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Telecommuting Can Be Bad For Those Who Don't 249

Posted by kdawson
from the left-behind dept.
SirLurksAlot writes "An article up on Ars Technica reports on a study of telecommuting from the point of view of those who show up at the office every day. The study discovered that telecommuting can have adverse effects on the office-bound. Researcher Timothy Golden 'found that in-office employees took less satisfaction in their jobs and felt less of a relationship and obligation to their company as the number of telecommuting coworkers grew. In-office employees in his study became disappointed at having fewer and weaker relationships. They also got frustrated at a perceived increase in workload and difficulties that telecommuting can present to finishing projects and building strong working relationships.'" The article notes that telecommuting is "not an exact science." Some good insights in the discussion forum too.
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Telecommuting Can Be Bad For Those Who Don't

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  • I agree with this (Score:5, Interesting)

    by PCM2 (4486) on Monday January 14, 2008 @09:11PM (#22044442) Homepage
    I've seen it in action. It also seems pretty intuitive. Working as a bunch of like-minded, geographically disperse individuals does not seem as likely to inspire morale and productivity as "working as a team" -- meaning you see the people every day, you meet with the people face to face, you drop by their desks when you have questions, and so on.

    The question is, what can this tell us about how to successfully manage community-based open source projects?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Moving work overseas causes the same type of disconnection for those left behind. As work moves to India some of my company's offices have become ghost towns. Email and conference calls aren't enough to help junior people along or to diffuse the occasional interpersonal frustration like some social interaction would.
    • by autocracy (192714)
      I can say... pay them and then will code.
    • by Seumas (6865) on Monday January 14, 2008 @10:13PM (#22045034)
      As someone who has been telecommuting for about a decade, let me give my thoughts:

      Yes, if you don't get to telecommute, you may feel bad. I'm sorry. I feel bad when other people get huge pay raises that I don't get or when they get various forms of family leave for their own personal choices that I don't have or when the big-whigs get to fly around in the corporate jet and I have to spend two hours each way in commute. Life isn't fair and isn't always even.

      I put in a lot of time working, simply because I have everything at my fingers here that I would have in the office, except I can put in extra hours any time of day or night that I want. I don't have to spend two or four hours commuting, either. I don't spend long periods of time chatting around the water cooler, either.

      There are people who work hard and are productive and those who are not. Whether it's in an office or in a home office is not relevant.

      Where I work, it wouldn't much matter wherever I conducted my business. Even if I work in the office, I am 1500 miles away from people on my team on the west coast and 1500 miles away from my boss and other people on my team who are on the east coast. Also, some of my team are in India. My colleagues and other people in the company that I deal with on a daily basis are spread throughout the world. West coast. Midwest. East coast. India. China. South America. Australia. Throughout the UK. Singapore.

      The benefits to me are that I do not have to commute or sit in an uncomfortable office all day. The benefits to my company are that I can afford and am willing to put in far more time than I ever would before. For instance, I just put in a full week and today is one of my days off. I spent almost the entire day working. I won't be paid for it. I won't get anything out of it. I simply felt that we had a lot of things to get done and I could be of some benefit to my colleagues by helping out with the work load. I would not have bothered to shower, dress, go across the city to get to the office and spend all day in a noisy busy environment with people poking their heads over my cubicle walls. I think a lot of people would be more likely to adopt the "outside of 9-5 is MY time" philosophy and duck out the front door the moment the clock strikes 5pm than they would be if they could telecommute.

      Again, that isn't most people. I'm just saying that is how some would react. In my experience - at least at my company - we have very dedicated people in every area regardless of how or where they work.

      I also offer the company the added benefit that I am less upset when they don't had out pay raises for various reasons. After all, telecommuting does compensate for such things to a degree (though not infinitely, of course). And more than anything, I offer my company not only more work hours of my own accord, but faster response. When we are short-handed or otherwise have emergencies, they have the option of trying to get someone by phone or pager and ask them to get themselves together and come into the office. That could take a couple hours. Aside form the time they put in once they're there, it could involve three or four hours round trip. Or they could ping me and I can be working within a minute. From home.

