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Work No Longer a Place but an Activity 262

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the hi-ho-hi-ho dept.
r.future writes "A story that I found over on MobileBeta that talks about how now technology such as broadband, and WiFi are becoming more and more common place. People can (and I believe may one day be required) to work at home. Here's a small clip from the story: 'According to a recent AT&T survey conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), 80% of companies worldwide expect to have employees who telework by 2005, up from 54% in 2003. The International Telework Association & Council (ITAC) recently reported the number of home-based teleworkers in the US grew 63.2% between 1999 and 2003.'"
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Work No Longer a Place but an Activity

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  • by DigitumDei (578031) on Friday May 07, 2004 @08:06AM (#9082527) Homepage Journal
    how much work I'd actually get done at home. I bet many people would get more stuff done, but my ps2 being in such close proximity to my work station may cause more trouble than its worth.
    • Re:Hmm I wonder... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by StarOwl (131464) <<moc.eleksirt> <ta> <hsalstod-lworats>> on Friday May 07, 2004 @08:14AM (#9082572) Homepage
      I'm in the odd sitution of working in my office (100 miles away from where I live), telecommuting from a sattelite office (15 miles away), or working from my house as my needs permit.

      Curiously, I'm most productive at home, then at the sattelite office, and least productive in my actual office. I figure that's because people won't normally bother me while at home, but in my main office I have quite a bit of time eaten up by the pointy-haired bosses.

      Considering that all that many of us need to work is 'net and phone, both of which are increasingly wireless, why should we be stuck in our dark little cubes all day?
      • Re:Hmm I wonder... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by DigitumDei (578031) on Friday May 07, 2004 @08:22AM (#9082635) Homepage Journal
        I guess it depends on the office space. Where I currently work the pointy haired boss is an ex programmer and so isn't too pointy haired. I tend to work a lot more in the office because the way things are set up work. The management stays away as long as we are getting stuff done. :)

        I think the point is that different things work for different people and their jobs and also apply differently based on the culture of the company.

        I do know that at my previous company I would have gotten tons more work done if I had worked at home, but now, with a change of company, the reverse is true.
        • Re:Hmm I wonder... (Score:3, Insightful)

          by HTH NE1 (675604)
          There's also the issue of insurance. Insurance becomes a lot more expensive if the company allows employees to work from home as it is not a company-controlled environment that they can make safe. It can end up being a choice between working at work or giving up your insurance.
      • Re:Hmm I wonder... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by nojomofo (123944) on Friday May 07, 2004 @08:55AM (#9082840) Homepage

        I think that the sorts of jobs where this works well are the sorts of jobs that are most likely to be outsourced. If all the communication that you need to do your job is some emailed spec docs and an occasional phone conversation, why couldn't the email be to somebody in India?

        I occasionally work from home, but it wouldn't work for me to work from home too much. I spend a lot of time talking to various people around the office - marketing people who have ideas about what they want to see in the software that I'm working on, internal clients who actually use the software, other technical resources on what's in our data and how to use it, etc. It's my communication skills that ensure that my job isn't going to get outsourced - if a job could be outsourced, it isn't something that I'm interested in.

      • Re:Hmm I wonder... (Score:2, Insightful)

        by mangastudent (718064)

        [...] but in my main office I have quite a bit of time eaten up by the pointy-haired bosses.

        And there lies the main problem.

        Many if not most bosses will never willingly tolerate a daytime work at home situation of any time. If you're not under their eyes/thumb, in their gut they don't feel you're working. If company policy allows work at home anyway, don't expect good career results at your company no matter what wonders you accomplish.

        (Don't forget politics: I speak from bitter experience when I

        • Many if not most bosses will never willingly tolerate a daytime work at home situation of any time. If you're not under their eyes/thumb, in their gut they don't feel you're working.

          Nailed it, right there. When I did consulting, we knew that the difference between writing code offsite and writing code onsite was that if the customer sees you doing it, he believes his money is well spent.

          Now I work in a local govt. job (hard times) where I could easily do everything I do at home. And I mean, everythin

          • Re:Hmm I wonder... (Score:5, Insightful)

            by cmacb (547347) on Friday May 07, 2004 @09:56AM (#9083465) Homepage Journal
            Yeah, good luck.

            From the article:

            "The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports there were 138.5m employed Americans in March 2004; eMarketer estimates that 19.2% of these Americans, 26.6m, worked at home in their primary job once a month."

            Whoop dee friggin doo. I'd hardly call that progress. I first heard of this concept as a Comp Sci student in the early 70's. There shouldn't even BE and office for me to go to by now. "once a month"? that sounds like sick leave to me. What they are saying is that when you call in sick, automation workers are expected to sign on anyway and try and get something done rather than stay in bed like they should be doing.

            My only extensive work-at-home period was when I was a truly independent consultant. My major contract at the time could all be done remotely. Even so, the customer needled me about showing up more often even though there was no place to sit and work available when I showed up. So twice a week I'd make the two hour drive, socialize with the staff and waste their time too, and make sure that the PHBs saw me doing it. Then in the middle of the day I'd drive back home and sign on to actually work.

            Sounds like the best way to not have to drive to the office these days is to get your job in India.
            • I could rant and rave about the privacy conserns, about them wanting to have control over you when you're in your own home, then rant and rave about the legislation, chipping, insane bullcrap, etc.

