Every weekday morning, Stephen Dynes wakes up, showers, gets dressed, puts up a pot of coffee and has a bite to eat.
Around 8 a.m., he signs in to work – from his laptop in his son’s old bedroom that he converted into his home office in Ballard.
“The big benefit to me is there’s no hour to hour-and-a-half commute added on top of my day,” said Dynes, a people and culture manager for Lush Cosmetics.
Dynes is one of the dozens of readers who responded when Traffic Lab invited readers to tell us their experiences telecommuting, after our story about the efforts that King County Metro, the state Legislature and local businesses are taking to encourage more people to work remotely, to reduce traffic congestion.
Workers said the advantages – saving commute time and money on gas, parking and transit – outweighed the downsides. But many also said loneliness and distractions are important considerations for anyone deciding whether to make the switch.
“It’s a blessing and a curse,” said Stephanie Roberts, a design and implementation engineer at a global technology company. “It’s always there. We can always work.”
A push in the Seattle area to make it easier for employees to work from home began about five years ago as local transportation officials discussed upcoming construction projects, including the Highway 99 tunnel under downtown, that inevitably would cause traffic disruptions.
Yet, telecommuting accounted for just over 3 percent of morning trips to downtown Seattle in 2016, according to a survey of businesses from nonprofit Commute Seattle. Nearly 10 times as many people drove to work alone.
A work/life balancing act
Dynes, a single parent, said the decision was a no-brainer when he was offered a telecommuting position with Lush seven years ago that allowed him to “get the kids out the door to school, without worrying about the commute going downtown and back.”
“If my daughter had a 4:30 soccer game, I could adapt my schedule and actually go to the game while still putting in a full 40 to 50 hours of work during the workweek,” he said.
Before, Dynes used to wake up at 6 a.m., catch a 7 a.m. bus – if it wasn’t late or full – and arrive at his old company headquartered downtown around 7:45 a.m. In the evenings, he would take a 5:15 p.m. or 5:30 p.m. bus home and walk in his front door around 6:15 p.m.
The amount of money I’m saving, and the amount of time I’m saving, there’s no advantage to going into the office anymore.
Christine Ferris, who telecommutes full-time for her job in guest relations for Holland America cruise lines
But when Roberts began telecommuting, she found that sticking to a confined schedule proved challenging.
“I could work this job seven days a week, 365 days a year,” said Roberts, who lives in Fife. “I had to learn how to take a break from my computer. An hour, at least.”
Away from her computer, she takes her dogs for a walk, talks with her husband or has a snack.
Part of that desire for interaction stems from the solitude that can come with working outside an office.
“It can be extremely lonely,” said Justin Baghai, a technical sales specialist at IBM, who lives in Northgate and telecommutes full-time.
As a 26-year-old single man, he said, not having co-workers to go to happy hour and do after-work activities with makes meeting new people more challenging.
So far this year, Cecilia Sorci has telecommuted four times from her home in Maple Valley to the public-relations firm in downtown Seattle where she works.
If she can help it, she’ll keep that number to a minimum.
“There are times when it would be easier if I did work from home,” Sorci said. “But I really do appreciate that collaboration and the ability to just pop my head out of my office and just ask a colleague a question or get their perspective on an issue that I may be dealing with.”
“It’s so much easier and valuable than just like calling someone or texting someone. You can read their non-verbals. You can see where their tone is,” she said.
Christine Ferris, who telecommutes full-time for her job in guest relations for Holland America cruise lines, said the lack of face-to-face communication has decreased the camaraderie she feels with her colleagues.
In her line of work, she often deals with customer complaints, and she relied on co-workers to help lift her spirits and get through difficult days.
“It’s harder to shake off bad calls if you don’t have the ability to joke about it as easily with others,” said Ferris, who began telecommuting about two years ago, from her home in South Park along the Duwamish River.
But she said that without distractions, her productivity has increased. If given a choice, she’d continue to telecommute.
“The amount of money I’m saving, and the amount of time I’m saving, there’s no advantage to going into the office anymore,” Ferris said.