      I know that not all companies are globally distributed like mine, so they may have different experiences. I've simply found that we are spread about that whether I'm at a desk in the office or at a desk at home is irrelevant to the experience. After all, I've seen my boss in person twice in eight years. But I talk to him almost every day, thanks to email, phone and company-wide IM. And when one of our colleagues had a sad death in the family, the condolences were just as real and meaningful by those of us across the country as those sitting next to him and we were all eager to help cover him while he was gone for weeks to deal with the loss and everyone was equally concerned about him when he returned. Being across a desk from him or across two timezones from him was irrelevant.
      • by Rogerborg (306625) on Monday January 14, 2008 @10:32PM (#22045252) Homepage
        The bad news for Omni Mega Hypercorp is that people like you with great work ethics don't have kids. I on the other hand am shiftless but fruitful, and my lazy offspring are going to micromanage you all the way to your grave.
        • by Seumas (6865) on Monday January 14, 2008 @10:39PM (#22045346)
          Perceptive. I am 30, have no children, want no children and tend to only have relationships with women who agree.

          Erm. Agree not to want children, that is. Not agree to the relationship.

          Uh. Well, they agree to the relationship, too, obviously.

          Yeah, mod me +5 creepy.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Rogerborg (306625)
            For future reference, the giveaway wasn't the obvious free time that you have, it's that you didn't use the workload as an excuse to get the hell out of the house for another day. Kids are so rewarding, in very. Short. Doses.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            Great, yet-another intelligent (I assume, given your non-AC status on /. - I know, it's no guarantee, but aside from the trolls, the least that can be said of /. is that there aren't many mouth-breathers here) person who doesn't want kids. Are you trying to ensure the transition from fiction to non-fiction of the movie Idiocracy [wikipedia.org]?
            • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

              by Fael (939668)
              I have never understood the sense behind the insult "mouth-breather", which seems to have gained quite a lot of undue traction. Is it considered less uncouth to spray dried nuggets of mucous at your conversational partners than to breath filthy mouth air at them? For that matter, why is mouth air considered less savory than nose air? In which orifice would you rather put your tongue (positing third-party orifices, of course)?

              Frankly, if the incessant chattering of humankind was occasionally interrupted b
            • What, you think eugenics is some type of social responsibility, and that clever people have a duty to breed with each other?
          • by The_reformant (777653) on Tuesday January 15, 2008 @07:38AM (#22048550)

            Yeah, mod me +5 creepy.

            Why is creepy a positive mod?
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by armb (5151)
          Though "my kid is sick, I'll be working from home today" is more productive than "my kid is sick, I can't come into the office so I won't be able to work today".
      • by hemp (36945) on Monday January 14, 2008 @11:22PM (#22045690) Homepage Journal
        Of course, everyone seems to forget - if you can telecommute, your job can be easily outsourced!
        • This is a good point-- except in about 3-4 years american programmers will be at the same salary as overseas salaries-- and it will be a good one too.

          At my company the estimate is that the next contract with infosys they will be more expensive than local resources.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by kionel (600472)
        As a person who telecommuted from 1997-2006, I concur completely.

        Unfortunately, in my neck of the woods at least, telecommuting seems to have become a bad word. Workers who once had the option of working 2-3 days a week from home have now been demanded to come into the office. Off-site workers have been transferred off projects and into projects closer to their geographic location, or let go entirely. To even ask to work from home for legitimate reasons ("My kids are sick, and I'd like to be near them
      • by BVis (267028)

        I also offer the company the added benefit that I am less upset when they don't had out pay raises for various reasons.

        You realize, of course, that if you allow your employer to get away with this, soon it will become standard practice to deny telecommuters raises as a matter of policy. NEVER accept a lower raise for anything other than performance. Where you work should not impact your compensation; what you DO should impact your compensation.

        Think about it. You say that you are able to put in more hour

    • Those not $SITUATON are disgruntled against those who $SITUATION.

      Anyway... I worked remotely, telecommuting, since 1996. Eventually I went full-time telecommuting -- even when I would come to "the office" I would be in a conference room, lunch area, etc., free to sit where I wished and work how/when i wanted (unless there was a specific meeting in progress). Last year I went to work in an office to do shift work as a system admin for a hosting company. Love it.