              Instead, I'm going to say this; just so long as us computer repair techies get the free flying cars and lots and lots of free condoms! :D
      • Re:Hmm I wonder... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 07, 2004 @11:29AM (#9084803)
        I was recently working on a team as an ASIC verification engineer. Our ASIC team was dispersed across 4 locations, east-coast and west-coast. Most of the west-coast folks were 'unassigned' meaning they didn't have real offices, most worked from home, or drop-in offices. As a result I had an opportunity to work from home quite a bit.

        I found that one day a week was fine, and that I was more productive on that first day, but when it reached 2-3 days for the week, productivity dropped off, and it felt less like a job, and more like unemployment! I missed the interpersonal interaction even if most of it was not with my immediate team.

        As far as the team goes -- it was a horrible experience. Tracking people down was a nightmare, meetings became completely useless since everyone was dialed-in (half of the time you couldn't hear anything, the other half you were asleep), communication became heavily dependent on e-mail which caused the response time to be 1-2 days for any issue. If I had to guess, I think our efficiency was dropped by 50-60%. If the cost of more engineers to overcome the inefficiency is less than the cost of real-estate it makes sense, but not if you can't tolerate longer product cycles or more engineering resource.

        For a while I thought I could go live somewhere cheap and work remotely, but the question always turned to, "What do I do if I can't work with this company anymore?" How hard would it be to find a job, get trained, and integrate into a new team from a remote location?

        I used to be a big fan of telecommuting, but now I would avoid it. I think having the option to work from home is good, say when it snows 4 feet, or you have to wait for the UPS guy or something, but I don't think I would want to be required to work from home.

        Just my thoughts.
    • Depending on what I'm working on, I'm usually a lot more productive working from home - less distractions from coworkers, plus the unseen "pressure" of feeling that if I'm staying home all day I better accomplish something. I think the perfect balance (depending on your job, of course) is to work from home 2-3 days a week and spend the other days in the office for "Face Time". I spent a year working from home once for a company in another State, and that got to be pretty tedious as a full-time gig.
    • by Matt1313 (165628) on Friday May 07, 2004 @08:56AM (#9082850)
      That is why when you start working from home you need to set up an "office". Whether it is an actual separate room or at least an area where you have your work stuff. I have found it to be helpful to keep that area clear of non work related stuff.
      There are several other key things to do when working from home...
      Follow the same routine that you would when you physically go to work.
      Get dressed.
      Get some coffee (or your normal morning drink and/or some breakfast).
      As a side note, I find that on the days I work from home I eat breakfast more often and I choose more healthy breakfast foods.
      Working from home takes some discipline but I find that when I do work from home I get more work done as there are not so many "walk-up". Ie, co-workers stopping to chat and/or co-workers using me as their reference guide for their current client issue.

      In my current position it could be done 100% from anywhere there is a broadband link and cell phone reception. I only telework two days a week as I still like to show my face in the office. There are also some meetings that we have that I like to have a physical presence at as well. It is much more effective IMO when you are making an "angry face" in a meeting then when you do it over the phone. Granted you can learn how to voice your anger at your project possibly being under funded or whatever but it is easier to show your emotions physically then verbally.

      (I prefer telework to telecommute as it puts the emphasis on "work", instead of a side benefit of not having to commute).

      For more information on telework and proposing it to your boss/company check out this link.
      http://www.telecommute.org/telework/1999wor kshop3. htm

    • I tend to be significantly more productive at home, even though one of the machines I use is also the one with all my games on it (so I don't even need to turn on a ps2) and it has a DSL connection.

      The reason is simple - my home boxes are set up exactly how I want them: I have all the software I need set up exactly how I want it, I have my shelves of books (which tend to be more up to date than the ones in the office), I have local mirrors of any online documentation I use, I built my desk myself to have e
  • telework? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by imag0 (605684) on Friday May 07, 2004 @08:07AM (#9082531) Homepage
    Do they mean "moving jobs offshore telework" or "americans on call 24 hours a day" telework?

    Either way it sounds hellish to me. I like my days off too much.
    • by skaffen42 (579313)
      Days off? What is this you speak of?

    • Days off? What are those? I keep hearing people using terms like "vacation" and "sick days" but I've been a contract programmer for 9 years, and seem to have forgotten what those terms mean.

      I know, I know, STFW [google.com].
    • Re:telework? (Score:2, Informative)

      "americans on call 24 hours a day"

      You have to stipulate that you are not on call 24 hours. I work at home 100% of the time. The people that I work with know that if there is an emergency they can call me just about any time. But, if there are too many "emergencies" then I stop answering their calls outside of business hours.
  • by ebh (116526) * <ebh-slashdot&hyperreal,org> on Friday May 07, 2004 @08:08AM (#9082533) Journal
    Most sales, marketing, executive and other customer facing jobs have been like this for years. Also, things like "hoteling" of office space predicted this a long time ago.

    Commercial square footage is expensive, and employees who want window offices instead of internal cubes are more likely to get them in their own homes.

    But good luck getting that home-office tax deduction...
    • by subguy (40221)
      Reminds me of a Dilbert cartoon from a few years back.

      The gist was that technology was advanced enough that you could legitimately claim to be productive working from home, yet not sufficiently advanced for your boss to check up on you. We were therefore at a historical point in time where goofing off from home and getting paid was a possibility.
      • I believe the final panel was this:

        PHB: "You mean you'd stay at home and we'd just send you checks?"

