Telecommuting Meet Career Advancement

By Rebeldad Brian Reid

Telecommuting took a hit a couple of weeks ago. A survey of executives conducted by Korn/Ferry found that 61 percent of execs believe that telecommuters will damage their career prospects by working from home. But that's not the weird part. Those same executives believed overwhelmingly (78 percent) that telecommuters are at least as effective -- if not more so -- than their in-office colleagues.

I've argued here before that telecommuting, for the huge swaths of the workforce for which it is practical, is enormously beneficial. It gives employees the option of working where they work best, it eliminates time-sucking commutes, it can aid in work-life balance, it reduces the expense of office space and so on. And while I have no desire to belittle the importance of face-to-face contact in corporate culture, let me be honest: the pleasure of discussing "The Office" at the office is hardly worth the trouble of driving there.

Coverage of the Korn/Ferry report only added to the head-scratching. A manager at PricewaterhouseCoopers was quoted in the Los Angeles Times saying that "face time, being present in the office, has nothing to do with what it takes to advance." And Mark Mehler, who runs a recruiting firm called CareerXroads is even less hip on the chit-chat than I. "Water-cooler time costs money," he told the LA Times.

Full disclosure: I'm now a full-time telecommuter, and there hasn't been a time in the last five years where I haven't worked -- at least part-time -- from home. In fairness, I'm a pretty good remote employee. I'm responsive, I keep up personal relationships with far-flung co-workers, I can block out the distractions of home.

Like most balance tools, telecommuting isn't for everyone, and I don't expect K Street to become a ghost town anytime soon. There is a kind of a person who thrives on having an office that is separated by time and distance from the rest of their life, and there are plenty of folks for whom regular face-to-face contact is vital, either professionally or psychologically. But the traditional office is no longer a necessary tool; I have a cheap, hugely powerful PC under my desk at home, and the monthly charge for my broadband connection to the Internet phone and business phone is almost exactly what I used to be paying in Metro fares. What more could I ask for?

So if this is an arrangement that could work for so many, why the conviction that telecommuting is a career-imperiling choice? Is this just a matter of changing attitudes, or is there some hidden truth to the anti-telecommuter argument?


Brian Reid writes about parenting and work-family balance. You can read his blog at rebeldad.com.

By Brian Reid |  February 1, 2007; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Flexibility , Workplaces
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Yippee!!! 1st

Posted by: Firstus dorkus | February 1, 2007 7:19 AM

I think telecommuting is one more marker of how completely closed down our society is becoming. We already don't talk to anyone anymore, everyone is in their own cocoon which means that we have no consideration for anyone anymore. Pretty soon everyone will just work in their little house, care about no one but their immediate family, get in the minivan, drive to soccer and come home and hibernate in their houses. Its a very sad society when all you care about is yourself.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 7:29 AM

Could it be that somehow if you're not in the office (discussing 'the office'), you're less of a known quantity? I know we've all probably had that experience by now of meeting someone you thought you "knew" on-line and finding out that the actual person is nothing like the image that you had constructed.

I'm saying this because I sometimes conduct training on-line and sometimes I feel like I know my students really well and sometimes I feel like I don't know them at all -- despite the phone calls and the e-mails and the teleconferences and so forth. (Sometimes I wonder if they're doing their own work but that's another story . . )

Maybe the bottom line is that if you're looking to promote someone into a face to face position, you're always going to choose the one you know actually rather than the one you know virtually. Unfortunatley, I think there's still a lot of prejudice in this world and many people are going to choose the employee who's most similar to them in terms of socioeconomic status, worldview, etc. and sometimes that's tough to guage from on-line interactions alone.

Also, there's the socializing effect of the office. People who don't come into the office are perhaps less socialized into the mores, norms, etc. of the office.

Posted by: Armchair mom | February 1, 2007 7:40 AM

I think telecommuting offers exactly the opposite - more connections with the most important people in your life: family and friends. If the job is fit for it (and not every job is), telecommuting can add productivity! The few times I've been able to work from home, I am much more efficient (noone "popping in for a chat") and get my work done in a flash. It's amazing how much idle chatting can suck time out of your day.

My current workplace allows for partial telecommuting (a few days a week). That keeps you in both worlds (office and home office). Granted, it's still a few days to trek to the office, but it's nice to not worry about traffic those days you work from home.

One caveat: I am personally supportive of employers dictating that employees have documented day care for children if/when they work from home. It can be way too distracting if you're trying to work and can't get a sold block of time together to do it.

Posted by: YoungProfessional | February 1, 2007 7:42 AM

Face time is very important. As we've learned on this blog there is more to communication than simply words. My dh is thrilled because he works for a large company and recent shifts in the market have resulted in a great deal of face time with the "big guys". Especially in a big company it makes a big difference to be known. I think at raise time its easier to approve a big raise or bonus for someone with whom you are familiar and I don't think they will promote someone they don't know. BTW this face time isn't social time, it is time spent in meetings and briefings.

Posted by: moxiemom | February 1, 2007 7:45 AM

I work from home as do most of the people in my department. I worked on site for 4 1/2 years so everyone already knew me when I went off site and are familiar with what kind of a worker I am. I think that if you are a good worker, who is on top of everything and is responsive, there is no reason why you can't work from home.

On the other hand, I know some people who you can't get a hold of for half the day. They make the rest of us look bad and make companies not want to let people telecommute.

Posted by: scarry | February 1, 2007 7:48 AM

I currently manage a couple teams of engineers / managers that split their time between telecommmuting and performing tasks on customer site. I've found a couple things to be true:

- For 'top' performers, working from home has made them more efficient, willing to work more hours, and have higher morale. They do have extended time to focus on tasks without the interruptions, and they don't waste 2+ hours a day on their DC-area commute. They start their days earlier, and they end their days later -- but often with breaks [like going to the gym, taking the kids to the bus stop] that have a real positive impact on quality of life.

- For 'middle' performers, working from home has been a mixed bag. I've seen them be able to 'surge' to address a particular crisis very well -- but there are clearly times when they are not as engaged as I would prefer.

- For 'low' performers, working from home has made them less effective -- and I've let these people go from the company.

I have actually had an employee leave to return to a more 9-5 office job with the primary reason being that he didn't feel he could manage the work at home aspect. He and his wife had an extremely difficult time working through him being home but not available to watch their new born if she needed to run to the store, do laundry, etc.

I've found as a manager that it is essential to have more formalized communications mechanisms [weekly telecons, monthly in-office program reviews] in place that ensure that people do receive the 'human touch' connections they often crave. Telecommuting makes it easier to feel disconnected from the team -- so it is essential that active steps are taken to strengthen that team feeling.

Posted by: A Dad | February 1, 2007 8:01 AM

It's a weird balance. I'm working from home today, which only happens occasionally. It's not that people don't do it where I work, it's that I'm mostly required to be in the office because that's where I have my plotter (I'm a graphics designer) and where most of the people I need to talk to are.

I knew I wanted to work from home all week, given the snow was going to arrive around the afternoon rush. I don't like traffic on a normal day, but snow traffic stinks. So I've been saving the work I could do from home all week. I let people know my intentions (which also includes a visit to my vet), but I still feel guilty. Like I'm shirking my duties. I feel this way even though I work better from here and I'll be able to submit two substantial things by the end of today. And I work faster and better from here. But still, I feel guilty.

Posted by: kate | February 1, 2007 8:04 AM

It's a weird balance. I'm working from home today, which only happens occasionally. It's not that people don't do it where I work, it's that I'm mostly required to be in the office because that's where I have my plotter (I'm a graphics designer) and where most of the people I need to talk to are.

I knew I wanted to work from home all week, given the snow was going to arrive around the afternoon rush. I don't like traffic on a normal day, but snow traffic stinks. So I've been saving the work I could do from home all week. I let people know my intentions (which also includes a visit to my vet), but I still feel guilty. Like I'm shirking my duties. I feel this way even though I work better from here and I'll be able to submit two substantial things by the end of today. And I work faster and better from here. But still, I feel guilty.

Posted by: kate | February 1, 2007 8:05 AM

A DAD

I agree. The top, middle, and low performers at the office tend to perform the same when working at home. The self-starters and go-getters usually don't change their work ethic and neither do the lay-abouts.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 8:08 AM

[Is there some hidden truth to the anti-telecommuter argument?]

I have to admit that my telecommute days are known as "sex at the office" days to my wife and me. It's perfect, the kids go to school and the house is empty except for the 2 of us. She thinks I should feel guilty about it, but I'm not violating the work-at-home policy. I also remind her that I've paid my dues to graze from the greener pasture.

Posted by: Father of 4 | February 1, 2007 8:10 AM

I tend to agree with the report. I worked from home full-time for three years (when I wasn't traveling) and found I was very effective.

On the other hand, there's a certain point where the jobs are less "doing the work" than they are "managing the customer", managing other people or being responsible for large amounts of business development. I you want to "advance" into that type of work, then face time and social skills are important and you're not going to get promoted/hired into that type of job without proof of your skills.

In my current job I can still work at home whenever I want (and do, if the youngest child is sick or I just want to be able to work without being interrupted to discuss the Super Bowl, last week's management meeting or what we're going to do to after work on Friday). But I'm really at a point in my career where it's important to look the company "big shots" or the high-level customers in the eye - there's just no substitute for face time, sometimes.

Posted by: Army Brat | February 1, 2007 8:16 AM

Whether "face time" is necessary is wholly dependent on your job. Mine is about 50-50 and, as such, I only work 2 days a week at home.

Further, I also truly believe that top/middle/low performers will act true to form working at home.

Finally, I find it most interesting that the people I have personally met and who opposed any telecommuting are the ones that have never tried it or allowed their subordinates to try it. Those that have are far more supportive b/c they know that it CAN work.

Posted by: JS | February 1, 2007 8:23 AM

Often times I come into work, leave my cube to use the bathroom and get coffee, and that's it. I even eat lunch in my cube. Everyone uses AIM to chat, even if they're 20 feet away. There's no reason I can't do the same work at home.

Of course if I do 6 hours of work in the office, I'd do about 1 at home.

Telecommuting rarely works for me. But I think for those who would benefit from the flexibility, they should push the option really hard when negotiating for their next job.

--

The real question is: would you try to telecommute if your job opened a satellite office 10 minutes from your house?

Posted by: f00 | February 1, 2007 8:24 AM

"I just want to be able to work without being interrupted to discuss the Super Bowl"

Exactly, and I have no reason to trust that the people who constantly discuss, sports, gossip, etc. are going to be better performers at home.

I need some evidence of performance before I will appove telecommuting. If you been a mediocre employee for years, I'm not a good manager if I award you a perk. I'm rewarding bad behavior.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 8:26 AM

It's NOT going to snow today, SAH people. It's the bread and bottled water lobby influencing the media with payoffs. Yet another conspiracy.

Posted by: Joe Conspiracy | February 1, 2007 8:26 AM

Fo4 - no wonder you are a father of four! Enjoy the afternoon delight. lucky lucky!

Posted by: moxiemom | February 1, 2007 8:30 AM

I'm going to get geek and technical about this, but I would be interested to know how old these executives are that were questioned. I have a sneaking suspicion they were older -- and it seems older execs still have a death-grip on the old axiom that face-time is needed to advance.

I'm also willing to bet none of them DID any telecommuting in their climb to "the top" -- and if that's the case, how can they rightfully say telecommuting would kill anyone's chances? They never GAVE it a chance!

Posted by: ilc | February 1, 2007 8:32 AM

I've telecommuted for three years now, with my home office in London making face time difficult to say the least. But with technology, we have video chats, files flying back and forth and I'm given the freedom to choose how best to meet my deadlines. I'm way more efficient in everything I do, not just work, as I'm not forced to do anything at some time that doesn't work out.