      I still work on little projects and am planning
      • I work remote and it's been a life saver. I'm a quasi-single father and being able to work from home and take lunch to pick them up for the afternoon carpool (she does the morning car pool) is great. I'm home and here for them. The plus of this is as a contractor, I don't get vacation time, so when we travel, as long as I can get onto the net, I can travel. I can say that since we have such a tight team, those who commute the office several days a week have no issues with those who work remote. We chat
    • by sjvn (11568)
      > "working as a team" -- meaning you see the people every day, you meet with the people face to face, you drop by their desks when you have questions, and so on.

      And, how is this productive? When I'm in the office, People drop by to chat... when I'm trying to get work done. People stop to ask questions, which then turn into half-an-hour conversations about how the Giants beat the Cowboys. Etc. Etc.

      OK, so there's a lot of good comes from being social. OTOH, at a home office, I'm 'social' on IM and e-mail:
  • by ricebowl (999467) on Monday January 14, 2008 @09:18PM (#22044516)

    I can't help but suspect that the whole low morale issue is created by those in the office feeling that they're not being treated so well as those who get to work from home in their pyjamas, and, as a result, resenting that they have to be in the office.

    Generally with this sort of study (along the lines of 'ZOMG! Office workers costing billions by surfing Facebook!') the sponsors of the study are, coincidentally I'm sure, selling a 'solution' to the problem. So I'm kinda curious as to the intent of the study, the hypothesis that was examined and the assumptions/biases made as a result.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Icarus1919 (802533)
      Well, you could always just RTFA rather than speculating, but I suppose that's just naive of me.
    • /. needs to do a scientific poll to tell us how many people who are reading /. at the moment are "pretending to work at the office" and how many are "pretending to be working" while telecommuting. They might also have a Cowboy Neal style question for those who are actually reading /. on their own time.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Seumas (6865)
      This sort of study is the same reason we end up calling everyone an "engineer". The guy who picks up your garbage is a sanitation engineer and the pizza boy is a food services transportation engineer and the mailman is a printed communications engineer. I'm sure the low-paid secretary or office admin would like to be in the position of everyone else in the office who makes more money and has a more prestigious title, just like those people would like to be telecommuting.

      Also, a lot of people I know COULD te
      • As someone who witnessed a two-hour long nerf-war in the office last time I dropped in, I am completely thankful I work from home where my largest distraction is the hum of the air conditioner and the case of coke zero in the dorm fridge next to my desk.

        There is something to be said for those kinds of distractions provided they don't happen *all* of the time - they are a great team building exercise. This is especially true in stressful or creative environments.

        Even discounting the fact that you're working
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by R2.0 (532027)
      "I can't help but suspect that the whole low morale issue is created by those in the office feeling that they're not being treated so well as those who get to work from home in their pyjamas, and, as a result, resenting that they have to be in the office."

      I think it's a little more complex than that. There's a guy in the Purchasing department who handles almost all my contracts. He telecommutes 2 days/week and his schedule seems kind of random. But since he forwards his phone and responds to emails, it's
    • by Asic Eng (193332)
      In my team we all have the option to work from home occassionally. I do it, and so do my colleagues - and I enjoy being able to have lunch with my wife, work undisturbed and all that. However I also know the other side: when most of us are in the office for some meeting or discussion and one person is not there. Conference calls always strike me as dramatically less efficient than face-to-face meetings: you don't get to read the other person's mood, you can't quickly sketch something on the whiteboard, you
  • The best team I ever worked on telecommuted. We were working on a new internet thingy back in the day when everything on the internet was new, and there were about a half dozen or so developers, working on a couple of spiffy new Sun boxes via telnet over ssh. It was a blast. Moral on the team was high, and we often burned the midnight oil simply to see this thing get built, and becuase our fearless leader was a genuine visionary. We communicated via email and comments in code and rcs. Then we would do weekly statuses via a conference call, but for the most part, we kept in touch via email and it worked like a champ.

