FindLaw columnist Eric Sinrod writes regularly in this section on legal developments surrounding technology and the Internet.
For the longest time, many workers complained about commuting to work. On top of a long work day at the office, they also had to lose time while being stuck in traffic or commuting by other means. Between work and commuting, there was hardly any time in the day to do anything of personal benefit.
But then this situation started to change. With the growth of the Internet and the ability to communicate electronically from practically any geographic location, no longer was it necessary for workers to be tied down to their desks at their companies' offices.
To make life easier for their employees, some enlightened companies began to offer some flexibility. Workers periodically, sometimes even a day or two per week, could telecommute from home. Thus, the number days they would need to commute into the office would be cut down to a fair extent.
Now, however, we are entering into a new paradigm. Companies are closing down offices and are requiring some employees to work remotely full-time. This is not necessarily being done simply for the non-commuting advantage of the workers. Instead, given the fact that employees truly can do almost all of their work tasks remotely, employers want to shed the overhead of maintaining offices, for great company cost-savings.
Does this play out well for full-time, remote employees?
Well, yes, of course, in some respects. These employees now have absolutely no commute time whatsoever to deal with, freeing up a tremendous amount of time per year. They can use that time for personal pursuits, or they can use it to be even more productive in terms of work.
On top of that, many of these employees can live anywhere they desire. For example, if they have been living in a high-cost area to be closer to work, they now can move somewhere else that is more affordable. Or, they may wish to move closer to distant family, or they may wish to live in another part of the country for weather, cultural, or other reasons.
But there can be downsides to working from home full-time.
By working remotely from home, there is a lack of face-to-face in-person contact with other work colleagues. Often times, true collaboration and inspiration comes from spending real in-person time with work comrades.
Also, there can be a feeling of isolation working by one's self at home every day, week in and week out. By not having work colleagues around, motivation can dissipate.
And for some people, the blurring of work and personal lives by working from home can become problematical. For such people, they are at work while at home -- but they are also always at home while at work, from a psychological standpoint. Some people do better to walk out the front door knowing they are going to work, while knowing they are back home when they come back through the front door.
Naturally, there are no hard and fast rules in this area. There are some employees who flourish better when working remotely from home, and there are others who do not. And for those at-home workers who need more in-person, out-of-the-house work time, companies would do well to bring them into their remaining offices at least periodically to keep their spirits up.
Eric Sinrod (@EricSinrod on Twitter) is a partner in the San Francisco office of Duane Morris LLP, where he focuses on litigation matters of various types, including information technology and intellectual property disputes. You can read his professional biography here. To receive a weekly email link to Mr. Sinrod's columns, please email him at firstname.lastname@example.org with Subscribe in the Subject line. This column is prepared and published for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the author's law firm or its individual partners.