My last office job was strict on 9-6. They had the office manager go around and check. I put up a sign saying "I'll get here when I get here so buzz off" which actually scared the office manager. She never reported me.

Posted by: Bob | February 1, 2007 8:32 AM

I have employees who are in the office long hours and I have employees who telecommute. I also have employees who work 9-5 in the office, then go home and do a couple more hours after their kids go to sleep. That's what I do, and most of the married/parent employees do the same.

In the business that I am in (IT) you make a reputation based upon the ability to quickly shift gears to put out a fire that flared up out of nowhere. Right or wrong, the people in the office do the majority of the firefighting. I would argue that this is "right", because they can all run to the conference room on 5 minutes notice, then collaborate in a workroom all day until they get the problem solved. This is much more difficult for telecommuters (whose expertise we often need at these times, but they are difficult to integrate into these 'fire drills'.)

So basically, even for the top telecommuters, while they can progress their careers at a normal-to-fast pace, the people who really rise quickly are the people who I can walk down the hall to, hand them a problem that has just come up (with little to no notice) and trust them to resolve quickly with the resources within the office building. Those people have an inside track to being the 'stars' of the organization.

Maybe this only applies to IT and Finance...

Posted by: Proud Papa | February 1, 2007 8:35 AM

Ahhhh, it might snow in DC - the apocolypse is upon us! Buy bread, buy milk run home to your beloved families and make french toast!!!!

Posted by: moxiemom | February 1, 2007 8:49 AM

Moxiemom,
Just like the summers in DC (it isn't the heat it is the humidity) it isn't the snow it is the ice.

Posted by: KLB SS MD | February 1, 2007 8:52 AM

Moxiemom, on the 1st major snow of the season, it's chili and then we rent The Shining.

Posted by: Father of 4 | February 1, 2007 8:55 AM

It snowed in Kansas City yesterday. The roads were a mess, but the kids were happy!

Posted by: scarry | February 1, 2007 8:58 AM

When is it supposed to start snowing? I need milk, bread and toilet paper! :-)

Posted by: Missicat | February 1, 2007 9:05 AM

"When is it supposed to start snowing? I need milk, bread and toilet paper! :-)"

Uh, oh. We used our last condom last night.
What a bummer.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 9:07 AM

"When is it supposed to start snowing? I need milk, bread and toilet paper! :-)"

Uh, oh. We used our last condom last night.
What a bummer.

You can take your chances!

Posted by: scarry | February 1, 2007 9:13 AM

KLB SS MD - I respectfully disagree. Its the nincompoops who can't drive in any kind of precipitation whatsoever. I'm not judging, but when we have a big snow, maybe its not the best time to take out the Camaro? A lesson that needs to be re-learned every year in our nation's capitol.

Posted by: moxiemom | February 1, 2007 9:13 AM

I don't telecommute (for various reasons) but some of my colleagues do once or twice a week. While I'm not against telecommuting, it's usually those of us who are physically in the office who end up having to do the quick-deadline work that pops up unexpectedly during the day. When my managers need something done quickly, they look and see who's around to do it- they don't even think of who is working from home. So it's extra work for me.
Is that my manager's fault? Probably- but it's certainly a lot easier for them to just walk into my office and hand me an assignment than it is for them to try to remember if so-and-so is off today, or telecommuting, and what is his home number, etc. Long story short- telecommuters, remember that your colleagues may not like your arrangement as much as you do...

Posted by: not a telecommuter | February 1, 2007 9:14 AM

When it comes to snow in DC, it's the SUV drivers that are the absolute worst.

Posted by: Father of 4 | February 1, 2007 9:20 AM

Father of 4 - don't you know that SUVs are magic and can drive on anything???

Posted by: Missicat | February 1, 2007 9:22 AM

Moxiemom,
I agree - I almost wrote that it is the drivers but was afraid I would get slammed for it. I grew up in CT where we wouldn't close schools unless there was a foot of snow. We knew how to drive - that being said, we also had the personnel and equipment to properly clear the roads and people rarely parked on the street in the way of the plows and sand trucks.

Posted by: KLB SS MD | February 1, 2007 9:24 AM

When it comes to snow in DC, it's the SUV drivers that are the absolute worst.

Yes, along with the people in the big old trucks. They seem to think that they can go as fast as they can and not worry because they are in a big vechicle.

However, it's not just in the DC area--it is everywhere!

Posted by: scarry | February 1, 2007 9:24 AM

Couldn't agree more, Brian. The thing that gets me about telecommuting critics is that they often think that telecommuters aren't working hard enough. The reality is, though, that slackers can exist anywhere and you always know who's a slacker -- you just look at their productivity. Being in the office doesn't make unproductive people suddenly become productive.

Some bosses, however, are so anal retentive that they don't think their employees are working unless the boss sits there and watches them. Frankly, I think the problem is that such bosses don't have enough to do and don't trust their employees. If they find an employee can't work without someone watching them, then it's time to fire the employee -- regardless of whether the employee works from home or the office.

Posted by: Ryan | February 1, 2007 9:28 AM

I'm gonna put on my flame proof suit here.......... aren't the SUV drivers ALWAYS the worst regardless of the weather? (writer is now curled into a protective ball)

Scarry - I will stick with my assertion that DC drivers are the worst in the snow.

Posted by: moxiemom | February 1, 2007 9:29 AM

It's snowing right now in NC, and I made the mistake of coming into work. Luckily, I have the option of working from home, so I might leave early.

Posted by: Meesh | February 1, 2007 9:30 AM

Meesh - where in NC are you? I did see your state on the news this a.m. - looks like it is really coming down!

Posted by: Missicat | February 1, 2007 9:32 AM

SUVs can drive on anything, but the problem is that they can't stop.

Which reminds me... I need to make out my will...

Oh well, as long as my wife and I don't travel in the same car, I can reduce my odds that I will need a will.

Posted by: Father of 4 | February 1, 2007 9:32 AM

Almost all of my work has to be coordinated w/ our headquarters in CA while we're in DC. I rarely talk to the people in my office. We email one another.I could easily work from home 1 or 2 days, except my older baby boomer boss needs his hand held every second of the day. I'm a professional, yet spend a lot of my day telling him how to work his email and Word!!

I wonder how much of bosses' problems with telecommuting stem from their high maintanence behavior? If you work in DC on the Hill or K St(or anywhere really) you know what I'm talking about.

If my boss were able to read his calendar on Outlook or double space a Word doc, I'd be golden.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 9:34 AM

I am from Ohio, so I am used to the snow. I agree that DC has bad drivers, but I have noticed that since huge SUVs and trucks have become available, many people think that there is no such thing as "bad roads" and that problem is not local to DC.

We had an ice storm a few weeks back and when I went to pick my kid at day care, some lady in a huge SUV passed me!!!! I was like; you have to be kidding me. She then slid and ran up over the side walk and back onto the road. I went 10 miles per hour all the way home.

Posted by: scarry | February 1, 2007 9:35 AM

"I'm not judging,"

Oh, I am. When I rule the world, there will be horrible dire punishments meted out to those who don't clear the snow off the roof of their car, allowing huge icy shards to go flying off into the windshield of the person behind them.

Posted by: Lizzie | February 1, 2007 9:36 AM

Lizzie,
Can we add to your list the people who only clear a tiny space on their windshield and do nothing with their back window?

Posted by: KLB SS MD | February 1, 2007 9:38 AM

I think ProudPapa has a good point.

The people who you can run over and dump your hot problems on are the ones you rely on and promote. It's harder to be that person if you aren't there.

After I had my son I worked part-time at home, re-writing some programs that didn't fit into the available memory. That's a pretty discrete activity, it worked out really well for me. Until then I hadn't even considered not returning to work full-time.

But that finished, and I needed something else to do. If people didn't see me they didn't think of me when they had hours. So I switched to coming into the office. Then I became part of the crew and allocating me less-than-full-time hours was never a problem. I even worked on some hot projects that we won and I got a raise and a promotion.

Flexibility is better for me. A doctors' appointment at Shady Grove axes an entire day if I have to commute downtown. If I can work at home that kind of thing can be fit in much more easily.

So I'm more in favor of showing up. Otherwise they'll give your desk and your work to somebody else.

Posted by: RoseG | February 1, 2007 9:38 AM

Ohhh, Lizzie - I so heartily agree! I love the people with the little portal hole on their windshield but the ice droppers are the worst and a lot of SUVs and minivans are guilty, I guess because they can't get up there w/o a ladder but then again, they likely don't think about it either.

Posted by: moxiemom | February 1, 2007 9:41 AM

KLB - don't you just love that? It looks like a pile of snow on wheels.

Posted by: Missicat | February 1, 2007 9:41 AM

let me add my story of bosses who are anal retentive. i support a software package. my job is to sit by a phone & help people in the building when they call. it's 4 pm on a friday before a long weekend & the server crashes. this is the server where the software i support resides ergo, the software wasn't running. not a big deal since there were probably only 3 people in the entire building (me, my boss, & the janitor). would my boss let me leave? no, she would not. exactly what she thought i could do i'm not sure but she would not let me go. i had to be in the building for 8 hours & by golly she was going to make sure i stayed for 8 hours. i spent the rest of my time surfing the web so it wasn't that big of a deal but it is that sort of mentality that makes me wonder.

Posted by: quark | February 1, 2007 9:44 AM

"Can we add to your list the people who only clear a tiny space on their windshield and do nothing with their back window?"

That goes without saying.

And if I come in tomorrow and hear co-workers moaning about how annoying it was to clear an inch of snow off of their driveways, I'm going to scream.

Posted by: Lizzie | February 1, 2007 9:46 AM

I love how the media feeds it Lizzie. Pat Collins on the corner with a YARDSTICK to measure 2 inches of snow - inteviews with people buying french bread fixings, reporting a run on snow blowers and shovels.. makes me krazee! It snows ever year in DC its not like its Miami beach!

Posted by: moxiemom | February 1, 2007 9:50 AM

I love it when people clear the snow off and it rains so they have an inch of ice covering their car. We learned as kids that if it is going to rain you leave the snow on so that when it stops all you do is crack the ice and push it all off.

Posted by: KLB SS MD | February 1, 2007 9:51 AM

PARIS - The French already enjoy a 35-hour work week and generous vacation. Now the health minister wants to look into whether workers should be allowed to sleep on the job.



France launched plans this week to spend $9 million this year to improve public awareness about sleeping troubles. About one in three French people suffer from them, the ministry says.

Fifty-six percent of French complain that a poor night's sleep has affected their job performance, according to the ministry.

"Why not a nap at work? It can't be a taboo subject," Health Minister Xavier Bertrand said Monday. He called for further studies and said he would promote on-the-job naps if they prove useful.

France's state-run health insurance provider will send letters explaining the importance of good sleep. The Health Ministry's Web site offers tips on how best to get a good night's rest.

The ministry's online "Passport to Sleep" recommends cutting down on coffee, tea, colas, and athletic activity after 8 p.m., shunning TV time or working late in the evening, and listening better to the body's own sleep signals, such as yawning.

Bertrand said sleepiness causes 20 percent to 30 percent of highway accidents across France each year.


I think I'll have to move there now!

Posted by: Now the French will get NAPS!! | February 1, 2007 9:53 AM

Pat Collins drives me crazy. The way he reports every minor story and incident as if it is the most important thing in the universe just sets my teeth on edge.

Posted by: Missicat | February 1, 2007 9:53 AM

I don't see why it can't be a balance. Like let people telecommute 2 days out of five. That would give them face time the majority of days and the flexibility around the telecommute days. If nothing else it ads 2 hours to each telecommute days. But the biggest resistance seems to be management. I think you can goof here or at home. It doesn't make a difference.

