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Work No Longer a Place but an Activity

CowboyNeal posted more than 10 years ago | from the hi-ho-hi-ho dept.

Businesses 262

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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Hmm I wonder... (3, Funny)

DigitumDei (578031) | more than 10 years ago | (#9082527)

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.

THROW THE THING INTO THE BIN! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9082543)

Can i have my 5, insightful now mr moderator!

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

StarOwl (131464) | more than 10 years ago | (#9082572)

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... (3, Interesting)

DigitumDei (578031) | more than 10 years ago | (#9082635)

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... (4, Interesting)

nojomofo (123944) | more than 10 years ago | (#9082840)

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... (1)

CrazyTalk (662055) | more than 10 years ago | (#9082716)

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.

Re:Hmm I wonder... (1)

NodeZero (49835) | more than 10 years ago | (#9082749)

I know exactly what you mean. I did my last year of college completely online taking full time classes. It takes a lot of discipline to accomplish work at home. I remember at the beginning of each quarter I would go like 2-3 weeks without doing any real work on my projects, then i spent the next 7+ weeks catching up and submitting projects just on time. It was crazy. I'm sure the same would happen for working at home, too many distractions.

Re:Hmm I wonder... ...but you don't have to. (5, Informative)

Matt1313 (165628) | more than 10 years ago | (#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

it's a verb, dumbass (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9082528)

Of course "WORK" is an "activity". It's a fucking verb, you dumbasses.

Re:it's a verb, dumbass (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9082675)

How is this flamebait? It's on topic AND it's correct, even if it's stating the obvious. You dumbasses.

telework? (4, Insightful)

imag0 (605684) | more than 10 years ago | (#9082531)

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.

Re:telework? (2, Funny)

skaffen42 (579313) | more than 10 years ago | (#9082773)

Days off? What is this you speak of?

Re:telework? (1)

I8TheWorm (645702) | more than 10 years ago | (#9082968)

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] .

Welcome to marketing (5, Insightful)

ebh (116526) | more than 10 years ago | (#9082533)

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...

Re:Welcome to marketing (3, Interesting)

subguy (40221) | more than 10 years ago | (#9082571)

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.

Dedicated office space. (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9082945)

IIRC: Tax codes require dedicated office space used ONLY for home office work. Guess I can not claim the 4 sq foot of my couch as an office unless I do not use it any other time. (Apparently you need to prove this 100% work use or they "getcha")

Even when you can claim it... you get a percentage of expenses VS your total square footage. Anybody with enough space to spare in their house is not likely to get a good percentage of expenses.

Still if you have a large basement you do not use... (33-50% of you expenses...)

Good luck, just remember follow the law to the letter and they can't do jack :)

this proves the need to support academic research (0, Insightful)

dario_moreno (263767) | more than 10 years ago | (#9082544)


It seems to me that innovations I have seen in the academic world 15-20 years ago are coming to the "real world" everyday : use of computers to predict lot of stuff, doing your own wordprocessing, the Internet and e-mail, working from home with modems..This justifies giving money to apparently useless research.

Re:this proves the need to support academic resear (1)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 10 years ago | (#9082707)

I dont think my boss would be too impressed with me turning up for a meeting, putting a dictaphone on his desk, and going sitting at the back to rest my eyes.

Re:this proves the need to support academic resear (3, Interesting)

ecklesweb (713901) | more than 10 years ago | (#9082941)

Did you write this post back in 1996?

"use of comuters to predict lot of stuff"
Like, uh, the weather?

"doing your own wordprocessing"
You mean you don't have your own secretary to dictate to?

"working from home with
modems"
The point of the article is that broadband is enabling more and more telecommuting.

"This justifies giving money to apparently useless research."
Who modded this insightful?

you don't need wifi to work from home... (3, Interesting)

baeksu (715271) | more than 10 years ago | (#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.

Re:you don't need wifi to work from home... (3, Insightful)

demi (17616) | more than 10 years ago | (#9082585)

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.

Re:you don't need wifi to work from home... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9082614)

...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 story).

I think the point about wifi isn't so much that it helps the home warrior, but it does present more opportunities to work outside the office. I've used several hotspots to work at places like bookstores and coffee shops when I just "wanted to get out of the office". Also helps for keeping in touch when I'm running errands, etc.