        Dogbert: "Actually, I was hoping for direct deposit" (little dogbert tail-wag...)
  • by baeksu (715271) on Friday May 07, 2004 @08:09AM (#9082545)
    ...nor broadband. especially not wi-fi, that would just be silly. anyway, my dad has worked from home for a insurance company for 5 years now. all he needed is a telephone and isdn-line. not much high-tech, really.
    • by demi (17616) on Friday May 07, 2004 @08:15AM (#9082585) Homepage Journal

      The article is about working outside the office, not just from home. I, for one, find Wi-Fi convenient when I want to get out of the house and work in the local coffee house or pub.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      ...nor broadband. especially not wi-fi

      Actually broadband does make a big difference. Broadband makes things like using VPN a reality. Now days with bloated files that get produced, having to download the latest budget spreadsheet or that 40 slide powerpoint presentation would be unworkable (notice I didn't say undoable) if you had to wait 45 minutes for it to download. With VPN, you can grab the file, work on it and save it without too much worry (other than crap isp reliability, but that's another st
    • It makes it a lot more attractive though. I have WiFi around the building at work, and in my garden at home. During the summer I can chose between working on a deckchair in my garden or at work. My sunburn will attest to the fact that I work too hard...
  • by RGautier (749908) on Friday May 07, 2004 @08:10AM (#9082549) Homepage
    If your job can be done from home, it can be done from India, or China, or Mexico.
    I don't have anything against job assignments that allow some telecommuting, but if you think your job can be both safe, and something you can do from home, you need to find a different line of work.
    • by AlecC (512609) <aleccawley@gmail.com> on Friday May 07, 2004 @08:26AM (#9082659)
      if you think your job can be both safe, and something you can do from home, you need to find a different line of work.

      No. You just need aome unique skill or knowledge which cannot be picked up on tbe street corner. Certainly, if you think of yourself as a "warm body" programmer - "Have emacs, will travel (virtually)", then you can be replaced by another such - and it doesn't matter if they are in India or down the street. Wherever you may be, you need to build up skills and knowledge. Work out what distinguishes you from the next cubicle and (provided it is good, of course), polish it.

      This is something self-employed people and small traders have had to live with for ever. It is now moving into the previously sheltered world of software. It is not thst the world is suddenly being nasty to geeks - it is that geeks have had it unfairly easy for thirty years, and the real world has finally woken up to the easy ride we have been getting.
    • by Masa (74401) on Friday May 07, 2004 @08:26AM (#9082666) Journal
      If your job can be done from home, it can be done from India, or China, or Mexico.

      I think, you are wrong. Yes, I can see your point and agree to some degree, but in general, a telecommuter is a person, who has to do creative work and his/her presence is not required regularly at the office.

      I'm telecommuting and I don't feel that my position would be threatened. My contribution to the company is pretty important and both my employer and I have agreed that telecommuting will increase my productivity. I'm working as a software engineer and I constantly find it hard to concentrate at the work-place (I'm sitting in the cubicle). Telecommuting makes it possible to get out from the noisy office to much quieter place and achieve better results.
    • by KrispyKringle (672903) on Friday May 07, 2004 @08:28AM (#9082682)
      I don't see how you come to that conclusion. By that logic, pretty much the only jobs safe from outsourcing are manual labor and customer service type jobs that require a physical presence. Yet many argue that there are still things that must be done domestically to be done right, and that among these things are jobs require innovation, cultural familiarity, etc. These jobs include research and development (of which at least a portion could be done at home), software engineering (of which at least a portion can be done at home), hell, even lawering, of which a portion can be done at home.

      Perhaps I'm way off base here, but my impression is that the jobs being outsourced are more rote jobs, like data entry, or basic coding. I don't see a lot of R&D or software engineers being replaced with offshore counterparts--though there are cutbacks in these areas simply because of hard financial times. So it seems like if what we are left with is a notion of jobs that generate some form of intellectual capital--I don't be raw code, but more in the line of innovation and higher-level stuff--these are the jobs requiring intellectual interaction, but not physical presence. So I don't think your point necessarily holds true.

      • by RGautier (749908) on Friday May 07, 2004 @08:42AM (#9082763) Homepage
        Let me clarify what I mean.
        #1 - If your job is only partially telecommuting - requiring your presence for customer meetings, or other in-shop collaboration, that's not easily outsourced. So, I agree with this point already.
        #2 - Some people feel that research and high-level functions cannot be done outside of the walls of the great USA. They're wrong! There are countless numbers of highly intelligent engineers and other high-level positions outside of the United States. Not only do they speak English, but they also fluently speak German, Japanese, Korean, Hindi, etc... And they're willing to do the same work (or MORE WORK!) for less money.
        Telecommuting is a double-edged sword, and that's the point I was trying to bring up here. Be careful what you wish for, because you might just get it. The only way to continue to protect American jobs is ensure that American education is better than the rest of the world, keeping our children and our collegiates worth more than someone from another country.
        If we don't do that, then indeed manual labor will be the only thing left for us, and even that will be outsourced if we continue to allow overseas factories to outperform the Union-run shops in the good ole USA.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        "the only jobs safe from outsourcing are manual labor and customer service type jobs that require a physical presence"

        Well, yes. You can't outsource plumbing, burgers made in China still have to be prepared locally, and it's not yet practical to ship diesel equipment to India for maintenance.