Posted by: foamgnome | February 1, 2007 9:57 AM

Another angle:
Many promotions are to a management level or include some aspects of people management, and it's REALLY hard to manage from your living room. While the work you do from home is top-notch, getting a promotion and managing is a vastly different work experience in most fields.

Is it possible to manage from home? Sure. But it's much more difficult logistically and even discounting logistics, is very difficult to do at all.

So yeah, I'd want to promote a manager who was in the office with the people she was managing. But at the same time, I'd have no problem with work done from home, so I don't really see the contradiction.

Posted by: KB | February 1, 2007 9:58 AM

There are four people in my team at work, including our boss. Two of us are in one state, two are in another. All of us telecommute at least a few days every week.

My boss just related to me that during her annual performance review, *her* boss asked her how it was that with part of her team in another state, and all of them telecommuting regularly, she was able to have such high productivity on her team. Her resopnse was that she makes herself accessible to her team, communicates with them regularly, and trusts them not to screw up.

He never seems to get it, and always asks, "is ____ ever here?" The weird thing is, while I would imagine that older folks are more likely to be touchy about telecommuting, he is not that old.

Also, it's not SUVs that are a problem. The problem is the everybody, let me repeat that, EVERYBODY, thinks he/she is a good driver, when in reality, almost nobody is...except me.

Posted by: Würstführer | February 1, 2007 9:58 AM

moxiemom said:

"aren't the SUV drivers ALWAYS the worst regardless of the weather? (writer is now curled into a protective ball)"

uh, no. At the risk of being forced to don a flame retardant suit along with you, the minivan drivers are always the worse regardless of the weather - whether it's distraction from keeping track of what's going on with the other occupants of the vehicle or the incessant cellphone use, even when backing out of a tight space in a crowded lot on Saturday afternoon.

ah, meesh, the beauty and wonder that is North Carolina, where anyone who doesn't work in a grocery store or convenience store just stays home and attempts to do their jobs with even less reliable technology than they have at work :>)

Posted by: NC lawyer | February 1, 2007 10:00 AM

There is something to the "Out of sight, out of mind" and "Johnny-on-the-spot" points of view.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 10:05 AM

When you see an Asian woman driving a SUV in the snow around the DC area, it's time to dial 911 and report the terrorist activety.

Posted by: Emergency Alert | February 1, 2007 10:09 AM

Hey, NC Lawyer, I own a mommy van!

Posted by: Fred | February 1, 2007 10:12 AM

I almost feel bad commenting on this subject given my history.

A quick point.

Every car handles differently. SUV's are top-heavy and torqey and are therefore harder to drive "well".

It is much simpler to drive, say, a Subaru Legacy (AWD and balanced handling, plus ground clearance) with a high-degree of profiency than it is to drive, say a Ford Explorer with the same skill level.

Any trained driver (cop, secret service, special forces) will tell you the same thing.

Posted by: SUV guy | February 1, 2007 10:12 AM

I've worked form home for 12 years and would never go back to an office. I will say that working from home is a drag on advancement, "managers" still want to see their employees, even if it's just to have them into the office to agree with them on issues. There is no reason to be hard to reach as a teleworker, my office number is forwarded to my home office and if I don't answer it forwards to my office voice mail system. I'm logged on to the corporate network (VPN) via a high speed internet connection and I keep an instant message application open. I've been told by my peers that it is easier to get me than it is to get many of the people that are "in the office" and my customers have no idea where I sit, just that I'm available and responsive. In a services based economy there is no reason to travel to an office to accomplish the same task you can accomplish remotely. "Managers" need to become Leaders and utilize their employees in the mose productive ways possible, teleworking is one of those methods and a secure, effective leader will realize that fact.

Posted by: telework yes! | February 1, 2007 10:13 AM

I think it's interesting to note the differences in the two statistics: that career PROSPECTS are hurt, not that the person does an inferior job. It illustrates what other people have already said, that certainly someone in "isolation" at home is going to do the work really well, but without the camraderie, and infamous "Face time" it would be difficult to advance.

Also, think about the fact that the types of jobs that can be done properly from home, may not lead to the same type of job one step up. For example, generally senior positions require you to manage other workers, participate in meetings, and so on. We have a few telecommuters in my office and it really is a pain having to conference them in every time we have a staff meeting. Even then, we're never sure that they're all "there."

Posted by: Christine | February 1, 2007 10:13 AM

Front wheel drive helps alot too.

Posted by: KLB SS MD | February 1, 2007 10:14 AM

Oh, Carolinians, my girls and I envy your snow. We make an annual pilgrimage to the NC mountains to see (usually machine-made) snow and go snow tubing . . . giving my little Georgians a 1-year sabbatical in Boston with heaps of snow, sledding and iceskating was one of the richest gifts I could give them . . .

Just this morning my 6yo asked "why can't we move up north?" (you guys got the snow, we got the cold grey rain, and their teachers had told them we would most likely get an ice storm day off school today, which didn't materialize after all).

Though I don't remember much snow from my 4 years at Duke . . . (another ACCling revealed!)

Posted by: KB | February 1, 2007 10:19 AM

I telecommuted for six years, up until mid 2006, and in a practical sense it was a mixed blessing in terms of all the issues at play. But for my own life, my values and priorities, it was a Godsend.

As a single parent doing it totally alone and with no child support or family support nearby, telecommuting meant I could be home on any day my kids were sick or school was closed. I could pick them up when school ended at 2:30, and be done with my work day.

While my salary wasn't all that I wished it could be, and my benefits less due to my PT status, I nonetheless saved on after school child care costs, fuel, parking, business attire and the little expenses that add up before you know it--vending machines, cups of coffee, lunch out, office birthdays and baby showers, etc. This made it possible for me to live quite comfortably while also being completely present in my children's lives. I telecommuted from the time my kids were 3 and 5 until they were 9 and 11. It really worked for me.

Also, because I worked on the Web, and in news, there was plenty I could do to stay on top of my game, moving with the pace of information and technology. It is true that I hit a ceiling at some point where I would only advance if I worked on-site, but I had always seen my life in a broader context than the drive of pursuing a career foremost could satisfy. So, when I felt I was hitting the ceiling, and my kids were old enough to make a new adjustment, I did something else, I opened a shop.

Fortunately my years as a telecommuter in Web news primed me to do other distance-jobs, like running an E-Commerce version of my store, and blogging, E-assistance or whatever else I might like to do to pad my time and pocketbook as my shop grows.

The downside of not single-mindedly driving for the career path is real, but I don't know if it was ever viable for me anyway as long as I was the only adult in my kids' lives. I suppose it could have worked if I was in to farming them out more, but I've always held that I didn't have kids for someone else to raise them, or spend the bulk of the time with them. In the end I feel fortunate to have used technology to my advantage, and to have worked with a progressive enough company that such a path was accepted.

I'll also note that I lost out on some networking and the benefit of closer professional relations with my co-workers from whom I could have learned much, but again, it was the trade-off I chose for what I consider to be a bigger life path than career alone.

In short, telecommuting can be an incredible solution to integrating many complexities in life in a way that meets organizational, individual and family needs. I'm proud to have been able to do it.

Posted by: Dignity for Single Parents | February 1, 2007 10:21 AM

and Fred, I'm sure you're the best danged mommy van driver in the country :>)

would that before the minivan dealers would let new purchasers off the lot, they'd see whether they can handle a vehicle of that size. Like the U-Haul renters who should never have let me rent a truck because my foot good barely reach the gas peddle unless I slumped down in the seat, and then I couldn't see over the dash very well.

This might well be a regional issue because the SUV drivers here are vastly better equipped to understand center of gravity than are the soccer-mom-mobile drivers. In my opinion.

to the topic at hand, geez, didn't we just discuss this last week in the context of flex-time? We're all fairly well entrenched in our views about this, aren't we?

Posted by: NC lawyer | February 1, 2007 10:22 AM

This artilce is comparing two entirely different things. Whether telecommuting impairs one's career and whether telecommuters do their job as well as everyone else are not the same thing.

Just because one does his or her job as well as "face-timers" does not mean career advancement. Often promotions are based on networking, personal relationships, and being known by higher-ups. If you are a disembodied voice at the end of a telephone line, you are missing valuable opportunities to become better known, and more importantly, better liked.

I'm not saying work-at-home employees don't do a good job -- they often do -- but missing out on face time means missing out on important career opportunities, like it or not.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 10:26 AM

"I suppose it could have worked if I was in to farming them out more, but I've always held that I didn't have kids for someone else to raise them, or spend the bulk of the time with them."

and we were doing so well up until this old saw reared its ugly head.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 10:26 AM

Another obvious problem with advancement for telecommuters is that eventually one will advance to the point he or she is in charge of suprvising others. The boss can't be at home all the time, or nothing would ever get done. So one who chooses to work from home is unlikely to ever get very high up in management. Again, that doesn't mean the worker isn't doing his or her job, it just means it isn't very feasible for a supervisor to supervise off-site.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 10:30 AM

Thanks for the suggestion. Now I know what we will be having for breakfast tomorrow. I have in on good authority (from a retired meteorologist) that there is almost no chance that we'll have school on time tomorrow (Fairfax County).

Posted by: French Toast | February 1, 2007 10:32 AM

"I suppose it could have worked if I was in to farming them out more, but I've always held that I didn't have kids for someone else to raise them, or spend the bulk of the time with them."

and we were doing so well up until this old saw reared its ugly head.

Yup. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

Posted by: lindab | February 1, 2007 10:35 AM

I had to telecommute for 11 months last year. Either that or move to Houston. Hard to fix the house from Houston. As "A Dad" noted, top performer will perform no matter where they are. I actually worked more hours from home. I am very appreciative that my company supported me in doing this. Most of my work is with overseas companies so the issue of face time is not as large as for some people. Now that I am back in the office, my boss lets me telecommute when I need to be home for something. For instance, medical or construction appointments that would yield more commuting time and less work than if I were in the office that day. My biggest problem in telecommuting was drawing a sharp line between home and office. I do like to be in the office for face time and frankly socializing. My new boss is trying a schedule telecom day for all in the section every month. This would give all of us flexible to deal with our life/work balance.

As for the other benefits of working from home for 11 months, Fredia did say it was like a very long second honeymoon.

Posted by: Fred | February 1, 2007 10:38 AM

I see two upsides to telecommuting - first, job performance can now, more effectively be graded on output instead of face time. If someone can get their job done from 9-5, instead of the guy who shows up at 7, reads the newspaper (or blogs :-) online for a few hours, then does some work, putters around, and ends up leaving at 7, having completed the same amount of work, then the 9-5 person looks like a more efficient employee than the guy who seems like he's there a lot, but may have a lower output. Second, and I see this complaint a lot on the work discussions here on the WaPo, if job performance is now graded more on output than face time, it may also cut down on "controversial" reviews - where a boss may like one (lower output) person better than a colleague, and still give the lower output colleague a good/better review than her peers. So long as there are clear benchmarks for performance, telecommuting seems like a good option for many folks. A negative might be lower "community" within a workgroup, but at my job, folks who have flexible/telecommuting schedules are in the office a few times a week and are a lot more pleasant than a lot of the folks here on a regular schedule. Correlation - causation? Who knows, just something to think about.

Posted by: smf | February 1, 2007 10:39 AM

No matter where you go, or what you do, you will find out that 20% of the people do 80% of the work.

Posted by: Father of 4 | February 1, 2007 10:47 AM

"It is much simpler to drive, say, a Subaru Legacy (AWD and balanced handling, plus ground clearance) with a high-degree of profiency than it is to drive, say a Ford Explorer with the same skill level."

SUV guy, very true! and also drivers in general are not aware of the limitations of their vehicles.

