Monday, February 27, 2006

Super-Sizing My Commute: Only If I Can Use the Corporate Jet

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: ,

While I was walking from the parking lot into my building at work this morning, I was thinking about how I really love my commute. Just six minutes is enough to get me and my MINI Cooper from our apartment to my workplace, and in the summer I might start walking or biking instead. Five months ago we lived a 90-minute car ride from where I work. Since a commute is a two-way deal, this meant I was on the road for three hours a day, four days a week (I work from home on Fridays, even now). To put it lightly, the commute took quite a toll on me. While my car is quite comfortable and the drive was mostly through country roads, three hours of my day were going to waste. So in October, I said “enough!” and we packed our bags–a lot of bags. The move was grueling, but I can say it was totally worth it. And even the higher rent that we pay now isn’t enough to cancel out the bliss of having an extra eleven hours each week.

This morning, I get a call from my manager. He wants to see me. I never like these unscheduled calls, but they’ve never been about anything bad so far (just raises and promotions). Today’s wasn’t necessarily bad as it was simply my manager trying to find out who might be interested in working on another project at a location about 45 minutes away. My current manager just took over for my previous manager who is away on maternity leave, but he knows that I just moved to the area a few months ago primarily because I wanted an ultra-short commute. Our meeting was short, and rather than reject the offer outright, I hinted that I maybe possibly could be sort of interested a little I guess.

Even if I accepted an offer at the new location, it wouldn’t start for a little while. My current project is beginning to wind down, and our team will soon transition to the next-generation version of the product. And as important as our team’s role is on the current project, I have no doubt that they’d want all of us to continue working on the next. My manager suggested that some people may be transitioned to other projects anyway despite the fact that the next-generation project is ten times bigger than the current one, though I can’t imagine anyone would forcibly reassign anyone on our team because we’re already putting in tons of overtime on the older project while it’s ramping down. I also know that if I went to my team leader and mentioned that forces above us are looking to relocate me, he would not be happy since we’re going to need even more experienced man-power after transitioning to the next project.

But I have an icky taste in my mouth about this. Will I soon be facing a “relocate or re-employ somewhere else” scenario? Should I have flatly refused my manager’s offer? Or should I have jumped at the opportunity … without even knowing what the opportunity really is yet?

In the end, it all comes down to the commute. Is there anything that could convince me to trade this lovely hop-skip-and-a-jump drive to work for a butt-clenchingly painful one? Maybe…

Things I Might Take In Trade For A Much Longer Commute

  1. Interesting, enjoyable work. I like my current project, and the next-generation one will be even more challenging and exciting. But a new opportunity could be even more interesting, and I might find that I enjoy it even more than what I do now. A job I like is a pre-requisite that cannot be ignored, so this comes above all else.
  2. A hefty pay hike. A new assignment means the opportunity for a new salary. If I’m going to lose 90 extra minutes a day to driving, I expect bags with dollar signs on them to be sitting in the passenger seat to keep me company. But if this were the only incentive to relocate, how much of a raise would be enough to “buy” me? 10%? 20%? 10,000%? I doubt I’ll know for sure until I see the offer.
  3. More telecommuting. It’s quite fortunate that I still get to work from home on Fridays even after moving to within stone-throwing distance of my workplace. There are still mornings, however, that I’d rather not put on pants and just curl up on the sofa with my laptop and do my job from there. My current project is one that works very well with telecommuting. But what about this new project? Would I need to be in the office 40-60 hours a week? Could I work Fridays from home? Or would I be able to work even more from home–say, three or four days a week? Allowing me to do the majority of my time from home would help offset the extra commute on work-at-office days.
  4. Advancement opportunities. Staying put, I don’t really need to worry about opportunities to grow and advance in the organization because this is the biggest location with the largest projects. The new location is smaller, but the project is newer and there may be some room to quickly climb the ladder. I don’t think I’d get a promotion right off the bat since I just got one a few months ago, but if the long-term outlook is better than in my current location, I’d be more open to seeking those opportunities in another location.
  5. No other choice. In the two years I’ve been here, I don’t think anyone in this location has been laid off. In fact, there’s an impending talent crisis over the next decade as our baby-boomer senior staff members start retiring. There’s even a special program for developing leadership skills in younger employees that I’ve been tapped to begin this year. On top of all that, we are transitioning to a larger project with a particular need for my set of skills. So I’m not worried about my continued employment with this company. That said, should the situation be presented to me as “move or be removed,” I’ll bear the heftier commute with a grin … and keep my resume up-to-date.

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