Re:you don't need wifi to work from home... (1)

XMyth (266414) | more than 10 years ago | (#9082854)

I don't know about everyone else, but I work best without an internet connection at all. Fewer interruptions and distractions. It's mostly a discipline problem on my part, but it sure does help move work along not having that distraction.

You insensitive clod! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9082548)

I'm tele-unemployed.

Telework means Outsourceable (5, Interesting)

RGautier (749908) | more than 10 years ago | (#9082549)

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.

Re:Telework means Outsourceable (5, Insightful)

AlecC (512609) | more than 10 years ago | (#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.

Re:Telework means Outsourceable (4, Interesting)

Masa (74401) | more than 10 years ago | (#9082666)

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.

Re:Telework means Outsourceable (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9082893)

You are using my story! "I want to stay home and you to pay me for doing so. I can free my mind better if I don't have to go to work each morning and this is best for the company." And yeah, I have had lots of time since then, but for some reason I haven't received my check lately. ;-P

Seriously. I used to do some telework from home (software development, server administration) and it was very efficient compared to office-work. However some parts of the job still require physical presence. I'm not a big fan of teleconferencing.

Re:Telework means Outsourceable (4, Insightful)

KrispyKringle (672903) | more than 10 years ago | (#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.

Re:Telework means Outsourceable (4, Insightful)

RGautier (749908) | more than 10 years ago | (#9082763)

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.

Re:Telework means Outsourceable (5, Insightful)

alcourt (198386) | more than 10 years ago | (#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.

Commuting is stupid (4, Insightful)

xtal (49134) | more than 10 years ago | (#9082554)

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..

Re:Commuting is stupid (1)

pvanheus (186787) | more than 10 years ago | (#9082709)

I work from home as a computer programmer. I've got a lowly 512K ADSL (with bloody Telkom 3gb/month bandwidth cap). What exactly do a need a video feed for? I get my email, can ssh into the company's machines (or run an OpenVPN tunnel if I really want to), and go into the office once a week, max.

My partner also works from home, also keeps in touch via email.

And both of us can attest to the 'work is an activity' trend. My partner works 2 days a week for one employer, 3 days for the other. Yet she gets email 7 days a week... if your email inbox is your workplace, then when exactly aren't you at work?

In my case, I simplify matters by having multiple emails... a work email and a personal email. But some of the clients I do occasional freelance work for mail to my personal email. And the natural thing to do is, respond to the email when it gets in. Its like Michael Hardt says, immaterial labour (labour which is at least as much about creating relationships, etc. as it is about creating things) doesn't keep office hours.

Of course, there are many advantages to working from home - comfort, time flexibility (I've got a 9-month-old baby I like being close to, even if she is looked after by the nanny), lack of boss breathing over your shoulder, etc. But there is a tendency to 'internalise the workplace' as well....

Needed (2, Insightful)

swordboy (472941) | more than 10 years ago | (#9082555)

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.

Re:Needed (1)

surprise_audit (575743) | more than 10 years ago | (#9082822)

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, because there's a bunch of day time folks on hand... In the unlikely event that the office building gets trashed, us techies can provide "distributed" support from all over town. Most of our servers are safe in their underground bunkers with redundant power and net connections, so we don't really need to be in the building at all.

IMHO, not technology (1)

selderrr (523988) | more than 10 years ago | (#9082556)

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...

Re:IMHO, not technology (1)

tehcyder (746570) | more than 10 years ago | (#9082698)

I would hope that in 250 years or so AI would be advanced enough to replace humans in call centres at least.

Re:IMHO, not technology (0)

Nakkel (748351) | more than 10 years ago | (#9082736)

"Hello, Im HAL 9000, your support contact. How may I be of assistance?"

Re:IMHO, not technology (1)

Nakkel (748351) | more than 10 years ago | (#9082704)

In 250 years or so, mutant rats are going to invent fire in the afterglow of post-nuclear war.

Not all professions can telecommute (1)

borius (711380) | more than 10 years ago | (#9082559)

For instance: doctors, firefighters, police (they'd need donut delivery at the doorstep to telecommute).