        Everything else can be learned. And many, many people in "disadvantaged" countries who have nothing else to their name or credit, do have all their marbles and are eager to learn everything they can in the interest
    • by alcourt (198386) on Friday May 07, 2004 @08:37AM (#9082728)
      One of the basic rules of outsourcing is you don't outsource your mission critical work. If you do, then why does the company exist at all instead of the outsource firm doing it directly without the overhead of the other company?

      Also, some jobs are just fundamentally a bad idea to outsource because of the issues with continuity and corporate security. Examples of this include your internal corporate security department.

      There is also little difference between teleworking from a different office and teleworking from home. As someone who has telecommuted for the past seven years, I started not because of some proclaimed convienience factor, but because my official office had no one I worked with in the same building. A couple years later, I didn't work with anyone within a few hundred miles. Yet being on the corporate network and a corporate employee (instead of an outsourced contractor) makes my job far easier for me. Our outsource sites are constantly fighting a lot of issues of network access, management structure, etc. that I just don't have to deal with.
    • I don't agree. I've been working from home for an office three time zones away for 4.5 years. I'm in Toronto, they're in San Jose. They laid off half the company three years ago, and today there are only two software engineers left, me and and guy in the office there. In our case, it seems being at the office ran a higher risk of losing out! They're talking about hiring a couple of people at the office to work under or with me, which will be an interesting challenge. I haven't seen them face-to-face f
  • by xtal (49134) on Friday May 07, 2004 @08:11AM (#9082554) Homepage
    Teleworking will happen when there's enough communications infrastructure in place to have a high definition, or at least good quality, video feed to the employee at home. Until this can happen it will be too difficult to get things done outside of a personal working environment.

    Really though, the kick for all of this will be gasoline prices 2-4x what they are now. It's insane to spend the amount of time most people do commuting, it's a huge loss of productivity overall. There is a culture of mistrust that won't change until it absolutely has to.

    You can always (try) to work for yourself, too..
    • Really though, the kick for all of this will be gasoline prices 2-4x what they are now.

      Are you in the US? In the UK, petrol prices are more than 4x yours, and we still have many, many commuters.
  • Needed (Score:3, Insightful)

    by swordboy (472941) on Friday May 07, 2004 @08:11AM (#9082555) Journal
    What is drastically needed is a portable and secure linux distribution for these people. IT departments can't control what goes on with personal home PCs and it would be nice to leverage that existing hardware. So what ends up happening is that a laptop is supplied for these people and then there is an additional level of complexity for the telecommuter.

    If a Knoppix-like, bootable linux distro came with a robust VPN client, antivirus, etc... I could see a big market. Heck, I'm even afraid to simply check things like my bank account from PCs that aren't my own, anymore. If I could carry a secured, bootable OS, then I'd be a little happier.
    • Alternatively, my work desktop has just been replaced by a laptop with a standard software load that includes XP and Office. The laptop has builtin 10/100/1000 ethernet, wireless, 1Gb memory, DVD+RW and widescreen LCD. Furthermore, company policy is that employees with laptops *must* take them home (or chain them to the desk). Sad, really... :)

      Sure, I'm effectively oncall 24x7, but I work 3rd shift, so I'm awake and in the office between midnight to 8am anyway, and nobody *ever* calls during the day, be

    • What is really needed is more of an "appliance" than a traditional laptop. As you mentioned it would be bootable from some sort of media and load the OS into memory. The device would not have the ability to make any sort of permanent storage locally. All storage would be performed to the company server. Thus Anti-virus would not be needed locally. Simply reboot the machine if there is a virus. The device would also have a tamper resistent case to discourage any sort of hardware modifications. It may al
  • tech is not the major factor IMHO that lets us work form home. It's just providing the means. The key here is that we do less and less handwork, and more and more brainwork as manual labour gets offshored & outsourced.

    In 250 years or so, the entire population of the earth will work in callcenters & administration, with robots doing all labour...
  • Not really (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Epistax (544591) <epistax@gmail.LIONcom minus cat> on Friday May 07, 2004 @08:14AM (#9082580) Journal
    While I don't really like the dress code that is typical of work (thus I love my Intel internship), the office environment isn't replaceable. Even if I like what I am doing for work, distractions at home purely cost the company money. Distractions at work, on the other hand, largely provide to the company. At the very least the distraction is a team effort.

    Now maybe it's just because of where I'm working right now but just about the whole day is about work. We're always talking about what we're doing, what we've learned, and what not to do, during any 'distraction'. During lunch I may learn how to get around a problem I am having because I'm communicating with different people than I directly work with.

    Anyway I don't think I can explain well without running on about one thing or another; however I am confident that getting even a solid 8 hours of work done at home will be less productive than a half a day or work, and a half of day of distractions at the office. And you'll never get 8 hours of solid work at home without fretting over something.
    • Re:Not really (Score:3, Insightful)

      by canolecaptain (410657) *
      Ah my padawan learner - you haven't yet become the master.

      I work from home a few days each week, and questions, when they occur, are only an IM, email, or phone call away. It's the same thing as being there. Once you cross a certain level of understanding, the need to have problems and questions answered drops considerably.

