How many of you out there work from home? What kind of company / organization do you work for (private, government, municipal, institution..?). How did you convince your employer it was a good idea? What are the major drawbacks to working in a GIS position at home?

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    This appears to conform to the site's guidelines, but I made it CW because questions like "what organization do you work for" (and its followups) will have no unique or best answer. But please, let's focus the replies on GIS-specific information. Generic answers about working at home vs. working elsewhere can be obtained in many other (more appropriate) places.
    – whuber
    Jan 25, 2012 at 15:13

4 Answers 4


It's a very visual industry, and it is hard to walk people through your work on a telephone line. It's also hard for the opposite to happen, people walking you through work they want you to do. However, that depends on the role. I work in most facets of GIS, and in development, as long as you have a project plan and a clear idea of what you have to produce, you can very easily work from home. However, I have also been in charge of producing ad hoc maps, produced from rapidly evolving data models, and you can't do that offsite.

It depends. I asked a question not long ago about the impact of the Cloud on GIS and one of the main ones, will be the ability to do almost anything on the cloud, freeing up the labour, but in some parts, you'll always have to be on site.

I thought I'd edit this and add my tuppence on benefits etc:


Pretty much as mapperz has suggested.

I like the flexibility of taking the kids ot school, having lunch with my wife, sometimes just plopping out of bed and going to the office in my pj's with a saucepan of coffee (cautioned by the next comment).

I work better if I dress for work as I normally would and, yes, this does include a tie. If I don't dress up, I am lethargic, and look for ways not to work.

I work a lot harder from home, I get an awful lot more done.

Don't have the radio on, it distracts you, and once, when I hooked up Sky Sports onto the laptop and watched cricket, I got nothing done. The best part of working from home is the absolute lack of distraction you have, if you are disciplined and it's this that frees up your time; for me, 7 hours at home is worth a lot more than 9 in the office.

I hate the travel that comes wrapped with my work. Not doing the soul destroying commute makes me smile a little more inside.

Cons: Very easy to get distracted.

You will work harder, sometimes at the cost of your own personal life. For me, I don't mind this so much, as it is outweighed, imo, by the other benefits.

And pretty much as what Mapperz said.

My choice, however, is as it is. Keep this away from my wife, but I love being able to work away, as I get more sleep (3 kids, all young). But I also like working from home 2 days a week too. I think it is the best of both worlds. But then, I would, wouldn't I!

  • Thanks for the input! My role is a GIS Plannning Tech for a county's Planning Department. Mostly my responsibilities are notice maps and land use maps that are very simple and straightforward. I'm also driving an hour to work every day so working from home (at least one day a week) would be great and cut down on my gas bill!
    – Matt
    Jan 25, 2012 at 15:03
  • Haha, my commute used to be a 130 mile round trip, so I feel yuor pain. Currently commuting 190 each way, but staying away 2 nights a week and working from home the rest; as I said, some works can be done from home, others not :)
    – Hairy
    Jan 25, 2012 at 15:10
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    +1 (Because this reply explicitly focuses on GIS-related issues about working from home.)
    – whuber
    Jan 25, 2012 at 15:15
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    Like the dress for work (tie) comment - dress for success
    – Mapperz
    Jan 25, 2012 at 16:20

Have in the past. Freelance (GIS Consultant) - Private

Advantages, by far is the eliminating the commute (saving a huge amount on fuel). (one job was 1hr each way costing over £120 ($186.66) weekly, trains/buses are not cheaper and take much longer) Though some contracts require you to travel to win the initial work.

No office noise (third party noise) and can concentrate.

Your own choices or music/drinks/snacks and when you want them.

With technology today (high speed broadband a must) most can work from home.

Super-flexi time - get up at 4am - finish by 12am (unless a pending deadline).

You can go to appointments with out needing to ask/tell Manager permission


Unless your able to focus without distraction - it is easily to be side-tracked off paid/incoming generating work.

(to avoid this it is good to set up a dedicated area or room to work from.)
kids and animals want your undivided attention.

[Freelance] Chasing up unpaid for work can be real time-consuming up to 20% of your time, which could be used to generate more revenue/work.

no real banter - only via email/social media.

But if had the choice would do office (small commute) mainly for the interaction with others.

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    +1 tomorrow Mapperz, none left! I agree with all of this, although my wife deals with the bills and the way she squeezes money from me, I think she's rather good at it ;)
    – Hairy
    Jan 25, 2012 at 15:26
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    @Hairy they are good at spending it.... aren't they.
    – Mapperz
    Jan 25, 2012 at 16:19
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    I would also add, the option of power napping. There are times, 1 or 2 hours after lunch, I completely crash and know that if I could take a half hour nap I would come back firing on all cylinders. Leonardo da Vinci, Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison were all avid power nappers :)
    – dchaboya
    Jan 26, 2012 at 16:04
  • For interactions with others, someone have ever try [coworkink](en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coworking ) places doing GIS?
    – ThomasG77
    May 27, 2013 at 17:32
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    ThomasG77 all good if on in the same timezone, co-working with Australia even USA clients can have disadvantages - like gis files timestamped from the future?
    – Mapperz
    May 27, 2013 at 18:03

At first I thought this question isn't about GIS and was tempted to downvote it, but on second thought this is an important psychogeographical issue.

It's hard to have a 3rd Place, when you don't have a 2nd place. I've found it helpful to go out (maybe taking the kids to school) and come back with a view of the home as a workplace. The harder part though, is being able to "leave the work at the office". I'm not sure if there is some sort of psycho-GIS technology that could remedy this, short of an invisible fence electroshock collar triggered upon entering the room where my desk is. Maybe Esri needs something like spArcGIS.

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    I think you've touched on something there Kirk. It's very easy to get distracted by stuff like kids, Jeremy Kyle (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Jeremy_Kyle_Show); but the flip-side is that it can be very easy to "take your work home with you" to the detriment of your non-work life. The 2 hours I save not driving to and from work would be spent working at home, so the net effect is the same from every other point of view. Jan 26, 2012 at 10:31

I do some work on the side from home, and Hairy is right, communication and ad-hoc, rapid on-the-fly tasks are probably the most difficult things I deal with. It is often easier to communicate something visually in person. Deployments and trouble-shooting can also be difficult. Luckily, there are plenty of technologies out there now that can help with remote access. I use ReadyTalk to remote into client machines to do deployments and to trouble shoot issues. Dropbox is great for sharing files (keep in mind security and size limitations).

Making yourself available for communication is key. Stay in touch with others on your team and/or your clients.

With many organizations, security is paramount, so you might run into issues with your IT security folks wondering who this person is that needs remote access to company resources - feel that out too.

As far as convincing your boss to let you work from home - maybe see if they would go for a test run, a trial period, where of course you would blow them away with the increased productivity you gain from working from home :)

  • I'd plus one this as the security side is a very key issue. I am currently with a client who will not let me download anything, and I mean their own software they have purchased, through their own network, so I have to go home, and then download it on my network, burn to CD as they will not allow USB or Dropbox (others are available) and then load onto their machines. Its very tied down. +1 tomorrow, it's very important to question this FIRST!
    – Hairy
    Jan 25, 2012 at 15:26

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