Re:Not all professions can telecommute (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9082643)

doctors

Doctor: "now put your arm closer to your webcam please, ok, now press right where that red and black swollen part is, no, press REAL hard. Now, does it hurt when I tell you to do that?"

firefighters

When robotic firefighting equipment is practical, the "firefighters" can sit in the comfort of their firehouses and eat chile while fighting fires on their PS2's. Heck, the FFRCC (firefighting robotic control center) could be written for the PS2 by ID.

police

4 words : Dunkin Donuts Home Delivery

Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9082563)

Why is it every time some new technology is mentionned, the first use is to make people work more? What happened to the concept of a 'labor-saving device'? How come we are surrounded by machines and have to work more than any other generation in history?
How come I have to listen to management telling us how productive we all are, but I have less money than my parents?
WHERE is all this production? Why do we have to work so much? Why are people still poor?

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9082573)

Why do people still ask stupid questions on /.?

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9082615)

How come I have to listen to management telling us how productive we all are, but I have less money than my parents?

What ever happened to accepting responsibility for your own failure and incompetence instead of blaming it on society?

Re:Why? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9082743)

Hee hee. Wait till you move out of your parent's basement. We'll see.

Re:Why? (1)

jcam2 (248062) | more than 10 years ago | (#9082795)

My theory is that the amount of work the average person does remains roughly constant, despite the fact that his output is enhanced by labour-saving technology. I could work only 3 days a week and still earn enough money to live on .. but why not make full use of my abilities to earn more?

This is the reason that science-fiction fantasies of a world in which nobody works are bogus. No matter how high a standard of living machines can provide for us, that standard can still be improved by additional human labour.

Not really (4, Interesting)

Epistax (544591) | more than 10 years ago | (#9082580)

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 (3, Insightful)

canolecaptain (410657) | more than 10 years ago | (#9082688)

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 company. The constant interruptions (phone calls, drop in visits, etc) for things better answered by email are the big productivity loss.

Being forced to take the time to write an email forces a better explanation of the issue than the most typical drop in visiter has actually formulated. It actually makes work more productive in many (but not all) circumstances).

Check out Social Life of Information (1)

ednopantz (467288) | more than 10 years ago | (#9082730)

Has a whole section on the problem of replicating the informal interaction that brings so much to the work envrionment.
Were I more than a lone programmer, I would need that. As it is, low overhead and a pants optional dress code keep me at home.

I already telework (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9082581)

It's called "Selling warez"

Sometimes I get a Hard On when I Poop (0, Offtopic)

CreamOfWheat (593775) | more than 10 years ago | (#9082583)

...does this make me gay?

good point (2, Insightful)

dncsky1530 (711564) | more than 10 years ago | (#9082587)

If you look at most of the internet businesses today you will find that a big chunk of revenue goes towards paying:
  • rent
  • electricity
  • property tax
If all of the people in an internet comapny were forced to work at home then companies like google would save 10-15% a year. Google for example has over 1900 staff and huge open facilities to accomondate them, that is a large cost, that in the future many companies won;t be able to bear, especially startup companies.

Work is actually... (-1, Offtopic)

ArbiterOne (715233) | more than 10 years ago | (#9082588)

neither a place nor an activity, but a unit of measurement in physics! Physics 101: Work done = ... Ah, who pays attention in physics anyway?

Working from home (4, Insightful)

Anml4ixoye (264762) | more than 10 years ago | (#9082592)

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.

It may happen, but then again (4, Insightful)

TrueBuckeye (675537) | more than 10 years ago | (#9082605)

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.

Re:It may happen, but then again (4, Interesting)

jbarr (2233) | more than 10 years ago | (#9082843)

"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.

I'm doing this now... (5, Interesting)

canolecaptain (410657) | more than 10 years ago | (#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. :-)

Re:I'm doing this now... (1)

rsheridan6 (600425) | more than 10 years ago | (#9082684)

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?

Re:I'm doing this now... (1)

MacBrave (247640) | more than 10 years ago | (#9082913)

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.

Commuting (4, Interesting)

ArbiterOne (715233) | more than 10 years ago | (#9082620)

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.

telework solves the outsourcing problem (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9082634)

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.

Re:telework solves the outsourcing problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9082863)

I know some folks that are doing that now, they have the knowledge, no language barriers or problems with thick accents and they are as productive as 3 of there counterparts "off shore". A win for the big fortune 100 company they provide service to, the out-source company in India they work for and them. It just the money makes a longer trip.