      The office has become more about socializing with peers, giving hands on help to QA / marketing / etc, and having good design discussions. After that, it's all negative for the compan

  • Working from home (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anml4ixoye (264762) on Friday May 07, 2004 @08:16AM (#9082592) Homepage

    I have to agree that it is certainly becoming easier to work remotely. When I moved to North Carolina in January, my previous job kept me on board. I can easily VPN to them, authenticate to the network and get all of my shared drives, and, because we use Cisco's IP Phone, have a local Tampa number in Charlotte, NC that I answer with my computer. Except for the fact that my cubicle is empty down there, you would have no idea I was even gone.

    In my present position we use as many tools as possible to facilitate being able to work from home if so desired (like Source OffSite, our bugtracker on a public facing address, etc), but the best part is that there is no requirement we work from home. If I come up with an idea on how to solve some issue at 11pm at night, I can hop on, check out the code and make the changes.

    The hardest part for me about working from home is (as another poster mentioned) the distractions. We just moved into a house where I was able to grab a bedroom and turn it into an office, so at least I can close the door if need be, but if you have a hard time seperating yourself out from that, working at home is only going to make things more difficult for you.

  • by TrueBuckeye (675537) on Friday May 07, 2004 @08:18AM (#9082605) Journal
    maybe not. You are forgetting that first off, a boss has no control over someone working from home. Productivity, already hurt by internet access at every workstation, will fall, especially when Montel is on.
    You also have many jobs where being at home is not an advantage, like if you have to meet clients. I work in a homebuilding company and we have customers coming in daily to view options, do financing, and the to close on the home. All things that need a central office.
    Finally, there is the issue of security. Do you really want your Accounting or other information being passed over the internet? Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know about VPNs and IPSec, but that doesn't make it secure, just harder to crack.
    There are some areas that can, and will, move to a more decentralized model. IT in general can work well this way many times (net admin, coding, etc), but don't think that it will work for all other sectors of the economy.
    • by jbarr (2233) on Friday May 07, 2004 @08:55AM (#9082843) Homepage
      "You are forgetting that first off, a boss has no control over someone working from home."
      I disagree...to the extent that a teleworker's job must be measurable and accountable. My wife, who now teleworks from home full-time doing accounting-related work, is given specific duties, tasks, and goals. As long as she performs in a competent and timely manner, it's a non-issue. Of course, that would hold true regardless if of where her "office" is located.

      It's also a matter of integrity and discipline. The reality is that not everyone is cut out to be an independent worker. My wife is very diligent and self-disciplined, so she has no problem working from home. Me, I often get distracted, so I would question just how well I would do at home. At least I know that, though.
    • First I would ay that if the boss loses control of people when they remove themselves from his immediate presence, he probably shouldn't be the boss.

      Second, I agree that working from home does require a work ethic, but I think that, as in the case of the boss radius, this is something that hurts productivity whether or not the employee is at the office. Sure you will get employees that will end up working even les from home, and guess what, they'll get fired.

      To the poster way down further who thought work
  • by canolecaptain (410657) * on Friday May 07, 2004 @08:18AM (#9082606)
    As I write this, I'm working from home for the second day this week. As a software engineer, this is becoming easier all the time. It's a great thing.

    The great part is that rural communities with substantially lower living costs could end up the biggest beneficiaries. Workers able to take advantage of the trend could finally move out of higher cost areas into these communities. The workers expenses drop, so they could lower their salaries as an incentive for their company to allow it. With new cash from taxes, these communities could dramatically improve their infrastructure (schools, roads, etc) without necessarily having the problems of a metropolis.

    The downside is that if I can do my job from home with only occassional face to face work meetings, as soon as the software is available to truely make those f2f visits virtual (and no, none of the current software is truely good enough yet), the competition for my type of work will increase dramatically.

    Bring it on. :-)

    • And third-world countries have lots of capable people who can do the same work most Americans, (even rural Americans) do for a fraction of the cost. If companies would ditch the cities for cheaper rural areas, why wouldn't they ditch rural areas for poor countries?
    • What kind of communication infrastructure do you have? If you live in a rural area and only can get 56k dialup working from home could be a problem, depending on what you do.

      I live in a small town of about 16k, surrounded by nothing but farmland. So far the broadband options available are DSL (SBC only starting offering in 10/2003) and a very-overpriced wireless DSL offerred by a local ISP. But if you live >2-3 miles from town, 56k is about your only option.

    • Its the dream of every Denverite to be able to work from some mountain retreat. However, you are lucky to get 28K in most places. Dont even say braodband.
    • by ddewey (774337)

      I'd like to take this idea of living in a low-cost neighborhood and telecommuting to a new extreme. I've been living in China for six months now and have found that the cost of living, including food, housing, transportation, and entertainment is only about $10 a day. Now if I could just get a telecommuting job doing software development for a company in the US I could put tons of money into savings and long-term investments. That way I could retire much earlier or use the savings to develop my own business

  • Commuting (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ArbiterOne (715233) on Friday May 07, 2004 @08:20AM (#9082620) Homepage
    Commuting is becoming such a problem (re: LA traffic) that it might be faaar more productive for people to work at home than to commute. It'd also be more environmentally friendly.
    Especially for people in the tech business.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    telework solves the outsourcing problem
    because I could be at home in Redmond, working
    for a company in India, subcontracted by
    a company in Redmond!
    end of worries.
  • by thesaur (681425) * on Friday May 07, 2004 @08:24AM (#9082642)
    With teleworking on the rise, companies need more than ever a secure working environment for their outsourced employees. While doctors have often outsourced dictation typing, this is much less dangerous from a data protection standpoint than if Ford would allow their engineers to work at home.