    We were the black project, Dave's crazy thing... building an internet service model in an organization that didn't even really see that much of a need for even computers from the get go. It was a tremendous amount of work but also a great deal of fun. It was a genuinely wonderful experience for me. We had a colorful team, filled with a bunch of just super people, and that's what really matters. If you've got good people, you are going to have a good team almost regardless of whether they are in the office or not.
    • Conference calling either through one of the many 1-800 conference calling numbers or through Skype goes a long way towards making things more human in my experience. If you have a one hour chat every week to catch up and use email and instant messaging to fill in the gaps, that one hour makes a big difference even if you don't know what you ought to be talking about.

      Teleworking works better for problems that you can and do structure around very sharply defined areas of responsibility and a great deal of a
    • by Anubis350 (772791)
      working on a couple of spiffy new Sun boxes via telnet over ssh

      Say what? I do not think you typed what you meant to type, 'cause man, if you did... you're doing it wrong and I feel sorry for those poor, poor sun boxes. :-p
  • by gandhi_2 (1108023) on Monday January 14, 2008 @09:22PM (#22044544) Homepage
    Imagine how people will feel when they find out half of their "co-workers" are just shell scripts.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by cortesoft (1150075)
      I know a bot. Her name is Anna. Anna is her name. http://youtube.com/watch?v=bpRRVS1ci40 [youtube.com]
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      just shell scripts
      I'm a shell script, you insensitive clod!
      • by mike2R (721965)

        I'm a shell script, you insensitive clod!

        - Did you come to me because you are a shell script, me insensitive clod?

    • would you like to talk about half of their "co-workers" are just shell scripts?
    • Imagine how people will feel when they find out half of their "co-workers" are just shell scripts.

      You tell my boss that I put in 1 hour of work a day setting up shell scripts that run for the other 7, while still getting more done than most of my coworkers, and I'll punch you in your ass.

      Christ, they'd probably promote the script and put it in charge of me, then where would I be?

  • by FatSean (18753) on Monday January 14, 2008 @09:23PM (#22044562) Homepage Journal
    I must say that the in-person relationships are over-rated. If I'm really crunching on some problem, I don't want you stopping by to say hello and distracting me. Send me an IM if it is urgent, or an email if it isn't. Ad-hoc conference calls fill in the gaps if the scheduled meetings aren't going to be timely enough for a given issue. Shit, I've been on disperse teams for years, and sometimes I've never even seen a team-mate outside of their headshot on the company whitepages site.

    I like working with my teammates, and don't mind a little small talk, but really...I'm here to make money not friends. The fact that I enjoy the work is a plus, but it's not super important to me. My home-time is spent doing things that most 'middle Americans' would find scary or offensive so I really don't want to mix my work/home lives.

    • by Amorymeltzer (1213818) on Monday January 14, 2008 @09:36PM (#22044682)
      Not being in the office is plenty distracting. Your standard cubicle and coworkers has a lot less to offer than something like your own home, especially far from supervision. Most annoying people walking by will probably learn after being asked once or twice to only stop by if it's important. I've always seen the personal interactions being far superior to some slight decrease in productivity.
    • At the company I work for, our main office is on the other coast. We're a splinter office (well an acquisition really) of about a dozen guys. The guys on the coast really don't have any idea where I'm at anyways. I've done several projects and never even seen the other guys on the team. I email them status and code, they email me requests.

      And that's true at the office I'm in too when the project is in-house. Had a guy two cubes down from me get added to my project, and he had to ask me my name. He h

    • by garcia (6573) on Monday January 14, 2008 @10:00PM (#22044888) Homepage
      I like working with my teammates, and don't mind a little small talk, but really...I'm here to make money not friends. The fact that I enjoy the work is a plus, but it's not super important to me. My home-time is spent doing things that most 'middle Americans' would find scary or offensive so I really don't want to mix my work/home lives.

      I don't have autism and I'm not anti-social and I have absolutely no interest in making friends at work (I have discouraged it on Slashdot at least twice before). I'm there to get a job done and go the fuck home and spend time with my wife, dog and our friends that don't give a fuck about what we did at work.

