If you're reading this at home…

I'm sitting in AlterNet's San Francisco headquarters while I write this. That detail is important in light of a recent poll that found as many as 12 percent of telecommuters wear no clothes at all while they work.

SonicWALL, a Sunnyvale, Calif.-based network security company, surveyed 941 telecommuters at the end of last year and came up with some surprising results:

  • 76 percent of employees surveyed believe that working remotely is an aid to productivity and 61 percent are also convinced that their managers agree with them.
  • While about 39 percent of respondents of both sexes said they wear sweats while working from home, 12 percent of males and 7 percent of females wear nothing at all.
  • 44 percent of women surveyed said they showered on work-at-home days, as opposed to men, who were slightly more likely to shave (33 percent) than wash (30 percent).
  • Respondents also said they took the opportunity to eat and drink outside standard times (about 35 percent); listen to music (45 percent) or watch TV (28 percent); and 21 percent of all respondents admitted to sneaking in an afternoon nap. A small percentage of those surveyed (9 percent) admitted to feelings of guilt about being away from the office. Taking a longer lunch than at the workplace was also relatively rare (12 percent)

I rarely work from home anymore, but I've had jobs in the past that were strictly telecommute. There's definitely something to be said for having the flexibility to work from home, but something equally important about having that face-to-face contact with people on your team. Of course, if you're working in a call-center (and some state offices for AAA are hiring work-from-home call-center operators), or some similar job, there's not much teamwork to be had anyway.

A workplace needs to have a sense of belonging to a team, which doesn't necessarily convey over email and IM (at least not at first). But workers also have lives that occur outside of work, but during work hours -- doctor's appointments, shopping errands, personal interests, etc. etc. It's a truism that every hour of every workday is not focused solely on work duties (don't act all shocked, you're most likely reading this at work anyway), and telecommuting allows workers to capitalize on that. And freeing yourself from those niggling obligations like paying bills makes a big difference in one's outlook on life: there's nothing more draining than having another long day in the office and then having to come home and pay bills or do laundry with what few hours of free time remain in the day.

Some companies are making the most of this tendency. Google, for instance, has a policy for its engineers that requires them to spend 20 percent of their time working on personal technology projects unrelated to their primary projects. Though you could make the case that mandating a certain amount of "goofing off" time would quickly drain the fun out of it ("Crap, I haven't spent my requisite hour reading BoingBoing today. That's something else to add to my to-do list…), the policy is certainly a step in the right direction.

So all of you telecommuters, put on some sweats and take your dogs for a walk. Do it for us, the world's office-bound suckers.

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