Productivity of sitting home alone.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9082638)

..is rather fading on my part. Sure it works the first month, and maby the second, but after a while I miss someone to talk to and someone to share and discuss problems with. So I work a couple of days each week in a store just to get some company, and that works great! :)

This pushes data security to the foreground... (4, Interesting)

thesaur (681425) | more than 10 years ago | (#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.

Re:This pushes data security to the foreground... (1)

jbarr (2233) | more than 10 years ago | (#9082890)

"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 not forget that regardless of where people are located, people are still people. If you hire someone who is incompetent or has no integrity, it doesn't matter where they are located, they'll still act accordingly. Yes, they may be more likely to do "bad stuff" from home, but they'sll still do it...

Doesn't work for every industry... (3, Interesting)

jawtheshark (198669) | more than 10 years ago | (#9082644)

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...

Slightly OT (1, Funny)

Anonytroll (751214) | more than 10 years ago | (#9082647)

It's a quote I first heard at school a decade ago.
"Hell is not a place, but a state of mind."

More Propaganda? Yassuh, boss! Ah loves work! (1, Offtopic)

Cryofan (194126) | more than 10 years ago | (#9082669)


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.....

Why get a man to do a robot's job? (1)

Satan's Hand Puppet (776210) | more than 10 years ago | (#9082670)

Forget working at home and outsourcing. In the future a robot can do the work.

Myself, I'll be a member of the newly emerging leisure class.

No wonder... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9082672)

there are so many spiteful posts on slashdot every day. too many people working at home.

Telework halftime = ideal (3, Insightful)

websensei (84861) | more than 10 years ago | (#9082674)

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

Partial teleworking is the Right Thing (1)

Paul Crowley (837) | more than 10 years ago | (#9082705)

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 way left to deal with London's transport capacity problems.

Re:Partial teleworking is the Right Thing (2, Interesting)

alcourt (198386) | more than 10 years ago | (#9082818)

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 working if part of my team is in California, part in the MidWest, part in Texas, and part in New York?

That said, contact with colleagues can be maintained, but it takes training and a consistent effort. It means literally calling up your peers and talking with them on a semi-informal basis much like walking over to their cube and chatting. It also takes an effort on everyone's part to communicate better in email or similar methods. Regular conference calls are a must to ensure that everyone is on the same page on the project. There are business training courses available to help train people in teleworking, what preconditions must exist to make it a success and how to cope with it. How to make it work is similar to how to make a remote office situation work where your project team is all over the country.

Re:Partial teleworking is the Right Thing (1)

Paul Crowley (837) | more than 10 years ago | (#9082925)

In my case it didn't help that all my colleages were German speakers while my German was barely passable...

Not always positive... (4, Insightful)

gillbates (106458) | more than 10 years ago | (#9082678)

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.

Return to the past (4, Interesting)

G4from128k (686170) | more than 10 years ago | (#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.

Re:Return to the past (1)

Markvs (17298) | more than 10 years ago | (#9082778)

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

Re:Return to the past (1)

SmackCrackandPot (641205) | more than 10 years ago | (#9082922)

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. Although this arrangement may have had more to do with the shortage of land space and taxes based on the width of the property.

Re:Return to the past (2, Funny)

TeknoHog (164938) | more than 10 years ago | (#9082963)

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...

It really does work! (4, Insightful)

jbarr (2233) | more than 10 years ago | (#9082681)

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?!?

Work No Longer a Place but an Activity (2, Funny)

Himring (646324) | more than 10 years ago | (#9082695)

From

Honey, I'm home!

To

Honey, I'm done with my activity!

Its just a fad (2, Interesting)

kick_in_the_eye (539123) | more than 10 years ago | (#9082697)

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.

Telecommute from where? (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9082712)

Somehow I bet these people will be telecommuting from India rather than Indiana.

Teleworking not good for single nerds and geeks (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9082717)

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

Here's what happens next (2, Interesting)

Dammital (220641) | more than 10 years ago | (#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".

The big 'working from home' myth. (1, Interesting)

chrome (3506) | more than 10 years ago | (#9082794)

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 patiently and quietly in their cubicals/open plan offices, working busily, because they can't TRUST worker bees not to slack off when they work from home - hell, the honcho's all slack off, so if everyone in the company worked from home, nothing would get done!