      I don't have any hobbies that make "Middle Americans" (I assume I'm one) uncomfortable but I honestly believe you work your shift and you go home. Once you're home you don't talk about work, you don't worry about work, and you certainly don't concern yourself with what you're going to be doing tomorrow.

      Work isn't important enough to care about it that much. Do your job to the best of your ability and go home. Too many people have it backwards -- worrying about work at day and all night.
      • by Rogerborg (306625) on Monday January 14, 2008 @10:22PM (#22045126) Homepage
        Damn skippy. I don't even think about work when I'm in the office. Fuck them, they'll smartsize my headcount in a heartbeat the moment that they think it'll add ten cents to next quarter's bottom line, so I'm getting my retaliation in preemptively. Curiously, the more I slack off, the more they over-value my skills. Making this post probably put another $100 on next year's salary.
        • Have you thought about asking to get paid in some other currency? You might have to post a lot more comments on slashdot this year just to stay even :)
        • by aeoo (568706) on Monday January 14, 2008 @11:53PM (#22045926) Journal
          There is a lot of truth in what you say. If you work slavishly then people think you are powerless and do it out of desperation, in the manner of begging. For example, if you work 12 hours it is because you believe your 8 hours is not good enough, so you have to compensate for your shit skills by working more along the lines of "well I am not that productive per hour, so let me work more hours in desperate hopes that my employer will notice me and at least refrain from firing me, or at least put me in the back of the line when firing." It's a fear-based, victim, loser mentality. And funny enough, if you stop doing it, people value you more. If you kill yourself for the company, you get fired with the rest of the workaholic office flotsam.

          It's the exact same dynamic that exists between men and women. Men who are desperate for women and who bend over backward to please women are despised by women. Women hate the "nice guy". And the corps hate the "nice employee" too for the same reason.

          I know this from experience. When I was "nice", I got zero respect and my only reward was an ever-increasing workload and responsibility with the ever decreasing decision making power. So if something ever went wrong it was my fault, even though I had no decision making power to do it better or even just plain differently. I was a nervous wreck on hastening to take my place 6ft under with no other motivation besides fear. When I realized how pathetic that was, for me and for others around me (even for the corp itself), I changed and never looked back. I'd rather die free than be a slave.
          • by Panaflex (13191)
            Dude.. that's so office space! LOL

            But absolutely true... Except for one caveat: cool new stuff. If you're making cool new stuff and showing it off, I find good rapport pretty easy.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by RobinH (124750)
        Work isn't important enough to care about it that much. Do your job to the best of your ability and go home. Too many people have it backwards -- worrying about work at day and all night.

        That seems to be the attitude of most people I run into outside of work, and I certainly respect their wishes.

        However, after the first 5 years of work I had the opportunity to move to a new city and get a new job. I did a bit of goal planning and soul searching and really started asking what I wanted to do with my life. I
      • by mwvdlee (775178)
        Next to an enjoyable private life, I try to enjoy my professional life as well.
        Actively blocking work friendships just seems idiotic to me.
        Why would it be impossible for somebody you met at work to ever become a friend? Are they really that fundamentally different from the friends you already have? You work there, so unless your friend are completely unlike yourself, why couldn't they?
    • I definitely agree with not wanting to take the stress of work home, but what's wrong with making friends at work? Isn't it more enjoyable to have friends there when you have to go to work? Would you rather spend 8 hours every day with people you like, or people you don't like?
  • by White Flame (1074973) on Monday January 14, 2008 @09:24PM (#22044576)

    Read TFS (or TFA) again! This is NOT showing problems of telecommuters, it is showing problems of those who do not. It's saying that those who work in the office get worse as others start telecommuting, and that "the health, life, and work benefits for those who can telecommute are undeniable".

  • Everywhere I've worked, there have been a few people who, if they started telecommuting, would make my life easier. The people you flat out just don't like, get annoyed by, etc.

    But that's always a small minority. There is the person or people I don't want to have to deal with, the people I really like and would really miss, then everyone else. While I would be quite disappointed if some of the people I really liked stopped coming in (and since I'm in IT I think they would be some of the people most likely

  • by Quiet_Desperation (858215) on Monday January 14, 2008 @09:34PM (#22044654)
    Tough shit unless you want to drive me to work. :-P
  • by ChoppedBroccoli (988942) on Monday January 14, 2008 @09:34PM (#22044658)
    As a new-grad entering the workforce I have mixed feelings over telecommuting.

