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Monday, 7 February, 2000, 16:09 GMT
Teleworking: Does it ever work?




Escaping the nine-to-five office routine, the daily commute and expensive childcare sounds tempting.

Advances in technology - the mobile phone, home computers and the Internet - have enabled millions of people to switch to teleworking.

But does it ever work? Do you enjoy the freedom and flexibility of homeworking - or do you feel lonely and unmotivated?

We want to hear your stories - whether you are a successful homeworker, have tried teleworking and decided it's not for you, or if you live with a homeworker.

We will publish some of your stories here. And if you send us your phone number, we may call you back to take part in our global radio phone-in programme.

Your comments

I think teleworking is a great idea, but the technology will need some considerable improvement for it to apply to everybody. For instance, I work as a burger flipper in McDonalds and it isn't really for me... Yet.
Marcus, UK

I used to work in a number of those awful "open-plan" offices. All that ever happened was that my workday was disturbed by people and incidents that just got in the way of my efficiency. Since I decided to go out on my own and open my own consultancy a year and a half ago, I find I can do all the work I have to do in a fraction of the time and whenever I wish, be it for a teleconference at 0500, or if I "get the bug" to work, at midnight. I can wake up at 0800, and be at work at 0801.
Nick Marshall, Australia

I'm a freelance writer/translator for some magazines in Italy. So I'm used to telework since a long time. I cannot imagine a better way to get the job done.If I feel like to I write at night, I don't have to spend one hour in a traffic jam to go sit down in front of a monitor which I have in at home. Imagine how much pollution saved by not going to the office! That, alone, is a good reason to increase telecommuting everywhere, if we want to save the planet! Imagine a world without 9 a.m. traffic jams...
Giorgio Adamo, Italy

Yes! Yes! Yes! Telecommuting works. I have worked from my home for the past three years. It has allowed me to be much more productive and maintain a balanced lifestyle. Of course, it's important to go to the office once in a while or get out of the house on a daily basis for the interaction. But, that's what's great about it. As long as you get your work done, you have the flexibility to go when you want. The best thing I like about Telecommuting is that I don't have to sit in traffic. What a nightmare! And just think what that's doing to our environment.
Sonya Kaleel, California, USA

I'm a software developer and I really see no need to be in the office five days a week, I can easily achieve my goals from home. However all of the 3 companies I've worked for are either scared that no one would do any work or rather productivity would fall, or are absolutely blind to it's benefits... Everyone would save money all round, and the quality of life for many would greatly improve. Of course it's not appropriate for all professions... All I can see is advantages..!
Herbert Jones, UK

I believe tele-working will become the norm, however the internet is still not ready for it. We need home servers and mobile phone servers first. This means a 24-hour connection and no objections from the phone companies. This will create a trend towards self-employment and even more decentralisation. Big companies do need to worry.
John Marshall, UK

All the chat on the pros and cons of teleworking is fine, but is from people who have teleworked at some time. I've tried for a couple of years to find a telework position, but no joy. There have been scams and rip-offs, agencies wanting registration fees and associations asking for paid membership. Teleworking jobs aren't advertised in your local paper and job centre. It seems to me like some kind of underground society or myth
Dave Lewis, UK



If everybody worked from home for 3 out of 5 days in the working week you could cut the amount of commuter traffic by 60%!
John Quayle, UK
I think a balance needs to be struck between working from home and working from the office. In the future I can see people regularly working 2 days at the office and 3 days at home in a typical week. This would keep the office/employee contact while reducing the amount of time wasted in commuting to and from work.
Just think: If everybody worked from home for 3 out of 5 days in the working week you could cut the amount of commuter traffic by 60%! Well worth thinking about.
John Quayle, UK

Sure it may work, but does it cause another to change his or her lifestyle? Factors like communication mean that people will get less adapt of being able to communicate with their mouths, let us think, is this a good or a bad thing?
Selena, Hong Kong

One of the gravest problems facing our society is car culture. If the government could discourage commuting by providing tax incentives for those who work from home the number of car miles travelled per day in this country could be drastically reduced.
One of the main reasons behind employer's refusal to allow telecommuting is a perceived lack of control. Most people are more productive when given a choice of working hours and conditions. The best way of undermining the control-freak hierarchical business model is to provide a financial incentive. The result would be a net increase in national productivity and quality of life.
Marcus Clements, UK



