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Telecommuting DBAs

By Sushila Iyer,

Recently on SQLServerCentral.com, I read Steve's article on salary surveys and it triggered the urge to write about something that has long been a bee in my bonnet. Actually, it wasn't the article so much as some of the comments and responses - especially those that touched upon the cost of living, quality of Life and and the relationship between these and the amount on the paycheck that we get home!

Someone from London responded that since the cost of living there is so high, salaries are correspondingly a little higher than it may be in the rest of the country. I know that the same is certainly true of the D.C metro area where I live.

In the last few years I'd started champing at the bit at having to be on the "get up and go" constantly - fight the traffic, get to work, fight the management and finally on your way back home find that the traffic is not the only thing "snarling"!

In the immediate chaotic wake of 9/11 (my office is in a Federal building), I submitted a request to be able to telecommute certain days of the week. To my surprise (and exhilaration) my request was granted almost immediately. Not a day has gone by since then that I haven't sat down and taken a moment to appreciate this immense luxury and to pat myself on the back for having had the courage to ask for this privilege.

I've heard it said that telecommuting is much more common on the West Coast than in the East (and maybe some of you can confirm if this is so) and I was very lucky in that I had a boss who advocates telecommuting and would wear it like a badge if she could. Here's where we come to the part where those of us who think that "never shall the twain meet" - i.e quality of Life & cost of living/paychecks - realize that telecommuting offers the perfect solution.

I come across articles now and then on the joys and woes (would you believe that something like this actually has woes attached to it!) of teleworking but since I'm writing from personal experience I wanted to be able to share this here (ok - I'll confess to harbouring a secret wish that anybody reading this who is actually in a position to grant teleworking privileges to team members, employees etc. is going to seriously consider it).

Steve said that he "happily took a $10k cut to not drive downtown (20 miles) as a commute" - with the gas prices escalating on a daily basis think of what he saves on this alone not to mention auto maintenance bills or the time wasted in inching your way through traffic and twiddling your thumbs for exercise.

As for productivity (the one thing that Management is convinced is going to plummet like a rock if the employee is always out of sight) - that's the one area where there're almost immediate, tangible results. In my little home office I don't have colleagues stopping by to chat or the phone ringing off the hook - I do not have to endure the sight of employees who take more smoke and coffee breaks than there are hours in a day - I do not have to suffer the sight of people taking naps after lunch (this - without any exaggeration - is something I have seen MANY people do - rest their chin in their hands, gaze at the monitor and imitate a statue...I even know one person who was fired because of his inability to keep awake after a hearty lunch!). By no means am I saying that this is what everyone in the workplace does - there are as many people who work hard and play hard as there are those who believe in "all play and no work...."

Coming back to productivity - I submit a monthly report at the end of each month to my bosses and my clients (and you bet that I better show progress made or else...). There are weekly meetings held to discuss milestones, team effort, delegation, current status, future releases, requirements gathering....anything at all that needs putting several heads together. These meetings are always focused and therefore fun and voluble - and nobody goes to sleep. (Again I know many people who use extended meetings to nod off quietly in a corner and who can blame them ?!).

I have my work phone forwarded home which means that I am available 24/7. I respond to all my emails within 5 minutes of having read them (even if it is only to say "will get back to you on this as soon as I can..."). I never leave my home office between the core hours of 8 and 4 and if I have to leave for an appointment I email my clients letting them know how to reach me.

Steve mentions how women usually make less money than men - this is mostly because they forsake many of their career goals so they don't compromise on Family. They are eternally scrunched for time despite all their mulittasking abilities. Can't think of a better solution than teleworking - everyone agrees that it is not lack of skills that keeps women from upgrading their careers as rapidly as men!

I don't recall specifics but every now and then I read about Steve spending time with his children - baseball, spelling bees, birthday parties et al....really don't know many dads who are THERE for their kids as much as moms usually are, leave alone dads who spend quality time with the family without being driven by the clock...not saying that Steve doesn't have any deadlines to meet or that his work is stress-free - only that these can be alleviated to a large extent just by being able to work from home.

This may seem irrelevant to many of you (if you don't have to deal with this as closely as I do) but I constantly think of how much time, effort and money teleworkers will save Homeland Security! Many federal buildings now have a supply of gas masks strategically placed at exit routes; federal workers and contractors have to attend a refresher training course every couple of months on how to use these masks (despite this I know that maybe only a handful of people really know how to use them) - there are warning systems set up to notify people during an emergency - metro has to be on standby to ferry people home if needed - traffic needs to be coordinated and directed - medical help has to be provided for those that succumb to panic attacks - the less people out there, the easier it becomes to manage an event of such magnitude.

I cannot talk enough (even though it seems like I have :--}) about the positives related to telecommuting! As for paychecks and cost of living - I'm sure many of us will gladly trade more than a couple of Ks in exchange for the ability to :

  • Get work done.
  • Keep boss, client and spouse happy in one fell swoop.
  • Not fight traffic.
  • Get work done.
  • Not suffer cardiac arrests at gas stations.
  • Avoid hefty auto maintenance bills.
  • Not have to scramble for baby sitters on snow days and sick days.
  • Get work done.
  • Thumb your nose at the real estate market.
  • Aid the department of Homeland Security in your own small way.
  • Save on clothes and drycleaning bills.
  • Maybe even reroute all the outsourced work back from India and China.(Hey - now there's a thought!)
  • (& did I mention) - Get Work Done.

In this Day and Age of telecommunications it should be easy enough to set up conferences and meetings - remotely manage Servers, people, projects - buy the dream home on a remote Greek isle and still have some money in the bank to buy those goats....and for those of you who have to be "in touch" with other people exchanging ideas, thoughts and opinions - there's always sqlservercentral!!!

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