And guess who fills out all the surveys that 'measures' this so-called surge in 'working from home'? You guessed it: The honchos.

I really doubt that I'll ever get the opportunity to work from home in any meaningful capacity in my working life, ever. I don't think with the increase of WiFi or ADSL or Bluetooth or whatever is going to increase the chances of worker bees actually getting to sit at home and work for 90% of their time.

Oh, sure, you can work from home *WHEN YOU ARE SICK*.

Wrong statistics (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9082805)

Either those statistics are wrong, or america is way behind the times. I don't know of a single person that telecommutes for their job. I would love to do it, but how realistic is it? I'm a mechanical engineer, and my other two co-workers have broadband at home, and most businesses have T-1, so technically with the right software we could eliminate human interaction by using whiteboards, webcams, email, etc. However, it seems like companies are run by CEO's that have grown up in an office envoirnment, and even though it economically makes more sense, it's hard to convince them it's a better way to run a business. It's not just office space we're talking about, it's heating/cooling, lights, power, computer hardware. That all adds up to cost. I mean my computer at home is just sitting around doing nothing while I'm at work.

D'oh! (1)

minotaurcomputing (775084) | more than 10 years ago | (#9082820)

I guess the ploy to make myself morbidly obese in order to take advantage of a loophole in the benefits in order to work from home was a bit premature?

D'oh!

working from home (1)

fadethepolice (689344) | more than 10 years ago | (#9082842)

I am currently moving out of the head office. My head office is in PA, but I have decided to move to Sacramento, CA. My skills are very much in demand, so my boss is considering sending me my work there. As a civil engineering draftsman, familiarity with my co-workers, cheap 36" scans, broadband, and my ability to supply and support my own very expensive engineering software make me a very attractive home worker. WOO FREAKIN HOO CALIFORNIA HERE I COME!!!!

Nothin' better than... (1)

karlandtanya (601084) | more than 10 years ago | (#9082845)

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.

You're not working! (1, Funny)

loac (585499) | more than 10 years ago | (#9082882)

I find it very amusing that all these people who say they are more productive working at home, are wasting time reading and posting on Slashdot! That can't be very productive.

Telework (2, Funny)

SWroclawski (95770) | more than 10 years ago | (#9082896)

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.

Why would anyone want to work at home? (3, Insightful)

trash eighty (457611) | more than 10 years ago | (#9082901)

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.

Working from home = working for free? (1)

Jonny Royale (62364) | more than 10 years ago | (#9082911)

I can see one drawback about working from home: The ability to be "at work" so quickly, you wind up working extra hours without compensation.
If someone's an engineer, or programmer, and there's some problem that needs immediate attention, it's easier, and maybe too easy, to pad down to the office, flip on the computer, and put in a few extra hours in addition to your regular time. Then, when the regular "start time" rolls around, your still expected to be there, since you have the "ease" of telecommuting.

I did engineering for a company that had remote access. It wasn't unusual for people to work all day (8 hours), then go home and put in a few extra hours, to fix problems they couldn't during the day.

With telecommuting, I can see management wondering why employees can't work their full hours, and when the employee says: "I was up all night fixing XYZ" management responds:"Yea, but your working from home, you don't have to commute, so you should be available at regular hours too, since you've got it so easy."

I'd love to work from home (1)

jocknerd (29758) | more than 10 years ago | (#9082912)

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.

People don't work from home worth a crap (2, Interesting)

osgeek (239988) | more than 10 years ago | (#9082921)

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.

I think/hope not. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9082951)

I am a developer and spend a lot of time programming, but a big part of my job is interacting with other people. It's not too difficult to get someone who can code something up, but there is a lot of value in being able to communicate with co-workers, business associates, and application users. The business knowledge and communications with other employees is what makes a normal employee worth a lot more to the company. These things just don't work the same from home. At my company we regularly send people to other countries to meet with developers, customers, and users. Technically this can be done over the phone, but it just doesn't work the same. This is probably also the main reason that a lot of American tech workers still have jobs.... but that's another discussion that's already been beat to death here.

Telework doesn't work (2, Insightful)

ratboot (721595) | more than 10 years ago | (#9082958)

because your boss cannot suddently appear in your cubicle while you're <insert your favorite non-productive habit>.

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