    A primary concern will be preventing hacking, etc. A VPN may be sufficient to transport the data securely between the home-office and the company, but there is no guarantee that it will be safe on the employee's computer. Companies can prevent a lot of attacks by installing a good firewall. But it is virtually impossible to require the tech staff to monitor all offsite installations.
    • "A primary concern will be preventing hacking, etc. A VPN may be sufficient to transport the data securely between the home-office and the company, but there is no guarantee that it will be safe on the employee's computer. Companies can prevent a lot of attacks by installing a good firewall. But it is virtually impossible to require the tech staff to monitor all offsite installations. "

      While I agree that there is no guarantee, and I agree that we must implement proper measures to ensure security, let's no

    • Put the burden of protecting the data on the employee, let THEM pay to keep the data safe and carry the burden if it is lost or compromised (and let people like me immediately benefit from their Linux knowledge). Eventually, companies will figure out that there really is no other way to ensure their data is safe (in a non-dumb terminal environment).

      Anyway, it gets to the point that the difference between employee and consultant really gets blurred. You get someone with more freedom in how they complete the
  • I work mainly in banking, developping custom applications. I'll be the last one that is going to do his job at home. Oh, I damn well could, I only need email my devbox and some kind of access to the backend (over VPN it must be doable). However, no bank is going to do this. At least not in my country where banks are required to have their IT infrastructure in-house. Besides, they are so paranoid about security breaches (understandable) that they probably won't give anyone outside the bank a VPN connection to their network. You might after all steal customer data or so...

  • They say the frog in the pot never notices the water getting hotter as the fire is oh so slowly turned up....

    Ah, the work-is-heaven neoliberal propaganda cinches down another notch on the proles.....
    • While there are certainly going to be people who will let work become a 24hr event by doing it at home (there already are lots of them in fact), I think you're being overly negative for no reason.

      Being away from an office and in your home gives you much more control over your work space, your schedule, and your job in general, provided you have the self-discipline to handle it.

      Work is a fact of life. Not many people are born into enough wealth to sit around all day, and most of those who are still feel li
  • by websensei (84861) on Friday May 07, 2004 @08:28AM (#9082674) Journal
    I work from home roughly 1/2 the time, and drive in to the office the other half. It is *ideal*. When home, I get fewer interrupts, can multitask (e.g. catch up on email during phone conferences where my input is needed for only a portion of the meeting), and generally am about 1.5X more productive. Plus, coding with my music up and the dog curled at my feet makes for a happy me. OTOH when I do go in, I maintain social/personal relationships, get enough of the hallway chats and facetime w folks to preserve my "presence" in the workplace, and feel somewhat more connected to the office per se. I wouldn't want it any other way.
    My boss (tech director) feels the same way about my schedule, and everyone's happy. /anecdote

    • I've tried full-time teleworking and it was a disaster - being in the same room as your colleges from time to time is nearly essential, for me at least.

      On the other hand the occasional day away from them can be a very productive day, free of interruption, and more productive for avoiding the stress of commuting.

      If I were the Mayor of London I'd be doing everything I could to encourage London businesses to introduce partial teleworking, so as to reduce the load on the transport system. It's about the only
      • Face time with your colleagues isn't as essential or common as one might think if an effort is made.

        On my current project (I've been on it about 4 years now), I've never even met my boss of around 17 months, only met my last boss twice when we both went to different meetings in the same city at the same time, and never have met most of my coworkers. We aren't even all teleworkers (just me in fact). Working remotely has many of the same problems of teleworking. What difference does it make where I am w
  • by gillbates (106458) on Friday May 07, 2004 @08:28AM (#9082678) Homepage Journal

    There is a downside to this, though. When programmers hear their company allowing telecommuting, they think of working in their pajamas during normal working hours. Companies often have something completely different in mind...

    Companies view telecommuting not as working from home instead of coming to work, but rather, as working from home in addition to coming to work. There are firms which expect their employees not only to work a full 8 hour day at the office, but log on and work from home after office hours. Because the employee isn't at the employer's "place of business", the employer believes they owe the employee no additional compensation for those extra hours.

    And unfortunately, employees who convince their employer they need not be physically present to do their job find their jobs outsourced to other countries. Thus, telecommuting can never completely replace the office for the average American worker.

    • I have to totally disagree with you here. I'm offically listed as a "Work from Home Employee." I'm currently wearing my pajamas as I type this, and for most mornings I'm typically on-line with work like this.

      I find I get quite a bit more done here than I did before either at the office or when I was assigned full-time to a customer site.

      It also works out well for my customers, I live within an hour drive of all of them, yet my office is further away...about an hour and a half to two hours depending on t
    • "There are firms which expect their employees not only to work a full 8 hour day at the office, but log on and work from home after office hours. Because the employee isn't at the employer's "place of business", the employer believes they owe the employee no additional compensation for those extra hours. "

      As a salaried employee. I have never recieved additional pay for staying over 8 hours at the company office. I also have never recieved extra compensation when I have been on call.