KLB SS MD
"Front wheel drive helps alot too!"

Or move to a place where it doesn't snow. (but I am driving the Infiniti today, mommy van is in the garage.)

AF Daughter is flying to New Jersey today. Is it snowing there? It will be a new experience for her.

And to tie into today's topic: telecommuting is not an option when you are in the military.

Posted by: Fred | February 1, 2007 10:48 AM

No matter where you go, or what you do, you will find out that 20% of the people do 80% of the work.

Posted by: Father of 4 | February 1, 2007 10:47 AM

so let's save the commercial rent fees spent on office space for the 80% doing 20%.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 10:48 AM

NClawyer,

Ok, I admit it, we're a minivan family. But in a long snowy Boston winter I never had any problem with control in a minivan. They're really easy to control, especially compared with the old-fashioned full-sized vans, which do take some special accounting to drive . . . But the thing about Boston is that they clear and salt the roads promptly, and most drivers are matter-of-fact about winter driving . . . so you don't have so many other drivers' mistakes forcing risky situations onto everyone . . .

Ob telecommuting . . . one telecommuting topic I'm curious about is how successful *outside* incentives are in establishing telecommuting for more employees. Like, for example, when rural towns who are losing population due to poor local employment options decide to become a free broadband mecca, to incubate telecommuting and internet business options. Or, more common, when traffic abatement initiatives offer financial incentives to employers to have more employee hours worked by telecommuting --- with the goal of reducing vehicle counts on congested streets, to avoid resorting to more expensive ways of increasing traffic capacity . . . Or when zoning boards trade off a demand to create a certain ratio of parking spaces per employee for commitments to telecommuting . . . I've heard many times of such incentives but never heard follow-up on how well they work.

I actually live (and DH works) in such an incentivized traffic management corridor now. DH's employer provides free access to flexcars during business hours for employees who carpool/walk/ bike/take public transit or park-n-ride shuttles (subject to pretty generous limits). There are free local shuttles for workers and residents. There are also flextime and telecommute incentives, but I don't know how well they have worked. Of course, in our jobs as faculty we are entirely autonomous, and as long as we appear at lectures, office hours, committee meetings, and any other research/teaching meetings we ourselves schedule, nobody cares where we do our work. I know some professors who habitually disappear for an afternoon of uninterrupted writing at a local cafe . . . sometimes limiting facetime is a way of enforcing priorities, and not letting the immediacy of people who knock on your door distract from more important/more rewarded tasks.

Posted by: KB | February 1, 2007 10:55 AM

I telecommute two days a week and show up at the office on my designated home days for important meetings etc... I am much more productive because I no longer feel the stress I did before. My boss is happy with the situation, I don't know of any complaints from others and I've been doing it for about 5 years.

I have to agree with SUV Guy, we have a small car and an SUV and I have to say the people who seem to be the worst are those who drive in any type of car but yack on their phones, put on makeup, read books or newspapers, tailgate....eat hamburgers! None of these things are exclusive to SUV drivers.

Worst snow people, those who live in condos or apartments, who steal the shoveled out parking spaces of other people, or in lots where parking is first come first serve, those who place lawn chairs in the parking spots.

Posted by: pink plate | February 1, 2007 10:56 AM

"aren't the SUV drivers ALWAYS the worst regardless of the weather?"

I live in Oklahoma, and the albsolute worst drivers in bad weather are pickup trucks. They think they can handle it because their vehicles are big, but because there is no weight over the back end, they end up fishtailing everywhere and hitting other people or spinning out. There is also an "attitude" component that makes truck-driving men, in particularl, a bit cavalier.

Posted by: okie | February 1, 2007 10:57 AM

My boss used to work from home 2-3 days a week, and she thought it was the best thing in the world to be able to do that until the higher ups told her she needed to be in the office because half the staff quit on her. Of course as soon as I started working from home- albeit 100%- she thought working from home was a career ending decision. She effectively excluded me from all decisions and wouldn't let me do my job anymore...so I finally had to quit this week. Could it be that some of the managers in this survey are like my boss and simply a little jealous that they can't work from home too?

Posted by: Austin, TX | February 1, 2007 10:58 AM

Gotta love those freak snow storms. I've seen people try to use tennis rackets to brush several feet of snow off of their cars! Verry funny.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 11:00 AM

I've instructed all my friends to shoot me if they ever see me driving a mini-van.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 11:02 AM

Pink plate,
I am not advocating this but it was really funny when it happened. A friend of mine spent hours shoveling out from a blizzard. She ran out to the store and when she came back someone had taken her space. She knew whose car it was as our development (townhouses) is small so most of us know the cars that go in and out. She knew the person lived up the street and was just too lazy to shovel for himself.
She gradually encased his car in ice. Slowly, bit by bit, she poured cold water over his vehicle. It took her hours as she had to wait for each layer to freeze.
She said the look on his face and the amount of time it took him to even get into the car the next day was priceless. Because where do we keep our scrapers? In the car, right? He couldn't even get the doors open to get it started.

Posted by: KLB SS MD | February 1, 2007 11:03 AM

How come offshoring works when telecommute doesn't work for people in IT .. IT jobs are the ones that is outsourced 90% ?
I totally agree with "A Dad "
If you are good , no matter where you work you are going to do the best.

Posted by: LiketoTelecommute | February 1, 2007 11:04 AM

This is a very good article on a subject that is long overdue in the work force, but like so many other ideas its up against the intelect of human beings which means it wont be realized for at least a hundred years.

Posted by: mcewen | February 1, 2007 11:07 AM

"I've instructed all my friends to shoot me if they ever see me driving a mini-van."

That is why I wear a hoodie and dark sunglasses when I drive-as my kids say--the creepy van!

Posted by: Fred | February 1, 2007 11:08 AM

remember though that some people don't want to be "managers". i was a manager once and was horrible at it & i never want to do it again. the idea that telecommuting would hurt my chances of being promoted to manager would be seen as an incentive to telecommute rather than the reverse.

Posted by: quark | February 1, 2007 11:08 AM

To Posted by: | February 1, 2007 10:26 AM, and lindab, I didn't mean that statement as a backhanded stab against anyone else, or anyone else's choices. I meant it purely as a perception of how I would feel if I had less time with my kids. All in the very personal.

My life is far too whatever, dense, busy, filled, personal etc., to really spend time judging or evaluating the choices of others. For all I know, a person may feel like they want to have children, but would be a better parent if someone else took care of their children for a large portion or the bulk of the time. Other people, due to a variety of factors, don't have the luxury of making as many choices. I however felt that for me, if I was going to have kids, the reason would be to spend time with them on a constant and ongoing basis because my value and desire was on personally relating to them in an immersed sense. Please don't take it as being directed at anyone else, or make more of it than it was. I respect everyone's individual choices, honestly.

Posted by: Dignity for Single Parents | February 1, 2007 11:09 AM

Big sections of IBM are telecommute only. Their meetings are call in over the phone. The issue of the boss not letting them telecommute doesn't exist. The boss might be in NY. The coworkers might be all over the world. They have the software to make it work for them. wow...that sounded like an advertizement. I didn't mean it that way! The point is, the right software/hardware facilitates telecommuting success for all concerned.

kb is a dukie?

Posted by: dotted | February 1, 2007 11:09 AM

We are on our third snowstorm of the year, that's right, in Oklahoma (not really known for its snow storms). I wish I could telecommute!

Posted by: okie | February 1, 2007 11:11 AM

dotted wrote

>kb is a dukie?

Yep. Of course, there are probably more ABD fans than even ABC fans out there in the world, so the best I hope for is tolerance . . .

Posted by: KB | February 1, 2007 11:14 AM

I work in a lab, not an office, so obviously telecommuting is not an option (although I did use to program controllers to operate equipment remotely. . .)
But I would still like to reply to Proud Papa:
I can see your point: things do arise that have to be dealt with right away, and having people right there to get on them is surely efficient.
But I hope you do not substitute "dumping" everything on people for actually managing things that can be managed ahead of time with a good plan. Too many managers are poor planners and communicators, so everything has to be done on an emergency, mopping-up basis. Being the bright shiny face that shows up every day to clean up the bosses' messes may advance your career, but it gets tiresome.

Posted by: Diane, Baltimore | February 1, 2007 11:14 AM

A good many jobs can't be done by telecommuting. Nurses, doctors, police officers, retail salespeople, chefs, etc.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 11:14 AM

"I respect everyone's individual choices, honestly"

Then why bring it up in your first post?

By the way, how are your future Nobel Prize winners doing? Any budding Joe
DiMaggios or Wilma Rudolphs coming along?

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 11:18 AM

to Dignity for Single Parents - I'm curious, do you home school your children (if they are school aged)? At some point early in most children's lives, somebody else other than a parent takes care of the child the bulk of the day.

Posted by: londonmom | February 1, 2007 11:19 AM

well said Diane . I had a manager who always judge you by the amount of time in office not by how you work .Everybody came to know he was a very poor manager (everything / everyday is emergency) and he was eventually demoted.

Posted by: LiketoTelecommute | February 1, 2007 11:23 AM

LiketoTelecommute,

The IT jobs that have been, and continue to be, outsourced largely are in development and help desk jobs. These do not require in-person communication. Conversely, the local desktop guy's, the one you need when your laptop and harddrive problems can't be solved remotely, and the network administrator's, job descriptions involve a certain amount of hands-on tasks and cannot be done overseas.

"If you are good , no matter where you work you are going to do the best." This doesn't even make sense. If you were good before, it's highly unlikely that working at home with so many possibilities for destraction will transform you from good to best.

Speaking of technology, you can't expect your office IT staff to visit your house whenever you have a technology glitch. I hope all employees who like to telecommute realize that, of necessity, they need to become more tech savvy about hardware, cabling, wireless networks and whatever other non-application related tech support they need to handle from home in order to do their jobs there with a minimum of technology-related down-time.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 11:23 AM

Dignity for Single Parents talks about saving on after school care costs, so yep, looks like these kids were "farmed out" like the rest of us poor schnooks.

Is Dignity a mom or a dad?

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 11:24 AM

JS said it beautifully and succinctly:

"Whether 'face time' is necessary is wholly dependent on your job... I also truly believe that top/middle/low performers will act true to form working at home."

Sometimes my work requires me to put in "face time," whether because it helps to be "known" or because the work can be done more effectively with others in person.

Other times, I'd be working totally on my own anyhow, so it doesn't matter if I'm at home, except for all the time/money saved by not commuting.

And yet other times, I'm collaborating with people in other parts of the country (or world), so by doing this work via email or phone we're able to accomplish the task at hand much more quickly and economically than if someone had to travel.

Posted by: catlady | February 1, 2007 11:25 AM

KLB SS MD, whoa! I'm sure that guy never stole another hard-shoveled spot again!

Posted by: Pink plate | February 1, 2007 11:27 AM

I have telecommuted for almost a year now. I am far more productive than I could have ever been in the office with so much social banter required to pass the test of "Minnesota Nice" employee. My boss has been incredibly supportive. I may not be so visible that I am considered for a promotion to management, but that's OK for me at this juncture in my life. I have a few more working years ahead of me to worry about that. Right now I am balancing my work/family needs and have found a piece of mind that I didn't know could exist in Corporate America.

Posted by: Circle Pines | February 1, 2007 11:29 AM

Dignity, not sure why you're getting flamed - I liked your post and thought it gave a good summary of trade-offs.
Someone else mentioned the possibility that off-site people aren't known as well, and while I agree that situation can result in mistrust, I think the opposite can happen as well - I think that sometimes the offsite people can come across as MORE competent because you often only see their finished product - and yes, their work can then be judged more on its merits, which is a good thing.

