, two politicians in Washington hope to encourage federal agencies to allow more government employees to work from home.

As it goes, the Trump administration is seeking to cut back on federal employee telework programs. But Reps. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., and John Sarbanes, D-Md., are promoting the Telework Metrics and Cost Savings Act to prevent telework reductions.

That’s probably not a good idea.

Look, as a freelance writer and author, I’ve been telecommuting for years. I’m alone in my home office all day long. It’s not for the faint of heart.

I hardly ever see real humans during the day. Every time the FedEx guy shows up, I demonstrate how much this isolation is getting to me.

FedEx guy: “Sign here please.”

Me: “I hear it’s going to rain tomorrow. Would you like a cup of coffee?”

The other day a telemarketer called. Ordinarily, I’d rush such a fellow off the phone, but not anymore.

Telemarketer: “Would you like to buy our ACME health insurance policy?”

Me: “No, but how’s the weather where you are? Can I send you a gift card for a cup of coffee?”

I was so desperate for human interaction this morning, I spent 20 minutes talking with my 90-year-old neighbor Orville about his compost pile.

There are other problems caused by working alone out of one’s home. On the rare occasions when clients visit my office, I’m embarrassed to give them directions to my country home.

Client: “How do I get to your house?”

Me: “Make a sharp left at Homer’s bug zapper, then turn right at Orville’s compost pile.”

So, you see, I’m not so enamored with the home-office concept anymore. And I think I know why.

Human beings don’t like to be alone. We are social animals — so social, in fact, that we would rather spend long days in corporate offices with other people than suffer longer days in utter freedom working alone in our homes.

That’s why, according to Forbes, more private-sector organizations are calling teleworkers back to the office.

IBM, Apple and Google have discovered that when employees encounter each other in the office, they become more creative and productive than they are working alone at home.

Even Generation Z and millennials, according to a new study by HR staffing firm Randstad US, prefer face-to-face conversations over electronic conversations and corporate offices over telecommuting.

“While technology can make us more efficient, and feel highly connected to one another, it will never replace face-to-face conversations,” reports Forbes.

In any event, just as many organizations in the private sector are reversing course on employee telecommuting, two congressmen are pushing for full steam ahead.

“Federal government telework programs not only improve productivity, but also save taxpayer money by increasing efficiency, strengthening employee retention and reducing costs for federal office space,” Sarbanes told the Federal Times.

If you say so, congressman.

All I know is that I’m spending way too much time alone in my home. And as much as it worries me, it worries my neighbors more. No matter how often I tell them I’m a freelance writer, they don’t believe me.

They think I’m in the witness protection program.

Freelance writer Tom Purcell of Library is author of “Misadventures of a 1970s Childhood!” Visit him on the web at TomPurcell.com.

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