I've been actively searching for work for over a month, and it has been the most frustrating job hunt I have ever experienced. At first, I was only targeting companies that allow telecommuting (StackOverflow's Careers site makes this easy to look for). After all, I have telecommuted for the majority of the last ten years, I have a dedicated home office, so why fix what's not broken? When I was let go from MarkedUp (for reasons outside my control), I still looked for remote jobs. As more applications went out while either being rejected or just plain ignored, I started getting antsy and started exploring local options.
Houston is huge, it's growing with no signs of stopping. You can't drive five miles without going through several different road construction projects to make room for more expansion. The mayor is proposing expanding I-45 to handle the growing population, but that doesn't address the real problem, nor will it sufficiently handle the ridiculously large number of drivers on the road at the same time. Traffic is horrendous, there are always accidents, there is no mass transit system, and frankly, my time is not well spent driving two to three hours to and from work every single day. Living in the north Houston area, I'm almost 30 miles from downtown, and nearly every single job that I have found is 25 to 40 miles one way. This is not appealing in the slightest, yet just about every company is essentially saying, "If you want to work for us, drive through that crap."
Since putting my resume up on the usual places, I have been contacted about so many jobs that I would be a great fit for, except for the fact that they're located away from Houston. Never mind the fact that my multiple job profiles clearly state that I am in Houston and will not relocate. I lost count of how many times people have contacted me about working in Austin, and one even suggested that if I was willing to drive three hours to Austin then we could talk further. I inquired about working remotely rather than relocating, and the response has been nearly unanimous: they require you to work in their office. We have faster internet speeds than ever before, remote collaboration is at an all-time high, communication through instant messaging, video conferencing, and screen sharing are in abundance. Why are employers so reluctant to allow their employees to work remotely if they can prove their worth?
Telecommuting is not for everyone. Some people prefer to get away from their homes, and I won't knock it. At the same time, you have people like myself who thrive in a home office and prefer it over a commute of any kind. Why can't exceptions be made? If a developer consistently produces, does it really matter where he's producing from? I've been told that as long as you're producing, the company doesn't really care about the number of hours you're putting in (obviously doesn't apply to all). However, if I can produce higher than expected results in 30 or 35 hours and you're happy, why can't I perform the same work from the comfort of my home? It can certainly boost morale and improve the overall enjoyment of what we do by skipping the dreadful commute and work in our pajamas if we're so inclined.
One thing that has bothered me during this process is companies putting it out there that they are family friendly or family oriented. I wouldn't dare claim that they aren't, but it loses its alure, if you will, when you weigh the amount of time lost commuting. Time is one of the most important commodities in a family, so what does my family gain by me having to drive an hour and a half to three hours a day to work? I get paid to work, but only during the hours at office, not the seven to fifteen I would spend on the road each week. If I get to work at 9AM and leave at 6PM, I would realistically arrive at my home between 6:45 and 7:15PM on most days. My girls go to bed between 8 and 8:30PM on school nights, so not only am I missing from the dinner table (we eat dinner as a family every night), I also have very little time left before bed time arrives. Helping with homework? Surprise visit during lunch at school? Participating in a school activity? Taking them to an after school activity? Gone is the flexibility of doing these memorable things with my girls, and losing that has become the biggest downer during this search. Most companies wouldn't be against leaving early to attend to these things, but I'm certain doing them in excess will be met with resistance, even if I'm kicking butts and taking names.
I know that there are factors that aren't being included that can make a case on either side of the argument, and I'm doing this more to vent than anything else. The refusal to make any concessions or explore the possibility? It lacks reason and is a big source of my frustration, especially when the need of having a butt in a chair takes a higher precedent than doing your job from home. Never has my productivity decreased because I have worked from home, even during my tenure with both Computrols and BubbleUp. But again, telecommuting isn't for everyone, and there are people that take advantage of it, so by no means is it a black and white issue, I just wish more companies would be open to the possibility.
Right after being laid off, my family did a stay-cation with the Houston CityPass. When we returned from each of these places, there were accidents on the road, effectively making I-45 a parking lot for miles. In one instance, the traffic was backed up for about 10 miles as all four lanes were blocked by a turned 18 wheeler; people were parked by the scene and were not allowed to pass (I assume there was a fatality in this instance). Fast foward to an interview last Friday, I had about 40 minutes of smooth driving, with about 45 minutes going back at just over 70 miles total during mid to late morning. While the distance remains the same, the time spent could nearly be doubled during rush hour. When I got home, I felt demoralized at the prospect of taking that commute four or five times a week. Never ending construction all over the place, a long and boring drive that's sucking time away from my family. It's not what I want. However, I will do it and perform my job to the best of my abilities for my family, because they're worth every bit (thanks mom and dad for the examples of great work ethic). Just before I left the area, I opened up Google Maps to check on the traffic, and saw the culmination of Houston drivers that I suspect is almost a daily occurrence:
Houston. Drivers. Suck. Alright, I'm done ranting, whining, and complaining. Onward to the next big thing!