      I would rather have
  • Return to the past (Score:5, Interesting)

    by G4from128k (686170) on Friday May 07, 2004 @08:28AM (#9082680)
    This trend is merely a return to the past. The entire "going to the office" or "going to the factory" concept rose with the urbanization and industrialization of civilization. Go back more than a couple of hundred years and I'd bet you will find that most people had very little worklife-familylife separation. People lived on the farms that they worked on or you lived above their shop. People worked with their parents, children, and extended family. If their livelihood had a problem in the middle of the night or on the weekend, they dealt with it. That why we have so many surnames that are careers (e.g., Carpenter, Smith, Baker, Farmer, etc.)

    It's not the current blurring of work and life that is a fluke, it was the recent past's separation of work and life that was the odd phenomenon.
    • You took the words right out of my mouth!

      What's going on in today's working world is a "decentralization", similar to the old days where you might be a ditch digger one day, a crop picker the next, etc.

      -Markvs
    • Very true. Nearly every Victorian town house owned by a doctor, engineer, or lawyer had a large study somewhere in the building.

      At the time of the Industrial Revolution, it was the company owners who paid for the terraced housing next to their factories, and set up schools in order to educate their employees.

      Go even further back to the Tudor times, and you'll see that merchants lived in four or five story buildings, with the shop at ground level, store rooms above and living quarters on the top levels.
    • That why we have so many surnames that are careers (e.g., Carpenter, Smith, Baker, Farmer, etc.)

      I'm sure I've come across the surname 'Hacker' as well. Wonder if it means the same thing today though...

  • by jbarr (2233) on Friday May 07, 2004 @08:28AM (#9082681) Homepage
    My wife and I recently relocated to another state because I took a new job, and the company she works for let her keep her position but work from our new house. I know that's not that common yet, but with the availability of technologies like broadband, scanners, VPN, conference calls, and NetMeeting, her job experience really isn't that different from what it was when she was "in the office". The only real change is the lack of face-to-face social contact. Only time will tell the impact of that.

    And as to how much work does she get done from home? Somehow, she manages to get her all of her "company" work done, gets a chance to rest, and even does the laundry. Boy, am I lucky or what?!?
  • From

    Honey, I'm home!

    To

    Honey, I'm done with my activity!
  • Its just a fad (Score:2, Interesting)

    Worked in an office. Then worked at home for two years. Then went back to the office. Pretty soon we will all go back home. All the same company. I think that it is just whats hot, or what will save money short term. Or what the latest Overlords feel we need to do.

    This is no different than watching companies consolidate computer data centres, then ditribute them, over and over. At least that makes us money.

    The same could be said for outsourcing, lord knows we have seen that go back and forth too.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    From personal experience, the biggest drawback is not being able meet other single eligible coworkers. After all many average and below average folk have met there spouses through work. *sigh
  • by Dammital (220641) on Friday May 07, 2004 @08:47AM (#9082792)
    "Required", hey, I like that.

    Of course, in order to require you to work at home, the company has to subsidize your broadband connection. No telecommuter will have to pay for their home connection -- just like health insurance, right? Part of the package!

    But since the company owns your broadband connection, they can assert control over it. Betcha they audit every website you cruise, and betcha they insert a netnanny proxy with a Victorian attitude. Goodbye P2P, goodbye IRC.

    When employers become de facto ISPs, with "group rates" from cable companies and telcos -- that'll be the end of cheap broadband for individuals. Again, just like health insurance. If you want real Internet access without strings, you'll pay through the nose. I imagine that most people will accept what they get for "free".

  • This has been covered in /. so much in the past, one more time can't hurt;

    The whole 'working from home' thing is a complete myth. The *ONLY* people who actually get to work from home is CXOs and their buddies. Anyone working at the bottom of the food chain (90% of any company's employees) gets told that they can't work from home.

    *EVERY* company I work for *SAY* they want people to work from home, but what they actually mean is that *THE BOSSES* want to work from home, while all the worker bees sit patient
  • Sitting in my bathrobe, feet up, laptop on, clock running!


    However, most of my clients want me in the plant. In manufacturing, 90% of the job is just showing up.


    This is good, because you can't work in the plant from India...


    Until the plant gets moved to India.

  • Telework (Score:3, Funny)

    by SWroclawski (95770) <serge@@@wroclawski...org> on Friday May 07, 2004 @09:03AM (#9082896) Homepage
    They call it telework because you spend so much time in front of the telly?

    "I telework on a reclining chair with a beer in one hand?"

    I wonder if NBC will have a "teleworking" primetime.
  • by trash eighty (457611) on Friday May 07, 2004 @09:03AM (#9082901) Homepage
    i never understand why some people are happy to work at home, it blurs the distinction between your time and the company's time to the extent where there may no longer be a distinction.
  • There's absolutely nothing I do at work that I couldn't do at home unless there is a hardware failure. And that happens maybe once or twice a year. Plus I'd save about 70 miles a day driving and more importantly at least 1.5 hours a day driving.
  • by osgeek (239988) on Friday May 07, 2004 @09:05AM (#9082921) Homepage Journal
    Being in various Internet-related and enabled businesses over the past 10 years, I've lived on the "work from home" cutting edge.

    Working from home is something that only 1 in 10 people does well enough to justify the practice. The other 9 out of 10 people are simply not able to focus on work as well as when they're in an office environment.

    When people are left to their own devices, they just don't get much done. At home there are too many distractions like TV, the laundry, video games, etc.
  • by ratboot (721595)
    because your boss cannot suddently appear in your cubicle while you're <insert your favorite non-productive habit>.