    The first 2-5 years of your employment can be a crucial component to the success of the rest of your career. I get the feeling that you most definitely want to be coming to work everyday. Certainly you may change tracks, jobs, or even fields down the road, but the business/social skills that you'll learn and more importantly, the relationships you will develop are very important and seem impossible to foster over the phone or a video conference. Spending time at your company's office means you are working, eating, and socializing (work and recreational) with your peers. You will undoubtedly discuss your interests both related and unrelated to your job that may lead to hundreds of different possibilites. For example, during a lunch break at the office with your friend you may have a discussion on a common interest technology that could lead to a startup. Or during an on-campus softball break you may find that a peer has a common interest or contacts in a different field altogether. Let alone the 'hands-on' communication needed to complete software projects, how in the world are you going to make these relationships and get these contacts when you are at home during the work week?

    I'm not arguing that you can't be successful at your job telecommuting; certainly telecommuting may be beneficial for the truly brilliant people who can produce great code or make a sale to a client from the comfort of the home, but if you are that brilliant, imagine how much your peers would benefit from having you around more often to pick your brain?

    Certainly for more veteran people who have 3 kids and live far from work, telecommuting can be a blessing and that is where telecommuting should be applied; experienced individuals who already have excellent communication skills and extensive experience in the industry. The benefits of increased productivity and the positive environmental impact are great positives.

    As for disgruntled non-telecommuting employees left behind at work: I think a company that properly uses telecommuting has some sort of obligation to employees that don't telecommute to improve their office experience. The company should be saving a good amount of money from reduced operating expenses because fewer employees are on campus and increased productivity from those who telecommute. Certainly some of this savings should be put to use for those who still commute to work; improve their work experience by having more benefits on campus; drinks, food, recreation, and public transportation or company shuttles. Certainly these services should be simpler to implement on campus if more employees telecommute and would certainly be appreciated by those who still come to work.
    • by QuantumG (50515)
      I think you have no career prospects because of your excessive use of bold.

    • by Zarf (5735)

      The first 2-5 years of your employment can be a crucial component to the success of the rest of your career.
      I'm doomed.
    • by Drogo007 (923906)
      "but if you are that brilliant, imagine how much your peers would benefit from having you around more often to pick your brain?" Ok, let's postulate I'm some brilliant guy that can work from home but I've been asked to work from the office so I can also mentor the three noobs on my team. Let's say those noobs will each ask me a question, on average, once every two hours. Each question will take on average 10 minutes to satisfactorily explain. So those who can benefit from my experience are only taking 3
  • by purplelocust (944662) on Monday January 14, 2008 @09:34PM (#22044662)
    It seems like those who are permitted to telecommute tend to be those who have shown they are responsible people who can contribute meaningfully without actually coming in. If you look at the remainings, it's no surprise that they are a grumpy lot about the overall state of affairs. It's not that everyone who telecommutes is a self-motivated creative genius, and that everyone who doesn't is a goofoff who needs constant supervision, but if there is some kind of connection, it would show up sharply in a study like this one.
  • by Mr.Spaz (468833) on Monday January 14, 2008 @09:42PM (#22044716)
    The general idea I take away from reading this article: The needy, politics-playing, "face-to-face" types that require a rigid schedule lest they have to manage their own time are feeling abandoned and unwanted when people flee the office to get away from them and actually get some work done. "We're not a *team* anymore! It's far to clear who's actually doing work here while I piss away my time in the office! I need you back here to help dilute the scrutiny I am receiving!"

