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Why Working Remotely Needs To Make a Comeback 455

silentbrad writes sends this excerpt from a blog post about the history of working from home: "Remote working has existed for centuries. And now is the perfect time for its comeback. ... Prior to the Industrial Revolution, goods were manufactured by contracting individual craftsmen who worked out of their homes. The merchant would drum up sales, and would coordinate the production with at-home sub-contractors. ... This all changed with the Industrial Revolution: production was centralized in factories and cities. For merchant capitalists, this made sense: it was cheaper and more efficient to produce goods in one place, with machinery. ... We've been in the Information Age for at least 25 years. We've made huge leaps in technology. Many of us would describe ourselves as Knowledge Workers: we don't work in factories, we work at desks in front of glowing screens. We don't make goods with physical materials, but rather things made out of bits. The great thing about bits + the internet is that the materials and means needed for production aren't dependent on location. But here's the funny thing: the way work is organized hasn't changed. Despite all these advances, most of us still work in central offices. Employees leave their computer-equipped homes and drive long distances to work at computer-equipped offices. ... CEOs, like Yahoo's Marissa Mayer and Apple's Steve Jobs, think that a central office fosters more innovation and productivity. I think they're wrong. We're still early in the research, but recent studies seem to dispute their claim. ... Managers have developed centuries worth of habits based on the central workplace. The hallmarks of office work (meetings, cubicle workstations, colocation) need to be seen for what they are: traditions we've kept alive since the Industrial Revolution. We need to question these institutions: are they really more innovative and efficient?"
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Why Working Remotely Needs To Make a Comeback

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  • by DaMattster ( 977781 ) on Sunday February 24, 2013 @07:19PM (#42998243)
    My friend works for an insurance company that moved all of the senior claims adjusters to work from home positions. Only the junior level ones work out of the office and it is just so they can become experienced. My friend has no plans whatsoever to leave the company unless forced to. That's pretty telling....
  • Re:I agree but... (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 24, 2013 @07:54PM (#42998511)

    As a developer working on healthcare integration projects - 100% of my work is remote. I know the business, have worked with hospitals and in the medical field for 20+ years, know most of the most common EMR packages and integration engines. I'm both a contract and freelance consultant depending on the contract. I could give two shits about "promotion". My desire to be absorbed by the "Cubical Mentality" is non-existent. Been there, done that, burned the T-Shirt. The PHB's can micro-manage their own flock without worrying about the pasture I work in.

    My office is a MacBook Pro with 16GB RAM, dual SSD's and a backup storage array. I keep all the various POS laptops I'm given by the various hospitals on the shelf in my home office because I've converted all of their machines to Fusion VM's and can all be run concurrently on the laptop. The laptop is encrypted at the hard-drive level and all the VM's live in TrueCrypt containers - so even in the case of loss, the protected health info on there is safe from prying eyes.

    H1B's don't usually have the deep domain knowledge, my expertise of various EDI tools, and every time they brought one in? They failed and the client called me in for good money to clean up their "Oracle is the answer to everything" bullshit.

    I do damn good work, deliver what I say I am going to deliver - and I have had NO complaints by anyone - only repeat business. I can do it from my courtyard hammock, or the local coffee shop across from the University where the view is exemplary... or the top of a nearby mountain in the picnic area when I want some peace and quiet during the day.

  • Re:Teamwork (Score:5, Informative)

    by kevin_m_hickey ( 2663827 ) on Sunday February 24, 2013 @07:54PM (#42998523)

    It probably varies by job and by person. I find it helpful to talk with my coworkers, but a distraction to overhear them.

    A lot of people (thought granted not everybody) find that after spending some time in a collaborative environment the background conversations move from being a distraction to an undercurrent of information. It becomes possible to tune it out but still hear keywords that might be relevant and allow for better teamwork.

    A mailing list, irc channel, xmpp muc etc. allows me to collaborate on my terms. I can rethink and edit my response, and if I'm in the middle of something I can read it later and respond then. Conversations typically don't work like that.

    That's true but your way has high latency. Conversations happen much faster.

  • by Belial6 ( 794905 ) on Sunday February 24, 2013 @08:32PM (#42998731)
    We homeschool our child, so he has the proper social skills to know that during the workday, you make noise in places other than where a person is working. For those who have been "socialized" by going to public school, they are not at home during the day anyway, so either way, having kids doesn't really come into the equation.
  • by Grishnakh ( 216268 ) on Sunday February 24, 2013 @08:47PM (#42998829)

    Cube farms aren't that bad. For you to say such a thing, you obviously have never worked in an "open-plan office environment", a.k.a. "bullpen". Just in case you haven't seen these in person, basically there's no walls at all, or at best there's cubicle walls separating your "team" from other "teams", but no walls between you and 6-10 cow-orkers. So any time one of them starts talking about some stupid sports game, or someone comes to visit one of them, or they use the phone, you get to be interrupted by their conversation. What's really obnoxious is when some boss person or someone from marketing comes over and wants to have a chit-chat with some of the people in your group about something not related to work, and parks his ugly butt on your desk right next to you while you're trying to work.

    Think headphones will help? Try it, and find out what a heart attack feels like when some asshole comes up behind you and taps you on the shoulder to get your attention.

    Add in a horribly noisy A/C unit in the ceiling above that stays on continuously all day long, and you'll go surely insane.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 24, 2013 @09:14PM (#42998991)

    The reason cubicle farms exist is an outgrowth of the incompetence of management. Managers do not know how to effectively manage their staff and think by "keeping an eye on them by virtue of being in their assigned seat" is an effective approach to management. In an office environment I have seen my manager less than 1% of the time yet if I dared asked permission to work from home I could except immediate termination or worse. And what is this non-sense of a fixed workday whereby I must be in the office between 8AM and 5PM regardless of the fact my work for that particular day was completed and signed-off by noon? Great, now I have to spend the next five hours appearing busy when in reality I am surfing /. trying to stay awake.

  • by B33rNinj4 ( 666756 ) on Sunday February 24, 2013 @09:46PM (#42999205) Homepage Journal
    Exactly. When I'm working on a project at home, I lock the door and wear headphones. Sure the kids get annoyed that I'm unavailable, but they'll get over it. I'm far more productive when I'm able to just focus without the distractions of the office.
  • by countach74 ( 2484150 ) on Sunday February 24, 2013 @10:48PM (#42999593)
    All of these problems magically go away when a flexible telecommute arrangement is made.
  • by mhajicek ( 1582795 ) on Sunday February 24, 2013 @11:47PM (#42999891)
    I've been there. It's all about control. It doesn't have to make sense.
  • by Ritchie70 ( 860516 ) on Monday February 25, 2013 @01:33AM (#43000403) Journal

    I have one child (almost 10 months old.)

    When working from home, I work in the same general area of the house as where she and my wife are playing, watching TV, reading, and doing all that other stuff you do with a baby. I change most of her diapers while I'm there, and sometimes I take a meeting or do work with her sitting on my lap happily burbling away and grabbing at the keyboard.

    And I'm still more productive than when stuck in my dismal, 1989 cubicle. (It really is that old; I found the manufacturer's sticker inside the cabinet.)

    Some of it is workplace noise. Some of it is that I can wear t-shirt and jeans, or shorts if it's warm, and no socks or shoes. Some of it is that I'm just happier with my family than without them.

    I'm trying to train my workplace that they don't need to see me more than once a week. I think I'm slowly getting there. My boss doesn't care so long as the work gets done, but higher up the food chain it gets stickier.

The human mind ordinarily operates at only ten percent of its capacity -- the rest is overhead for the operating system.