Posted by: TakomaMom | February 1, 2007 11:31 AM

Dignity for Single Parents, Thanks for your thoughtful follow-up post.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 11:32 AM

What is a Minnesota Nice" employee?

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 11:33 AM

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/01/26/AR2007012602003.html?nav=lscj1

As a follow-up to the Dress for Success discussion last week, see Amy Joyce's column today on work-appropriate clothing.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 11:35 AM

I guess its my day to take heat, so I'll play along.

I brought it up in my first post because I was sharing my perspective on why telecommuting was such a Godsend for me and the life I was trying to fashion.

I am not sure what the DiMaggio/Rudolph thing is all about. I've got two kids who I love, and they're capable, creative, kind and lovable.

As to whether they were "farmed out the bulk of the time" and my saving on after-care costs, yes, once they were 6 1/2 years old they went to first grade from 8:30-2:30, fortunately still not the bulk of the time as far as how we lived our days. For me, a 7am drop off and 6 pm pick up wouldn't be the lifestyle I would choose, nor would a 8-5:30. I accept that it is a happily preferred lifestyle for some, one to support consumer choices for others, and that there is no choice for still others who have little or no options.

My kids still go 8-2:30, and they are driven back to my store. They do not spend the bulk of the day with others, but they do have opportunities to mingle in society. Next fall I will be home-schooling my oldest, or rather store-schooling.

Any more things I must account for?

Posted by: Dignity for Single Parents | February 1, 2007 11:35 AM

TakomaMom - I was one of those people who was a bit irritated by the statement that I am "farming" my children out because I am not there raising them 24/7 (since I am a working parent - as is my spouse). Dignity's post would have been great except for the cheap shot at working parents.

Posted by: londonmom | February 1, 2007 11:37 AM

When you see an Asian woman driving a SUV in the snow around the DC area, it's time to dial 911 and report the terrorist activety.

Posted by: Emergency Alert | February 1, 2007 10:09 AM

I am Vietnamese. What is that suppose to mean? Why would you think I was a terrorist if I was driving an SUV in the snow in DC. Pretty rude.

Posted by: foamgnome | February 1, 2007 11:38 AM

"Speaking of technology, you can't expect your office IT staff to visit your house whenever you have a technology glitch. I hope all employees who like to telecommute realize that, of necessity, they need to become more tech savvy about hardware, cabling, wireless networks and whatever other non-application related tech support they need to handle from home in order to do their jobs there with a minimum of technology-related down-time."

One side benefit of marrying an EE.

Except for when he insisted on a wireless network that crashed so many times I made him change it out for a wired one that actually worked. :-)

Posted by: Laura | February 1, 2007 11:43 AM

Future Shock opinion coming...

Telecommuting is an evitable force that will eventually dominate most work scenarios. For some professions you will always have to have people in place, but I think we will all be shocked by the number of things that will be farmed out to home locations for work.

At NASA, for example, we are working on telepresence for robotics, even with potential applications to remote surgery possibilities for long term missions. How about even one day doing you doctor's visits without leaving your home?

Once the data pipeline opens enough for regular good two way video (even holographics some day), the amount of work, entertainment, and information that will come through each home information hub will be astounding. The folks providing this and it's content will become our Microsoft's for tomorrow.

The change that business will have to go through (and in the not too distant future), is what gives me hope that we will get more a home/family balance, but being forced from technology, sadly, rather than the fact the employers were smart enough to see the value on their own.

On the negative side, the unintended consequences, as well as being able to separate and firewall adequately the work/family/personal life is likely to be the challenge then. Though it has been suggested that with modern machines and automation, there are already more humans than there is work for them to do, at least at the pace at which we do it. But that's a whole other topic...

Posted by: Texas Dad of 2 | February 1, 2007 11:43 AM

To Lizzie, KLB SS MD and moxiemom,

As a certain politician would say, I feel your pain.

Following our latest snowfall here in flyover land earlier this week, a car pulled onto the freeway in front of us -- which vehicle was fully cleared of snow EXCEPT for the back window, which was still totally covered (not even the portal hole you mention!). We watched as, over the next few miles, the snow gradually melted off the back window. Evidently the driver figured the tiny bit of time saved by not clearing the back window (remember, the entire rest of the car was snow-free) was worth the risk of an accident to him and/or anyone else on the road.

We could only shake our heads in amazement, and pull over into another lane as soon as it was safe.

When we first moved to DC (long ago), we'd laugh at the panic that ensued every time even a half-inch of snow was forecast -- both the poor driving skills of some drivers, and the folks who'd run to the store for food/supplies (do they really have no food in the cupboard whatsoever, nor an extra roll of TP?). And don't forget all those kids who phone their school district to find out if classes will be cancelled or delayed!

Posted by: catlady | February 1, 2007 11:44 AM

There's no excuse for Emergency Alert's initial comment, but my revised version is:

When you see someone with diplomat tags driving an SUV in the snow around the DC area, and the tags are issued to an Embassy from a nation largely located on or South of the Equator, it's time to give that car a really, really wide berth, out of an abundance of caution and self-interest. Not that there aren't plenty of fine drivers who happen to be in the employ of such an embassy. . .

Posted by: NC lawyer | February 1, 2007 11:45 AM

"Dignity for Single Parents talks about saving on after school care costs, so yep, looks like these kids were "farmed out" like the rest of us poor schnooks.

Is Dignity a mom or a dad?"


Some additional perspective - it's often implied that because women burned their bras in the sixties and some glass ceilings were broken in the eighties, that the "to farm" or "not to farm" the kiddies out is something new. It isn't. The fact that many more families now have more choices is the new part. My mom (born in '31)and her sister were cared for by a series of maids and nannies because both her parents were running a business usually 18-20 hours a day - a bakery, cafe/restaurant and bed + breakfast. That's right 18-20 hours - grandpa was up at 3 a.m to bake and the last person to go to sleep was the one (grandma or the girls when they were older) who locked up after the last person had left the cafe/restaurant.

Great grandma had 17 kids!!! How 'bout that Fo4?? She was farming them kids out all over the darn place. The oldest never married. She was proxy mom to a bunch of the younger ones.

How about the kids back then that were born on farms which so many were? They worked from the time that they were very young and were at high risk for all manner or accidents.

For most of history, mom single handedly devoting all her care and attention to the kiddies - for better or worse - it hardly happened.


Posted by: lindab | February 1, 2007 11:46 AM

Just started snowing here (in Old Town Alexandria). Everyone PANIC!!

Posted by: Missicat | February 1, 2007 11:47 AM

Just had to say, I'm an SUV driver with a completely clean (no tickets, no accidents...ever) driving record. We all don't suck as drivers!

Posted by: SUV driver | February 1, 2007 11:47 AM

Not meaning to hijack the topic, but in absence of the jokester, this should do much get the natives restless.
==========

The history of beer and BBQ

Humans originally existed as members of small bands of nomadic hunters/gatherers. They lived on deer in the mountains during the summer and would go to the coast and live on fish and lobster in the winter.

The two most important events in all of history were the invention of beer and the invention of the wheel. The wheel was invented to get man to the beer. These were the foundation of modern civilization and together were the catalyst for the splitting of humanity into two distinct subgroups: 1. Liberals; and 2. Conservatives.

Once beer was discovered, it required grain and that was the beginning of agriculture. Neither the glass bottle nor aluminum can were invented yet, so while our early humans were sitting around waiting for them to be invented, they just stayed close to the brewery. That's how villages were formed.

Some men spent their days tracking and killing animals to B-B-Q at night while they were drinking beer. This was the beginning of what is known as the Conservative movement. Other men who were weaker and less skilled at hunting learned to live off the conservatives by showing up for the nightly B-B-Q's and doing the sewing, fetching, and hair dressing. This was the beginning of the Liberal movement.

Some of these liberal men eventually evolved into women. The rest became known as girliemen. Some noteworthy liberal achievements include the domestication of cats, the invention of group therapy, group hugs, and the concept of Democratic voting to decide how to divide the meat and beer that conservatives provided.

Over the years conservatives came to be symbolized by the largest, most powerful land animal on earth, the elephant. Liberals are symbolized by the jackass.

Modern liberals like imported beer (with lime added), but most prefer white wine or imported bottled water. They eat raw fish but like their beef well done. Sushi, tofu, and French food are standard liberal fare. Another interesting evolutionary side note: most of their women have higher testosterone levels than their men. Most social workers, personal injury attorneys, journalists, dreamers in Hollywood and group therapists are liberals. Liberals invented the designated hitter rule because it wasn't fair to make the pitcher also bat.

Conservatives drink domestic beer. They eat red meat and still provide for their women. Conservatives are big-game hunters, rodeo cowboys, lumberjacks, construction workers, firemen, medical doctors, police officers, corporate executives, athletes, Marines, and generally anyone who works productively. Conservatives who own companies hire other conservatives who want to work for a living.

Liberals produce little or nothing. They like to govern the producers and decide what to do with the production. Liberals believe Europeans are more enlightened than Americans. That is why most of the liberals remained in Europe when conservatives were coming to America . They crept in after the Wild West was tamed and created a business of trying to get more for nothing.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 11:48 AM

I sometimes think people try too hard to be offended ...

You know, msn actually had an article about which region has the worst drivers, and it cracked me up because the Pacific Northwest (where I am from) was ranked as having the best drivers, and the mid-Atlantic (where I live now) was ranked as having the worst - and I can't help but agree :)

Posted by: TakomaMom | February 1, 2007 11:49 AM

I don't know londonmom, perhaps you should be less defensive, or is it less narcissistic? Or perhaps you should just be more logical and less inclined to emotional reactions for which there is no factual basis.

Not everything said about one thing, is a statement against another. That's basic logic for you.

If I said, "I thought it a real fulfillment of pleasure that I had painted my living room Robin's Egg Blue." Would that mean I thought your living room a disaster because it is Peach? No. Not logically.

And intention goes for a lot. I said in my follow up post that I did not intend it as a swipe against anyone else, and in fact my first post makes reference to my PERSONAL values, not philosophical statements of universal social absolutes. So ease up.

I think anyone who is confident in their own choices is free from taking umbrage at any statement made by others, whether personal or universal, whether intentional or unintentional. If you're truly happy with how your life is configured, and know in your heart that it works for you, why the hell care what anyone else has done, or how they see things? Why see it as a judgment against you? Unless perhaps the issue is that you're not so sure...and then who's issue is that? Not mine.

Forgive me, I want to be sensitive to everyone, but I have no intention of being your whipping post simply because you're reading more into my personal story than is there.

Posted by: Dignity for Single Parents | February 1, 2007 11:51 AM

Dignity - can you really not see how your term "farm out" is offensive? What if someone said "I send my kids to daycare because I do not want to be one of those overbearing mothers who want to micromanage every second of their kids' lives?" Or - "I will definitely send my kid to school because I am not one of those religious nutjobs that think schools are satan's tools?"

Posted by: Me | February 1, 2007 11:54 AM

don't know londonmom, perhaps you should be less defensive, or is it less narcissistic? Or perhaps you should just be more logical and less inclined to emotional reactions for which there is no factual basis.

yep, whenever someone doesn't agree with you they are defensive. Good point.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 11:55 AM

wow...why are people still posting on yesterday's blog?

Dignity-we seem to all take turns being whipping posts. It is sort of like a blog game of tag. And I don't wish to be 'it' today so don't tag me!

Posted by: dotted | February 1, 2007 11:55 AM

Texas Dad of 2,
Thanks for an interesting post - your "whole other topic" actually is something I think about a lot when I read/hear about "increasing productivity" - sometimes I think we should run like hell AWAY from it because we're all working ourselves out of jobs!

Posted by: TakomaMom | February 1, 2007 11:56 AM

"The history of beer and BBQ"


You might want to consider selling this to some high school kid for his college application essay. Crank a few more out and you could create a substantial work from home business.