It's not as if working from home is anything new; novelists, for example, have been doing it for centuries.
Dylan Harris, UK
It's not as if working from home is anything new; novelists, for example, have been doing it for centuries. So it's interesting that the one female contributor points out that most women dislike it - especially given the number of good female novelists around. Surely such professionals have already faced and dealt with the problem of working in a family environment?
Personally, I live alone, and love to telework, for all the reasons noted which I won't repeat here. But what I don't understand is why businesses spend money on offices so staff can spend time and money commuting to have their effectiveness reduced by office interruptions. Can someone please put the case for open plan offices - I really can't believe my pet theories regarding the average companies' inertia, incompetence, fear and inability are all true. Where is the profit in not teleworking?
Dylan Harris, UK

I have been teleworking for 5 months now. I find as I am in a new role, that I have the quiet time to absorb information better, with no interruptions. It is amazing that you don't realise how distracting open plan is until you are removed from that environment.
I commute to the office one or two days a week, as meetings dictate, so my time there is very full. So am grateful to sit and digest the feedback from meetings in a quiet environment.
I have a dedicated study, so am not tempted on iota to do housework or to prepare the evening meal, in fact I get far more consumed in my work, that I loose track of time and complete more tasks efficiently, if I am feeling unmotivated or need direction my colleagues are a phone call, or e-mail away.
Jo Robinson, UK



One cannot say that I trust Joe to work from home, but I don't trust you! It boils down to the fact that working from home is the right thing to do for some, totally inappropriate for others.
Mark M. Newdick, USA/UK
As someone who has had people working for me from home, I have no problem with it in principal. However, the perception of fellow (commuting) workers is that these telecommuters can goof off when they feel like it, don't work as hard, etc. Although this perception is invariably completely wrong, managing it is not always easy.
One cannot say that I trust Joe to work from home, but I don't trust you! It boils down to the fact that working from home is the right thing to do for some, totally inappropriate for others, marginally okay for others (if only you could trust them). The bottom line here is that telecommuting is in its infancy, and we have a long way to go before it is a serious option for everyday consideration.
Mark M. Newdick, USA/UK

What about how we spend our leisure time at home? Are the children getting adequate attention?
Tajudeen Isiaka, Nigeria

During a Web design contract, the software firm I was working for was flexible enough for some telecommuting. One Sunday I was able to do downloads for several hours and compile the results which I brought into the office the next day. It happens that the SysAdmin had decided to install a firewall during business hours. So it's not so much a question of telecommuting working for me, it helped to save the company that day, we were both quite happy.
Don, US

Great for hermits, until the PC goes down with a bug that needs more techniques than you have.
David de Vere Webb, UK

I work partly in London and then from home in Nottingham. I don't have to use a nursery for my son, my wife can give up work to be a mother, I've got a good house and I'm not plagued by Southerners. Speaks for itself really.
Steve Martin, GB



I would not like to be a full-time telecommuter - I would miss the social interaction.
Ed Bayley, USA (English)
I have found telecommuting a godsend when performing some weekend work. (Running a 12-hour computer job and sitting around waiting for it to finish is no fun).
However, despite benefits such as saving money on an uncomfortable, unreliable train journey to New York each day, I would not like to be a full-time telecommuter - I would miss the social interaction.
Ed Bayley, USA (English)

I work in the computer games industry and I've been telecommuting on and off for 12 years. Personally I've found I can get more done from home, even with a young child, than I could in an office environment with its many interuptions, meetings, gossip, and internal politics. I gain two hours a day from not commuting, save on petrol and wear-and-tear on the car. On the downside, email and teleconferencing isn't always enough to get ideas across, and the computer is always there, at home, beckoning me to work, whatever time of day it is.
Mark Jones, USA

These previous comments are interesting. I wonder if it's significant that so far they've all been positive - and all been from men. Just read a study on teleworking in Ireland which found that most men liked it and most women didn't - including the wives of teleworkers who now had to work harder to keep the house clean for their husbands' work visitors and the kids quiet while he worked...
Susan O'Donnell, Ireland

I work in the Internet business, architecting and building web based message/information services. I work mostly from home, and the time this saves on the commute is a real plus. Also working from home reduces distractions and help me get more done. There can be a feeling of being cut off though, so I balance this by going into the office once a week. Also this isn't for everyone, is depends on the persons job and attitude to work. I feel that teleworking or part time home working should be encouraged, it may even help the South East transport problems a little.
Zac Tolley, UK