    It seems like a bitter opinion and it is. Corpolitics and the need to regiment and formalize everyday activities that had little to do with the task at hand drove me out of the industry and have kept me away. It is no wonder that other studies have shown people to be happier, more productive workers when they escape the micro-managerial tyrants and sycophantic coworkers that routinely bog down the average office workday. That this study shows that those left behind are sad pandas when everyone else takes their toys and goes home rather than play with them is no surprise.
    • That could not have been said better. I agree completely. I always telecommute because I just do consulting for a few people. They had me come in before and it was all politics and absolutely ridiculous. In-person meetings were about charisma more than what the meetings were about.
    • You hit the nail squarely on the head. As an employee that works at a business that has had a tendency to liberally allow work from home for all it's employees when necessary. I prefer going in to work mostly because access to network resources are closer and faster (I do a lot of remote desktops across the Internet to random places in the US) and partly because I live so close that it's only about a 5 minute walk down the street and I can't generally justify working from home. Unfortunately, the people le
    • "The general idea I take away from reading this article: The needy, politics-playing, "face-to-face" types that require a rigid schedule lest they have to manage their own time are feeling abandoned and unwanted when people flee the office to get away from them and actually get some work done."

      What a bitter and twisted attitude to have. Some people like going into work because they enjoy the office socialising and feel isolated if they are to stay at home. To brand all people as "needy" and "politics-playin
  • by compumike (454538) on Monday January 14, 2008 @09:45PM (#22044744) Homepage
    If somebody were to take a look at a company that implemented telecommuting, and took a big step back to look at the big picture, there's one big thing that will stand out: the kinds of work that various employees (including those "left behind in the office") do will change because of telecommuting.

    With the way that telecommuting has taken hold, it's often the case that the work that needs to be done by department XYZ hasn't changed... but that there are some things that are difficult from remote offices. This means that those parts of the new telecommuter's job will have to be moved to an in-office employee. So yes, it makes sense that telecommuting comes with this price.

    The real question is whether companies use telecommuting as a reason to change processes, such that it isn't just redistributing work, but changing the nature of the work itself. Since this article just refers to a single company, it's pretty clear that they haven't thought about redefining processes -- just reassigning work and locations. But hopefully more companies are as they move down this road.

    --
    Educational microcontroller kits for the digital generation. [nerdkits.com]
    • I've experienced the same thing both as a telecommuter, and as a consultant.

      I think the size of the organization has a lot to do with it. The larger the company, the more deadwood there is. Those are the people we are talking about.

      Small places can't afford slackers, depending on the business model they could be a 100% virtual company (i.e. all telecommuters).

      Larger, more established places tend to attract pointy haired bosses, 9-5'er clock-punchers and others just doing the minimum to skim by. They a

  • I would like to say that I've seen many companies where people work together 40 hours a week, see each other every day, talk all the time about work problems, are usually stressed up. But never meet outside of the job, be it for a beer on Friday after work hours, or for a weekend barbecue. Is that the interaction people miss when telecommuting?

    I think it's way more productive to have people working from home on the daily basis, but meeting regularly (bi-weekly, monthly) to do something fun, be it go to a

    • Everytime I was into an out of office "bonding activities", it was organised by management and ultimately revolved around office politics. You definitely can't enjoy meeting your coworkers outside work when your main concious though is to not going postal on those weasels.
  • by MikeRT (947531) on Monday January 14, 2008 @09:52PM (#22044804) Homepage
    Telecommuting works great if you have a few trusted employees. One of the developers on a team I used to work on about 8 months ago had to commute from about 45 minutes away to get into the office. He telecommuted a lot when he felt like. Our manager bent (more like broke, later on) the rules so that he didn't have to add 1.5 hours to his commute. My coworker and I literally lived down the street from our new office. Why should we be allowed to telecommute? Seriously, we lucked out such that we could walk about 10-20 minutes away from our apartments to get to the office on a bad day.

    I think it all depends on three things:

    1) How far away does the employee live
    2) How well can you trust them to do their work
    3) Can they do all of their work from home, and if not, will the come in and do what they can't in the office

    Telecommuting ought to be a privilege, not a right. Part of the reason my company ended up having a general policy of ending telecommuting was the abuse. Too little work was getting done by most of the telecommuters.
    • by hemp (36945)
      I think it all depends on three things:

      1) How far away does the employee live


      I don't think how far away an employee lives should enter into it at all. I have worked with several colleges who have insisted on telecommuting/coming late/leaving early because they 'live so far away'. I always ask them - didn't you know where the office was? When you came in to interview didn't you pay attention to how far away you lived?