Posted by: lindab | February 1, 2007 11:56 AM

Pink Plate,

In my townhouse complex, we have open parking, yet many people do the lawn chair in the parking space deal. I refuse to do this, and, once I have cleared out a space, I will park willy nilly in any available space. I found it the height of ridiculousness when I came home once to find that the space I had cleared out was "lawn chaired" by someone else. Please, if you didn't clear it out, why are you saving it?

But I did get annoyed by the couple who would never clean out a space, but would simply back their big SUV over the snow--and then park in a space someone else had cleared out. They also never shoveled their sidewalk. And the family next door to me with 4 adults and two upper elementary aged children who didn't shovel. Of course my children love shoveling, and so we'd shovel out for the people who couldn't manage it do to age, disability or indifference (really, I have no idea if the seemingly capable people had some reason they were unable to shovel snow).

But the worst was when someone *liberated* my snow shovel halfway through the season. Please, I don't mind if you borrow it, but please put it back.

Posted by: single mother by choice | February 1, 2007 11:57 AM

If everyone telecommutes so much, then why are you all still on the Beltway? It took me an hour and a half to get from College Park to Rockville yesterday.

Posted by: Mona | February 1, 2007 11:58 AM

Dignity - I said that I thought your comment about farming out children was offensive to working parents. Not that YOU were an offensive person. You rebut with personal insults.

So how have YOU become MY whipping post. Seems the other way around...


Posted by: londonmom | February 1, 2007 11:59 AM

"Conservatives drink domestic beer. They eat red meat and still provide for their women."

1. If conservatives still provide for their women, does that mean that conservative women generally are lesbians (not that there's anything wrong with that, as Seinfeld would say)?

2. Who is drinking all the world's red wine?

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 12:01 PM

Who is drinking all the world's red wine?

Posted by: | February 1, 2007 12:01 PM

*Raises hand*

Posted by: Missicat | February 1, 2007 12:02 PM

Dignity - I am a WOHM and took absolutely no offense to the "farming out" comment. some people need to grow thicker skins.

And as far as children being in school, yes they are not in the home for many hours of the day, but they are still in the home more than the children of full-time working parents.

Posted by: xyz | February 1, 2007 12:12 PM

"really, I have no idea if the seemingly capable people had some reason they were unable to shovel snow"

Yes, they were able to shovel, but they knew that saps like you would shovel for them, so why bother?

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 12:14 PM

"Me," I suppose your point has some validity, but I think the examples you cited are far more emotionally loaded. I didn't say I didn't want to "farm out like some negligent mothers do," or "farm out like unloving parents do," and I was AT PAINS to say that these were personal choices.

Perhaps "farm out," is more loaded than say, "drop off daily, M-F, 8-6," but its hard to say whether I wouldn't have still caught the same flak.

If you want me to acknowledge that it is possible to offend by our choice of words, and that because of that we should be more thoughtful in how we phrase things, then I will cede the point.

In return I ask that you acknowledge that some people will be personally offended no matter what is said, and that they have some issues to work out so that they can remain in discussion neutrally without looking to pick a fight over every last word.

Posted by: Dignity for Single Parents | February 1, 2007 12:15 PM

PinkPlate - If you buy a subaru you don't need to clear out parking spaces.

Posted by: VTer | February 1, 2007 12:15 PM

To single mother by choice,
I don't know where you like but in Montgomery County there are laws concerning how much time after a snowfall you have to clear your sidewalk.

Posted by: KLB SS MD | February 1, 2007 12:18 PM

In return I ask that you acknowledge that some people will be personally offended no matter what is said, and that they have some issues to work out so that they can remain in discussion neutrally without looking to pick a fight over every last word.

Everything you say is inflammatory.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 12:43 PM

Londonmom, sorry it seems I've been so personally insulting to you. But when a person takes offense at things they are entering the ring of sussing out why the offense is there. Its not always all about the other guy.

And for the person who asked, I am a mom.

And, like those who work outside the home, I am a working mom, and was when I was telecommuting, and am still, and would be were I solely a homemaker.

We're all working parents, and we all make choices, and the choices are personal. It is only when we judge others and dictate how their life should be based on how we've chosen to order ours that I think the real potential for offensiveness comes about. Short of that the benefit of the doubt goes a long way, as does a confidence in one's own choices that no one else's judgement can shatter.

Posted by: Dignity for Single Parents | February 1, 2007 12:43 PM

"Everything you say is inflammatory."

No, it's not. The post was balanced and showed a clear sense of boundaries. Neither would be appreciated by someone who took offense easily.

Posted by: impartial lurker | February 1, 2007 12:45 PM

xyz says,
"And as far as children being in school, yes they are not in the home for many hours of the day, but they are still in the home more than the children of full-time working parents."

This is an interesting assumption, xyz, and says more about how your household operates than the households of working parents, generally. It's particularly interesting because you've aired it on a blog about telecommuting. Many full-time WOH parents employ some combination of shift-altering (one parent goes in at 6 and comes home at 3, the other goes in at 9 and comes home at 6), telecommuting, working 4 days on, 3 days off, and other strategies for maximizing the presence of one or both parents in the home when the kids are home. In addition, many SAH moms, at least in my experience which I'm willing to admit may not be reflective of the average, put their kids to bed at 7 - 8 to maximize couple time. We maximize family time in our house and our kids don't go to bed until 9 - 10, depending on age.

I have a plenty thick skin, and a big enough keyboard to call folks who use loaded jargon like "farming out" and "outsourcing childcare" (another favorite of the few, the proud, the santimonious SAH parent) when it's employed. It's a free country.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 12:45 PM

"In return I ask that you acknowledge that some people will be personally offended no matter what is said"

Right. Why are some people geeting so uppity about a few words?

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 12:45 PM

Posted by: | February 1, 2007 12:43 PM, I think you find everything I say inflammatory because you refuse to allow for my statements to have been merely personal, rather than universal, and benign rather than accusatory. If you can't give that inch, so be it. But enough about me, and this increasingly tedious sub-digression, let's talk about telecommuting v. face time instead.

Posted by: Dignity for Single Parents | February 1, 2007 12:46 PM

Or we could talk about snow and the trickle down effect on grocery stores, hardware stores, video stores and liquor stores.

Posted by: KLB SS MD | February 1, 2007 12:49 PM

this repetitive topic didn't take very long to disintegrate, did it?

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 12:50 PM

"PinkPlate - If you buy a subaru you don't need to clear out parking spaces"

You are right but when we were younger and lived in a Condo environment we did not have the Subaru....I don't miss communal parking!

XYZ: And as far as children being in school, yes they are not in the home for many hours of the day, but they are still in the home more than the children of full-time working parents."

I work 40 hours a week and there is a parent at our house in the mornings before school and another (me) at home in time to meet the 3-ish bus. Also, I am able to work at home on the short Fairfax County Monday so...your observation is not accurate for me or I surmise for many other creative working parents. & even for those parents who work 9 to 5 who is to say the time they spend with their children is not of greater quality then the time spent by an at-home parent. Of course, working parents can also be just as abismal as some stay-at-homes....so lets give up the silly stereotypes :)

Posted by: Pink Plate | February 1, 2007 12:52 PM

Grammer Police, I think I may have spelled abismal (abysmal?) wrong...I'm rushing off to check my OED. Sorry.

Posted by: Pink Plate | February 1, 2007 12:58 PM

catlady, An uncleared back window? Now that's one car I don't want to drive behind.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 12:58 PM

I planted the seed, up sprouted 4 kids, and now I'm "farming" them as best I can.

They require sunlight, water, nutrient, dirt, and socialization.

Help is always appreciated.

Posted by: Father of 4 | February 1, 2007 12:59 PM

missicat:

"*Raises hand*"

:~)

Posted by: Texas Dad of 2 | February 1, 2007 12:59 PM

Totally not inflammatory words and phrases. Quit being so sensitive londonmom.

farming out, uppity, some issues to work out, pick a fight, perhaps you should be less defensive, is it less narcissistic

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 12:59 PM

"The people who you can run over and dump your hot problems on are the ones you rely on and promote. It's harder to be that person if you aren't there."

Being there is relative. I'm very available in a crisis, because getting my attention in a crisis means emailing, IMing, or calling me--and my work phone is a cell so it can move with me. Someone in the office might not be there because they went out for a bathroom break or a smoke at the wrong time.

My experience agrees with that of Dotted--some companies have it in the culture because everyone is so far-flung that most meetings and communications are by telephone and email anyway. Of course, you also need the right infrastructure. I work for such a company. There are offices where many people work, but the people in my division work in five different countries and travel frequently or work onsite. So when we're not traveling it doesn't matter at all where we are. The main concern is knowing what time zone somebody's in.

Posted by: Historian | February 1, 2007 1:00 PM

Dignity - I think it is probably a good idea that you telecommute...

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 1:01 PM

The following observation was just posted on the Post's chat tribute to Molly Ivins, by a former editor of hers. It contains a real home-truth that we can all relate to on this chat:

There's a series of rules of communication by a professor Osmo Wiio often used to illustrate the problems of communication. They're kind of like Murphy's Laws. One says that if a message can be understood in different ways, it will be understood in the way that does the most harm. Another is that if communication can fail, it will. A third is that the more communication, the more change that it will fail.

Posted by: catlady | February 1, 2007 1:02 PM

To A dad. Let's see telecommuter don't have the stressful 2+ hour a day commute. Telecommuters can take off and go to the Gym midday. DUH!!!!! Telecommuters are more relaxed and able to handle the job better. Maybe other people without the commute and the benefit of mid day stress relief would also be better performers.
Also telecommuters will not be late because of metro/traffic. Telecommuters do not risk life and property driven in snow. At most companies they are a privileged class and the benies of stress free work make them better,

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 1:03 PM

People please...I said I thought the statement was a cheap shot to working parents and I still do. Don't know how it has digressed so badly to name calling. I have plenty of thick skin, but I will call it like I see it. Sorry some of you are so bothered by that.

Posted by: londonmom | February 1, 2007 1:05 PM

Texas Dad of 2: I meant to say good luck with your soon to be teenager. I went through a block of my teenage years where I thought mom "didn't get it" and I cherished the relationship I had with my dad.

Father of 4: Smilely face for the farming analogy.

Posted by: Product of a Working Mother | February 1, 2007 1:06 PM

I can't even begin to list the number of times people who telecommute have asked me to do something for them because they're at home and can't do it - send a fax, find a report, make a filing, etc., etc.

After being an idiot and letting myself be used by these people to the detriment of my own work and schedule -- why should I stay late so that somebody who never left their house can be accommodated -- I finally just tell them that if they can't do ALL their work from home, then they should not be telecommuting. Let them complain to their bosses if they dare.

Posted by: Disgruntled Federal Worker | February 1, 2007 1:07 PM

Very good (and appropriate) quote, catlady.

Posted by: Missicat | February 1, 2007 1:07 PM

I've come to the conclusion that my
boss just wants total control. We are writers in our department and there are many days -- not all, but many -- when I would appreciate the "alone time" to get the writing done. However, he insists that everyone be here every day. We do have offices, but if you try to close your door and tell the powers (including the message takers) to leave you alone for 4 hours so you can get some work done, they freak.
I do get more done at home on the weekend with my laptop and so often "DONATE" time to The Man in order to get ahead on what's due. The face time at work and open doors and meetings and emergency meetings really eat up time I could use to get work done.
Oh, and it's perfectly OK for him to stay at home from time to time and work. I guess being a boss still has plenty o' privileges.