I've been working from home since last September and while it's not the most sociable of occupations it's certainly relaxing. No rail strikes, no packed commuter trains into Central London, no office back biting, being able to stop and start when you please. And of course waking up and thinking 'gracious, 9:00 already, I really should think about getting up.' The future is here.
Neil Halliday, England

My expereince as a DBA in a telecom company is that it works very nicely as long as you get into the office from time to time, say once a week. Otherwise the lack of human contact drags you down. However, I have noticed an increase in productivity due to lack of trivial interruptions.
Carl Roberts, Switzerland

I worked via the internet from home for an American company a couple of years ago for a period of about three months. It was awful! Okay, it might be a nice idea, but I found that because I was working from home, my employer's thought that I would work for 20 hours a day! I was having to check my E-mail about every five minutes, and if I didn't reply to one within a very short time, they would ring me up and badger me. I ended up in a flame war with one of the directors, so I quit. Not a nice experience!
Nick Ward, England

I have been working for my current employer for just over a year now, which allows me to work from both an office desk (in London) and from my home (nr. Milton Keynes). My job there gives me the freedom to choose what is best for a particular week, depending on the workload. I think teleworking is definitely for me, and I will hopefully be allowed to work from home on a permanent basis sometime soon. I understand how some people prefer the social interactions you benefit from by working in an office with others, compared to that of working 'alone' at home. However I find there are ways of using the technology already available today (e-mail, telephone, NetMeeting etc..) to exist 'virtually' in the office or along side other teleworkers in their homes. My previous employer provided me with the same equipment that could be used for working from home (mobile phone - remote access to company LAN from a Laptop PC) however we were not allowed to work from home - something at the time I thought of as being inflexible.
Alan Danks, UK

It is part of our universities policy to encourage teleworking, and I myself have tried it on odd days when I have been unable to get into work for other reasons. I have found it a useful tool to fall back on, as some of my work is possible via e-mail and dial-in connections. The success for me has been in the ability to put other affairs of home life to one side, and create a decent working environment (away from the TV!). With my daily commute into work becoming ever more gridlocked and stressful, and certain aspects of my job (training, writing up, researching) possible remotely, teleworking is something I would hope to do more of in the future. A big improvement though would come about from cheaper and faster services from the telecoms providers!
Martin Dart, Oxford, UK

I am the boss; the pager, the phone and the internet are my tools. I do not have to wear the organisational, hierarchical straitjacket, reporting to others, filing innumerable forms and tables to enable someone else to take a decision which I can make myself. I work when I want; I have the liberty to take time off when I wish. The salubrious climes of my hometown in South India or the snowbound cowboy town of Calgary, I have the facilities to operate from anywhere I choose. It is great to be alive in this cyberworld.
Mohansingh, India

I've been teleworking for nearly three years now, working for a web company in London, from my home in Loughborough. I love it. I write the nasty stuff that gets websites working (databases and stuff), and it's a quite complicated job, so being able to tailor my environment to suit me - open windows when I want, play music etc. - helps me to concentrate, relax, and get the jobs done quicker and better. I can work the whole day in my dressing gown if I want to! It's great. It's a good deal for my boss too, because I get more done than I would down in the office, and don't come in flustered from sitting in a jam/on the tube. I say it's the way of the future for a great many jobs - and it has the added extra of not straining transport systems further and saving me money both on transport and housing, as I haven't got to live in London. Long live the teleworker!
Dan Norcott, UK

I worked from home for two years. As a computer programmer working in a small start-up business, it was the easiest and cheapest way to work. I found that it had advantages and disadvantages. I liked the flexibility it gave me, the ability to do things in the day without having to rush about during a lunch hour. I also liked not having to travel to work, but this was also a disadvantage. I found that I was never away from work, that it was always there. When you work in an office, you come home and you are no longer at work - it was difficult to make the same distinction when teleworking. Weekends became almost meaningless. The other disadvantage was that I quite often felt that I was working in isolation. There was no-one to talk to and I missed the office social life, although sometimes this felt like an advantage as well.
Martin Randall, UK

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See also:
25 Jul 99 |  The Economy
Teleworking takes off
18 Feb 99 |  Sci/Tech
Triumph of the teleworker

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