Why Virtual Offices Suck

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Bruce A. Epstein

Bruce A. Epstein
Nov. 17, 2001 03:51 PM

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Sure, I love tele-commuting, but some aspects of virtual offices really suck. Forget the days when employers are afraid that they won't be able to adequately supervise tele-commuters. Let's talk about the drawbacks for the employee or contractor who works from a home or remote office.

I rent an office about a mile from my house, which eliminates the typical complaints from people who work from home (kids, TV, refridgerator, work being too close). The real drawbacks are the lack of football pools and the isolation inherent in working alone. In a physical office, there is the opportunity for non-business banter, a chance to share a game of hearts over lunch, or the possibility of finding a tennis partner. Working in a virtual office is like having a foster child in Senegal. An occasional airmail letter isn't the same thing as a nightly bath and bedtime hug. Hell, even mail order brides get delivered eventually.

This situation never hit home until I attended the funeral of O'Reilly's former (beloved) Editor-in-Chief Frank Willison. Thankfully there were people who worked with Frank in the Cambridge office who could provide CPR when Frank had a heart attack, but alas to no avail. At Frank's funeral, I realized that I had never met him face-to-face despite our numerous emails and phone conversations. I felt robbed never to have shared lunch or a holiday party with Frank. We talked about music, but never sat in the same room letting the sound of Little Feat soak into our tired brains.

In a few weeks I'll be moving into a new (or at least different) house about 10 minutes from where I live now. Unfortunately, there are no co-workers that I can ply with promises of free pizza and beer to help me move. I have no doubt that Frank would have glady leant a hand.

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Bruce A. Epstein is the author of Director in a Nutshell and Lingo in a Nutshell, the coauthor of Dreamweaver in a Nutshell and the editor of ActionScript: The Definitive Guide.