Posted by: SF Mom | February 1, 2007 1:10 PM

Dignity for Single Parents: Thanks for the clarification; it helped me understand what you meant. Just one thing to think of is that some words and phrases are loaded. For example, if I said "I decided I didn't want to be a SAHM because I didn't want to mooch off my husband," I suspect a number of SAHMs would (rightly) be offended because it implies that I think they are mooches -- even if what I meant was that I personally wasn't comfortable being economically dependent on him but didn't mean to pass judgment on people who view it as a productive, mutually supportive relationship. "Farming out" the kids has the same connotations for a lot of WOHMs. These are buzzwords that ARE frequently used by hardliners on both sides to beat up the other side -- so using them can provoke an instant negative reaction, even where you're not meaning it that way.

Dead horse thoroughly beaten. Now, on telecommuting, I agree with those who don't see any contradiction in the study. Telecommuting CAN be very productive, if you have the right job and personality. So you can be a really good, effective employee, or even manager, if the work allows for it -- I was for several years.

But the reality is, many promotions are based on a lot more than who does the best job in their current position -- they include considerations like who has the skills for the next level up, how do the requirements of the new job mesh with telecommuting, and of course all sorts of office politics. My husband is now working in a giant company, and I'm amazed what a big deal it is to get face time with the higher-ups -- and the fact is, they more they know who you are, the more you have a chance to impress them, and the more likely you are to get promoted. So, yeah, you can do a great job telecommuting, and still hurt your chance for promotion -- both because of legitimate considerations (like if the distance makes it hard to demonstrate the skills for the next level) or less legimitate ones (like people just presume if you telecommute, you're less devoted to your career).

Posted by: Laura | February 1, 2007 1:12 PM

I no longer telecommute, and haven't since last year, as my introductory post plainly indicated. I think that error in assessment gets to reading accuracy, interpretation and perception---this strange minefield we've landed in.

I stopped telecommuting in 2006, after 6 successful years. I now own a shop, and am on-site every day. Its wonderful to interface face-to-face with my clients each day.

Posted by: Dignity for Single Parents | February 1, 2007 1:14 PM

Thanks, Missicat. Only wish I'd said those things myself.

Posted by: catlady | February 1, 2007 1:16 PM

Let's see telecommuter don't have the stressful 2+ hour a day commute

I do not telecommute and I don't have a stressful 2+ hour a day commute. On a bad day, it's 25 minutes each way, 15 minutes on a good day.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 1:17 PM

anon at 1:03 said, "Telecommuters can take off and go to the Gym midday."

that's the sort of statement about telecommuting that gives a manager that good all over feeling.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 1:21 PM

I've come to the conclusion that my
boss just wants total control. We are writers in our department and there are many days -- not all, but many -- when I would appreciate the "alone time" to get the writing done. However, he insists that everyone be here every day. We do have offices, but if you try to close your door and tell the powers (including the message takers) to leave you alone for 4 hours so you can get some work done, they freak.
I do get more done at home on the weekend with my laptop and so often "DONATE" time to The Man in order to get ahead on what's due. The face time at work and open doors and meetings and emergency meetings really eat up time I could use to get work done.
Oh, and it's perfectly OK for him to stay at home from time to time and work. I guess being a boss still has plenty o' privileges.

Posted by: SF Mom | February 1, 2007 1:21 PM

Let's see telecommuter don't have the stressful 2+ hour a day commute

I do not telecommute and I don't have a stressful 2+ hour a day commute. On a bad day, it's 25 minutes each way, 15 minutes on a good day.

Posted by: | February 1, 2007 01:17 PM
Don't mean to rub it in, but on a bad day I have a 15 min. commute, on a good day between 5-10 minutes. :-)

Posted by: Missicat | February 1, 2007 1:21 PM

Why don't people complain about work travel as much as reporting to an office. The time involved in travel and disruption to families seems like a much bigger deal to me than the fact of having to report to an office. Plus, when you consider how many people seem miserable flying (see tantrum toddler blog earlier this week), I am surprised that there is not more of a push to teleconference rather than travel.

I don't travel for work ever - maybe the perks are bigger than I realize.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 1:22 PM

But I still "complain" to my boss that I need to telecommute because of my stressful drive...luckily he has a good sense of humor.

Posted by: Missicat | February 1, 2007 1:22 PM

Someone wrote that sooner or later even doctor visits will be done remotely. It is done now. This is from a video web conferencing site:

"Nothing quite takes the place of a doctor's reassuring bedside manner. There was a time when doctors actually went from house to house treating patients in the comfort of their own homes. Unfortunately, house calls are all but extinct, at least in the U.S.

Although technology cannot take the place of a visit to the family doctor, web and video conferencing are emerging as powerful components in telemedicine and telehealth initiatives worldwide. The integration of video conferencing into these programs has been able to help many patients, and has enabled doctors to communicate with specialists in order to make critical diagnoses faster."

Posted by: KLB SS MD | February 1, 2007 1:27 PM

to 1:22, there's a lot less work travel required since 9/11. For the first several weeks after 9/11, no one would travel and companies realized that video-conferencing and virtual meetings accomplished would suffice to accomplish a majority of internal business. Plus, it's expensive to get everyone together unless there's a business need, so the pressures to cut overhead also have cut travel.

Some jobs will always require face-to-face meetings. However, excessive travel is an employee retention issue and watched closely both by HR and management.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 1:30 PM

I wish I had time to get to the gym during the day. I eat lunch on the run, so I don't think that's going to happen. Nor do I have time to run errands or clean house.

Travel is more disruptive than a commute, but for some of us it's not an either-or. My job requires travel, I want to do this job, and that's part of the deal.

Posted by: Historian | February 1, 2007 1:37 PM

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 1:41 PM

While telecommuting is an important option for many who have specific circumstances (children, elderly or ill dependent, great distance, etc.), face time in the office is still important. Part of being a leadership figure (whether executive or lower level management) is people skills: being able to communicate, organize, and cooperate with others on your team. If you were looking to promote someone, and you had two prime candidates who were equally good at their job, equally dedicated, equally dependable, but one of the two you saw every work day, spoke with in person, and generally had a good feel of their in-person personality, while the other you only knew as a voice on the phone or as an email message, which would you choose? Personally, if I was picking between two equal candidates, but one worked in-office and one telecommuted, I think I'd probably pick the in-office candidate because I felt I knew him or her better just by the daily person-to-person interaction we shared.

Posted by: 215 | February 1, 2007 1:43 PM

I now work for a company that is literally global. There are some large offices but many people work at home and are the only company employee in a particular country. Most meetings are on line and telconferenced. I have only seen my boss' boss once but email all the time - you get used to it.

I love the flexibility of working at home some days so that I can do the swim team car pool or dentist appt without stress. I have to be flexible to work with people in different time zones too. This is the future for many of us.

Posted by: Kirsten | February 1, 2007 1:47 PM

Historian has it right. Some people (myself included) have positions where travel is an integral part. I have to attend evetns across the country every year for my job. I knew this going into the job, as I would assume the vast majority of others who have to frequently travel for business. We don't complain as much about business travel because we knew what we were getting into and because our jobs probably wouldn't exist or be the same if you too the traveling out of them.

Posted by: 215 | February 1, 2007 1:48 PM

The more expensive urban areas become, such as DC, the more people are forced to live farther out. Coupled with the advances in technology, more and more people will want to (and will hopefully be able to) telecommute.

I wish I had more flexibility to telecommute, but I'm in one of those industries that definitely values face time.

Question. Do telecommuters feel more insecure about their jobs? I wonder if there is a greater worry among telecommuters that if the job can be done completely off-site, the company will make the business decision to have it done where labor is cheap.

Posted by: londonmom | February 1, 2007 1:51 PM

215 accurately describes the way things used to be and sometimes still are now, wrt promotion of an in-office vs. telecommuting candidate for advancement.

But I wonder if that will eventually prove to be just a "snapshot in time" -- one that will be changing as bosses who came up in the "in office" culture start retiring and being replaced by those for whom telecommuting (at least part time) was as acceptable as being "in office" full-time.

Posted by: catlady | February 1, 2007 1:52 PM

face time is still key; how else are you ging to brag on how hard you work and how important you are to the organization.

Out of sight, out of mind...

Posted by: single mom | February 1, 2007 1:58 PM

As an American employee, I would be wary of telecommuting getting too popular. If I can do my job from home, someone in India or the Philippines can do it from there, and a lot cheaper.

Telecommuting is killing job security for all of us. People need to suck it up and go to work.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 2:02 PM

"I would be wary of telecommuting getting too popular. If I can do my job from home, someone in India or the Philippines can do it from there, and a lot cheaper."

Guess what?

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 2:05 PM

"Telecommuting is killing job security for all of us."

I'm not so sure. Communication without expression and tone is easily misunderstood. Shared culture assist in communication. Telecommuting can result in savings if a company doesn't have to assign office space to an employee.

In our company, the cost of overhead attributed to each person who generates revenue (as opposed to pure support), is $168,000. That's a whole heckuva lot of dollars. Uniquely assigned office space and support services are the most significant components of that number. The question is whether telecommuters use more, or fewer, support services than in-office personnel.

Companies are examining all ways of doing things. Don't kid yourself that your choice to telecommute is going to wake up an otherwise unaware manager to the possibility that your job could be done by someone in Peoria or Quatar as easily as Woodbridge.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 2:08 PM

"If I can do my job from home, someone in India or the Philippines can do it from there, and a lot cheaper."

If your job requires sitting in front of a computer it's vulnerable to offshoring, regardless of where that computer is. You're not going to save your job by driving to work. The protection from offshoring is not a commute, it's unique value and a job that's done better if done locally.

Posted by: Pragmatist | February 1, 2007 2:12 PM

I hate calling customer service for my computer (Dell) and getting people from who-knows-where. First, you explain the problem. Who knows if they understand. Second, they tell you to try things you've already tried, which you can't understand because of their thick accents. Third, they make you run diagnostics for 6 hours even though your tech guy already said the hard drive is shot and needs to be replaced. Fourth, they mail you a new one. Wait five months for the new one to fail, then repeat.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 2:21 PM

As an American employee, I would be wary of telecommuting getting too popular. If I can do my job from home, someone in India or the Philippines can do it from there, and a lot cheaper.

Telecommuting is killing job security for all of us. People need to suck it up and go to work.

No, the politicians and big business are killing your job security.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 2:21 PM

How do telecommuters participate in inter-office politics?

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 2:26 PM

"When is it supposed to start snowing? I need milk, bread and toilet paper! :-)"

>>Uh, oh. We used our last condom last night. What a bummer.

This is hilarious. I always wonder about those reports that say there's a mini-baby boom 9/10 months from a snow storm, power outage, etc; Do people truly have such busy lives that they don't even have to bother with birth control?? I mean, aren't people always using it if they're not trying to get pregant??

Posted by: that's funny | February 1, 2007 2:29 PM

The real problem here isn't telecommuting, but the hours that are expected of all of us to put in each day. Couple that with communting time (and the need to live further out of city areas due to ridiculous cost of living) and we have a major crisis in trying to balance a life- ANY life- outside of work.

I see no reason why most of us have to work 8-6 or longer each day. What happened to 9-5 being just fine for a work day? A 50 hr work week is just too much for those with kids- or for anyone. I currently live in DC and pay out the nose for a place to live to cut out commuting time/costs, but I leave the house each day at 8, drop my child off, and get to work by 8:45. Leave work at 5 (where i don't plan on getting promoted any time soon due to the fact that I can't stay all night), pick up my child, and we are home at 5:45-6. It's a long day and tiring. I would like to move to an affordable place, but can't imagine leaving the house at 7 and not getting home until 7.