  • by amichalo (132545) on Friday May 07, 2004 @09:15AM (#9083022)
    I am a product manager responsible for a web application. Our office is seriously OUT OF ROOM and rather than rent office space across the street, I volunteered to work from home. I thought this would be great, but in practice, it has not been.

    I find it too distracting to be both at home and at work 24 hours a day. It allows me to pop out of bed and be at work which is GREAT and I can recieve a FedEx package or run an errand no problem, but I am also able to just pop in the office after dinner .. and stay for two or three hours. Weekends are just another work day too.

    But there are other issues that make me less productive. Though I try to stay focused, small things like unloading the dishwasher yield to larger things like mowing the yard. And when my wife is at home, it is even more distracting because I don't get to spend much time with her.

    Then...there's Slashdot!
  • by manavendra (688020) on Friday May 07, 2004 @09:18AM (#9083055) Homepage Journal
    hmm... I've seen a lot of posts where ppl have expressed their fears (or beliefs, whichever way you look at them) of telework jobs being outsource-able (did i just invent a new term?!), or being distracted with other toys/gadgets at home or about having to bear the cost of broadband connectivity at home, etc.

    All genuine FUD, I admit. But if one steps back and examines these fears in light of where technology is leading us to, it seems to be a natural progression. Haven't we used telephone for ..what almost half a century now? Havent we all called up customer service/specialists at some point for a problem resolution (and in most cases, the specialists walk us through something we are stuck at) - isn't that same in a lot respect as teleworking, except with teleworking you are remote all day?

    1. I believe, over time as broadband becomes cheaper and faster, a high-speed connection at home will be one of the perks of the job.

    2. Companies will have "special" days when the employees will come in and mingle with each other and enjoy a "normal" interaction

    3. It's a fallacy that telework=outsource-able job. Accept it. How many dbas, network security admins, architecture specialists have you seen outsourced? On the other hand, how many have you called up and asked advise from and had to pay for (your company, if not you)?. The big myth with outsourcing that refuses to go away is that all jobs will be outsourced. Do you see business planners, analysts being outsourced? As someone else pointed out, low-level, production jobs mostly of rote are being outsourced. For now. Outsourcing industry/concept will change as well. I'm sure more and other jobs shall be outsourced too, but at the same time, the cost of getting these jobs done outsourced will increase as well and finally a balance will be reached.

    4. Finally, just as we have had to acclimatize ourselves to other new technologies, we shall have to get used to working at home. I think it's yet another step towards being more organized and focused = not just as individuals, but as a society as well.
  • We've got a developer who only shows up about every other day, though I think terms like "working from home" were applied to the activity retroactively.
  • with all the useless documents I'm asked to write, I've found a new name for my work:

    Vowel Movement


  • Telecommuting is great for workers but it's a wash for business unless workers put in extra time at home. Workers don't have to waste time sitting in traffic. They don't endure the stress of the commute every day or the expense. For the community, less cars on the road means less traffic congestion and less air pollution. But employers don't reap so many benefits. Many don't trust their employees to work. They worry the employee will sleep or work on home improvement projects rather than work. So many empl
  • That would be good in a lot of respects. At my last job, I couldn't get my employeer to buy the right desk/chair combo for me. At home I have exactly the combo that I need. At my current job, I can't play music out loud and stuff like that.

    It's just more comfortable to be at home. Although it can be distracting. But less distracting than other employees coming back to your cube all the time to talk about nonsense.
  • My company won't let us telecommute. In fact, those who have been telecommuting as an experiment, have been notified that they will have office space made available within the next few years.

    Here are the issues they give for nixing telecommuting:

    1. The company wants to be able to find you when they need to (of course, the pager they force me to wear, and my cell phone don't count...)

    2. The company doesn't want to have to equip your home office, and lose administrative control over your work machine (w
  • but a state of mind.
  • So much so that my entire organization was recently ordered to officially request a change of status from "mobile employee" to "work@home".

    When I joined the company seven years ago, many people still had offices or assigned cubes, but the company was in the process of transitioning to a "hoteling" approach. The idea was, officially, that anyone could work anywhere, but it took time for that to sink into the culture. Even though you could work from home, the unspoken rule was that it was important that n

  • I snagged this from some essay, but it seemed to meet my needs:

    Social presence is defined as the ability of learners to project themselves socially and affectively into a community of inquiry.

    While most everyone would agree that that there are good and bad points to working at home (working nekkid, or working at odd hours), it is also important to remember the good and bad points to being constrained to an in-office environment

    There are distractions everywhere; your self-discipline will see you thr

  • Even though the "rules" are hardly friendly (VPN requiring explicit access to each server and port, slow bureaucracy for additions and changes, no remote control access allowed to work desktop and thus software, etc.), it has been fantastic to periodically work days or weeks from home over a VPN via SecurID.

    • Wife abroad while I cared for 2-year old daughter (worked during naps, early mornings, and late nights)
    • Make up out of office time in convenient chunks without taking vacation
    • Family medical problems,
  • For many years now I have thought that environmentalists; in fact, every urbanite who has had to deal with traffic jams and sprawl, have been somewhat misguided in their attempts to solve traffic, fuel, and pollution problems, by suggesting expensive solutions involving light-rail, busing, or other forms of mass transit.

    Instead, they should be focusing on how businesses can be encouraged to get employees to telecommute.
    It's not for everybody, but I'll wager that 20% or more of the nation's work force coul

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