Pop Quiz, Hotshot! Do More People Walk/Bike To Work Or Work From Home?

peggy couch Mad Men unzipped skirt french friesSo much has changed in the working world since the “Mad Men” era, and hoo boy do I want to talk about “Mad Men.” This most recent episode, the second-to-last, had all sorts of juicy quotes (“You don’t know anything about money,” an exasperated but amused Don tells his daughter Sally, echoing the words of parents through the ages) and set ups (Pete accidentally interviewing for a job & doing salary negotiations like a boss). Should we wait for the finale, do you think, or agree to catch up to the extent possible and discuss the office- and money-related revelations of the final season sometime this week?

Regardless, as I was saying, so much has changed. More and more of us work from our couches, eating french fries with our skirts unzipped like Peggy. So many, in fact, that, according to Vox, we pajama-clad laptop warriors now outnumber folks who bike or walk to work:

Census data shows that the percentage of people who work from home every day is rising quickly, more than doubling since 1980. It’s still only 4.33 percent of workers, but that’s more than 5 million workers — and is more than the number of people who walk or bike to work combined.

About 45 percent of these workers are self-employed (with many working as freelancers or independent contractors), but a growing number of them are employed full-time in the private sector. …

“The recession has also made companies more sensitive to operating costs,” says Tim Lomax, a transportation researcher at Texas A&M. “If you can get someone to work from their home, where they don’t need a parking space or an office, that reduces your cost of doing business.”

Having done it for over a year now, I can say there are definitely pros and cons to working from home. 

PRO: I don’t have to get dressed ’til around noon, which is when the delivery guys start coming. They always buzz me since they know I’m around and can open the door, and I hate when they catch me in my bathrobe, but hey, how many women get to bill hours without even having to put on a bra?

PRO: Speaking of bras, sometimes I put on a sports bra instead and take a mid-afternoon Dance Central break. Then I have Lady Gaga in my head all evening.

CON: I eat too much. The food is there, right there, steps away from the desk, for when I’m hungry, or angry, or bored, or want to celebrate. I knew this was a danger: my dad worked from home my entire childhood and his waistline suffered for it.

PRO: “Home” is wherever your lap is. Right now I’m typing in my mother-in-law’s padded rocking chair in Asheville, NC. I’ve also worked from libraries, coffee shops, cafes, parks, other people’s offices, other people’s apartments, backyards, co-working spaces, trains, airplanes, airports, and so on.

CON: It can be difficult to separate your home self from your work self, especially if you don’t have an office. My apartment is small; the living room couch I sit on to watch Netflix or read to Babygirl is the same couch I sit on to write. O for a desk that folds out of the wall like a Murphy bed! As it is, even when I do switch to the little desk in the living room, I can still see — or at least sense — everything that needs to be done around the house: crumbs on the floor, laundry in the hamper, dishes in the sink.

Nor can I pile papers on the desk and scatter supplies with wanton abandon the way I once did at the office, or at least not without risking incurring toddler destruction and spousal wrath.

CON: Having coworkers next door, or in the next cubicle, can make such a difference in your mood. Water cooler conversation is almost as vital as water itself, I’ve learned. In the absence of a water cooler, Twitter helps, as does HipChat — and maybe Twitter’s as popular as it is because of scattered freelancers like me, who are desperate for some semblance of connection with other human beings. But it’s not the same as being able to knock on someone’s door and then close it behind you so that you can bond by bitching.

PRO: No commute!

CON: No commute. That was my “New Yorker” reading time, and I miss it.

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As it happens, today begins Bike to Work week, so if you do still work in the traditional fashion and not from your couch, and you’ve always wanted to try saving money on transportation, pull out your helmet instead of your car keys or your bus pass. Then let us know how it goes.

 
Image via pop culture mavens Tom & Lorenzo

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