      If a long commute was a problem, why did you take the job??
    • by oahazmatt (868057)

      I think it all depends on three things:

      1) How far away does the employee live
      2) How well can you trust them to do their work
      3) Can they do all of their work from home, and if not, will the come in and do what they can't in the office

      In my experience, with my job (I work for a large telecom's internal support desk) 1 & 3 are never factored in. We have people who work three hours away from the nearest office and refuse to come in. It's a great deal of fun when they've been using cached logins and get dropped from a domain, or when their PC just dies and they need to coordinate for days with our field support.

  • by heroine (1220) on Monday January 14, 2008 @10:03PM (#22044918) Homepage
    The Bangalore workers get 30% raises & own houses. The Silicon Valley workers struggle to keep up with rent inflation & don't get raises. So there probably is some dissatisfaction.

  • The more I see people the more I tend not to wish to see them. I think i would generally prefer an IRC office than a traditional slaves in the workhouse office.
  • by Degrees (220395) <degreesNO@SPAMsbcglobal.net> on Monday January 14, 2008 @10:36PM (#22045306) Homepage Journal
    I do sysadmin work in a space with three other guys; three of us are introverts (mostly), and one of us is an extrovert (largely). It's not easy.

    Seems to me, the article talks about the effect telecommuting had on the extrovert. Well, sure. I can absolutely see where the lack of an audience is going to be a total bummer for the extrovert.

    But us introverts say a prayer of thanks when the telecommute offer comes in.

    The study is probably a little bit skewed, in that extroverts want to come to work, so that they do get their audience. When offered the telecommute, the extroverts probably turned it down.... Yes, they were left behind. And sure, they may be more lonely now. But given my 'druthers, I'd rather the extroverts work in Sales.

    • The thing is that it isn't necessarily a matter of introverts and extroverts though there are places where that is indeed the case.

      I've found that, in a lot of situations, people working around each other do better work than they do working alone because they tend to rub off on each other. They pick up things from each other - be it random pieces of useful information, the desire to learn something, or a more positive attitude about the day (unfortunately, the opposite is also true. One downer can suck th
  • by PPH (736903) on Monday January 14, 2008 @11:04PM (#22045542)
    I can see the problems, particularly if the boss isn't very good at assigning work equitably. The telecommuters will get the big projects, where they can work undisturbed. Those left behind will end up handling all the B.S that tends to roll through the office on a moment's notice.

    Incompetent management aggravates the situation by failing to protect the office staff from disturbances and trivial tasks. Worse yet, some bad managers are the source of such disturbances, grabbing the nearest person to handle undesirable tasks. This results in resentment from the office employees.

    • by josepha48 (13953)
      There is also the problem of management playing favoritism and letting certain employees work at home and others not. While most places make it merit based, some are not. Also some jobs require people to be in the office and doing meetings and things like that, and while some can be done via telecommuting, sometimes face to face is more effective.

      Then there is the case where remote employees get to do whatever they want and get away with slipping deadlines and all sorts of excuses because management does

  • Wow a sample of 240 professional employees from an unnamed medium-sized company. One can definitely see a pattern.
  • Being a long time telecommuter and in-office worker, and managing telecommuting teams, telecommuting could be considered no different than asking "where are the sales guys" prior to or even during the shift to more people telecommuting. The fact is that going to an office does not make a person more productive, just more visible and likely less productive. I n todays society the question is "Do I or "can I be an effective telecommuter, or virtual team member" And be productive and feel good at the end of t
  • "Being employed considered harmful to the egos of those who are not!"

    "Wealth makes poor people feel bad!"

    "Food considered demoralizing to the starving."

    "Being smart considered embarrassing to those who aren't."

    Duh.
    • "Being smart considered embarrassing to those who aren't."

      Well, that one is so obvious it's got to be wrong.
  • In other words (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Joebert (946227) on Tuesday January 15, 2008 @12:11PM (#22051018) Homepage
    The people who never really produce anything on their own, instead manipulating others to do their work for them & taking credit for that work, can't do that with less people around.

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