I wish we could change our work culture in this country. Pipe dream, i know, but it's getting out of control. Our priorities are so out of whack.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 2:30 PM

I've had some great opportunities at my job by being in the right place at the right time -- that meaning, in the office at the time something important needs to be done. Doing a good jobs on those types of projects leads to more choice projects, and so on. Not sure how that would work at home -- nobody is going to make a phone call for a prime emergency assignment when there are bodies in the office. But I'll bet the people who work at home don't like last-minute work either. Might interfere with a soccer game or something.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 2:31 PM

"Second, they tell you to try things you've already tried, which you can't understand because of their thick accents."

Being told to reboot isn't any more appealing when spoken by someone with local accent.

and, to anon at 2:26, those few telecommuters who haven't read their employers' internet policies and are naive participate in inter-office politics by e-mail. The rest just skip it.

This does raise a valid issue though: it's easy for telecommuters to become out of touch with the status of new hires, retirements, divorces, intra-office affairs, and illnesses and this obliviousness can lead to potentially career-ending moves. I telecommute 4 days per week. We do not have a gossipy atmosphere. Information is transferred in real time or if you're around for the retirement party or the orientation event. I was unaware that a long-term employee was out on extended leave getting cancer treatments and asked in a cheerful voice one day, "Where's Bruce? I haven't seen him for awhile." You could have heard a pin drop. It was uncomfortable for everyone. Wouldn't have happened to someone who's in the office every day.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 2:35 PM

"How do telecommuters participate in inter-office politics?"

That's what the bc line on your email is for!

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 2:36 PM

"I wish we could change our work culture in this country."

Um... I think it's called capitalism. People make money by working. People need money to feed their families. The country needs industry to keep the economy going. If everyone is just phoning it in, it will never work, and is an assinine idea.

Try socialism if you don't like our "work culture."

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 2:38 PM

I see no reason why most of us have to work 8-6 or longer each day. What happened to 9-5 being just fine for a work day? A 50 hr work week is just too much for those with kids- or for anyone. I currently live in DC and pay out the nose for a place to live to cut out commuting time/costs, but I leave the house each day at 8, drop my child off, and get to work by 8:45. Leave work at 5 (where i don't plan on getting promoted any time soon due to the fact that I can't stay all night), pick up my child, and we are home at 5:45-6. It's a long day and tiring. I would like to move to an affordable place, but can't imagine leaving the house at 7 and not getting home until 7.

I wish we could change our work culture in this country. Pipe dream, i know, but it's getting out of control. Our priorities are so out of whack.

Posted by: | February 1, 2007 02:30 PM

I feel the same way and am in the same situation as you. We also live in the city (DC) and pay a lot to do so that we have more time each day with our daughter. I know i'm passing up on a lot of career opportunities because I just can't and won't work away my daughter's childhood. There will be plenty of time to be a workaholic when she is grown.
I would LOVE to telecommute a few days/week, but I already get flack for leaving at 5- I can't imagine what my boss would say if I proposed that idea. He's a needy control freak boss who just would never go for it.
Times such as these i want to pack up and move to a small town, work in a bookstore, and live modestly and quietly. If only we didn't have those 529s and 401Ks to fund!

Posted by: SAHMbacktowork | February 1, 2007 2:39 PM

OK, folks. The word is "sanctimonious" -- 2 N's.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 2:40 PM

Being told to reboot isn't any more appealing when spoken by someone with local accent

no, but at least a local person would have a job.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 2:40 PM

For 2:30, who typed "It's a long day and tiring. I would like to move to an affordable place, but can't imagine leaving the house at 7 and not getting home until 7":

I don't blame you. We lived in the DC area for years, fortunately before the commutes were quite as bad as they are now (but bad enough, on a bad day), so I do sympathize with what you're talking about. One alternative, depending on one's field, of course: by being willing to take salary cuts we were able to move to flyover country, where we have more house for a fraction of the money (and thus actually increased the buying power of our remaining income!), a 15-25 minute commute, and thus less stress in these aspects of our lives. I realize that not everyone's in a position to do this, and others might not like it here, but still, it's a viable option for some folks.

Posted by: catlady | February 1, 2007 2:48 PM

Being told to reboot isn't any more appealing when spoken by someone with local accent

And at least you can understand what it is they are asking you to do. It may be "reboot," but who can tell? Then they get offended when you ask for someone else.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 2:48 PM

anon at 2:31 said,

"But I'll bet the people who work at home don't like last-minute work either. Might interfere with a soccer game or something."

Did you intend the soccer-parent snark or was it inadvertent?

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 2:49 PM

One alternative, depending on one's field, of course: by being willing to take salary cuts we were able to....

Many people make just as much or more in other parts of the country.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 2:50 PM

'no, but at least a local person would have a job'

This leads to an interesting thought. Suppose 80 per cent of the workforce did telecommute. People have mentioned needing less office space, cheaper office rental, etc, as positive reasons for telecommuting. But what happens to others who may feel a ripple effect? Think of all the people whose jobs might be affected by a substantial telecommute shift. for example, Starbucks, the bagel shops, mass transit workers, the janitorial services, maintenance people such as electicians, plumbers, carpenters, and the guys who change the florescent lights, the lunchtime delis and restaurants, florists, bookstores, drycleaning shops and any of the "local" businesses that exist and/or thrive based on the workers who go into the office.

Does anyone remember the effect on local businesses when the federal government furloughed for several weeks in the 90's?

Another concern would be workers' compensation. Fall on the job and break your leg and the employer is responsible. What if you fall while working at home and break your leg? is the employer responsible or are you, as the homeowner, the responsible party?

Many unanswered questions in my mind.

Posted by: Anon today | February 1, 2007 2:53 PM

IM works beautifully for office politics, particularly when done off the office network. It has the added advantage of both allowing you time to think about what you're going to say and keeping a log of what was said. Barring that, there are telephones.

Trivial stuff doesn't likely make it that far; important stuff seems to.

Posted by: Soccer-watching telecommuter | February 1, 2007 2:53 PM

Moving to flyover country without taking a salary cut -- even better! Thanks!

Posted by: catlady | February 1, 2007 2:55 PM

Excuse my ignorance, but what is flyover country?

Posted by: what? | February 1, 2007 2:55 PM

""I wish we could change our work culture in this country."

Um... I think it's called capitalism. People make money by working. People need money to feed their families. The country needs industry to keep the economy going. If everyone is just phoning it in, it will never work, and is an assinine idea.

Try socialism if you don't like our "work culture." "


That's funny. I think it's called indentured servitude, having to work 12 hrs/day for no more money than if one worked 8. I actually couldn't care less if I telecommute or not- I just don't want to work 60 hrs/week.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 2:57 PM

I would go insane if I had to stay at home all day. I'd probably also get fat, stop wearing makeup, and wear a sweatshirt everyday. Then my husband would leave me for a younger woman, leaving the kids with a broken home, and two full-time working parents.

Sounds counterproductive to me.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 2:57 PM

Flyover country = anything not on the East or West Coast. Kind of like the New Yorker mag cartoon with a New Yorker's view of the world. (ie the world drops off on the other side of Manhattan). I always thought it was a little snotty myself.

Posted by: Product of a Working Mother | February 1, 2007 3:00 PM

You mean life exists outside of NY/DC??? Wow- that's news to me...

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 3:01 PM

"A full time job usually has benefits (such as health insurance) and are often considered careers. They usually pay more than part time jobs, and carry more hours per week. The standard work week in the US is 40 hours. In France it is a government mandated 30 hours per week."

Posted by: wikipedia | February 1, 2007 3:02 PM

If only I spoke French...Maybe it's time to get those tapes and learn.

Can't those with Irish heritage become a citizen pretty easily? pubs and rolling green hills, here i come

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 3:05 PM

"That's funny. I think it's called indentured servitude, having to work 12 hrs/day for no more money than if one worked 8."


Actually, that's the beauty of SALARY. Might want to consider an hourly job if it bugs you so much. Or a contract job.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 3:05 PM

Flyover country -- "I always thought it was a little snotty myself."

Me, too.

But it was a quick, convenient way to refer to areas of the country away from some of the most expensive housing and longest commutes.

Posted by: catlady | February 1, 2007 3:05 PM

wow learn something new everyday. I had no idea that I lived in fly over country. Awesome! My husband makes a little more than he did in DC and I make the same because I didn't leave my company.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 3:10 PM

hourly = job
salary = career

Wikipedia says a career is full time 40 hours. Therefore, if your career is salaried, it should still be 40 hours.

I think many people who complain about excessive work hours actually see themselves as being important because of those excessive hours. It actually comes off more as boasting than complaining.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 3:10 PM

Catlady - no argument there. It's usage in general, particularly in NE Corridor, speaks to the myopia that exists from Boston down to DC about life. I always thought it was telling that my friend in Portland thought Judith Miller's (correct author?) Madness of Motherhood was "an East Coast thing." My friend is able to work a 40-45 hour week and still afford a single family home about 20 minutes from her job.

Posted by: Product of a Working Mother | February 1, 2007 3:10 PM

that was me!

Posted by: scarry | February 1, 2007 3:10 PM

Does life exists inside NY/DC?

Posted by: Fred | February 1, 2007 3:15 PM

I am a young professional, and I don't know anybody out of all of my friends who works less than 50 hours per week. Some get overtime as part of their employment contracts, and some just have to work until all their work is done, and are paid flat salary. Some have a salary/bonus combo based on productivity.

But anybody who cuts out after 5 every day (it's OK once in a while) is a serious slacker.

Say you are in the office 8 hours. Do you never go to the bathroom, get a cup of coffee, or eat lunch? Does your spouse or a kid never call and engage you in non-work-related conversation? Do you never visit this blog during work hours? Nobody here can deny that! I'd bet a 9-5er only gets about 3 1/2 hours of real work done in an 8-hour day.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 3:16 PM

Does life exists inside NY/DC?

Life- no- we're all too busy working and commuting home.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 3:24 PM

Of course, France also has a 9% national unemployment rate, incomes between ~30K-80K are taxed at 30%, and incomes above ~80K are taxed at 40.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 3:25 PM

"That's funny. I think it's called indentured servitude, having to work 12 hrs/day for no more money than if one worked 8. I actually couldn't care less if I telecommute or not- I just don't want to work 60 hrs/week."

So don't. Plenty of jobs out there where 40 hrs a week is the norm, with more being the very rare occasion.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 3:25 PM

A buddy of mine (U.S. citizen) works in France in the financial industry, and he works 60+ hours a week with no extra pay. Apparently Americans over there on work visas get the same cushy treatment.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 3:27 PM

I am a young professional, and I don't know anybody out of all of my friends who works less than 50 hours per week. Some get overtime as part of their employment contracts, and some just have to work until all their work is done, and are paid flat salary. Some have a salary/bonus combo based on productivity.

But anybody who cuts out after 5 every day (it's OK once in a while) is a serious slacker.

Say you are in the office 8 hours. Do you never go to the bathroom, get a cup of coffee, or eat lunch? Does your spouse or a kid never call and engage you in non-work-related conversation? Do you never visit this blog during work hours? Nobody here can deny that! I'd bet a 9-5er only gets about 3 1/2 hours of real work done in an 8-hour day.

Posted by: | February 1, 2007 03:16 PM

Then you're all suckers!! This is why bosses hire young people for things- you get paid less and work more (and you get the crappy tasks too)!Older people are hip to these things and won't take it lying down.

I actually know a mom of a young child in our DC office (she turned me on to this blog) and she works 9-5. She is the BEST employee we have had in that position, regardless of a few sick days with her kid. She doesn't take lunches- ever. She eats at her desk. She works for the entire 8 hours and it shows.

Maybe you young people should spend less time chatting, lunching, and primping in the bathroom.

And, no, I don't think all young people do these things, but come on, a person can work 8 hours and do their job well.

in fact, if you CAN'T do your job in a 7 or 8 hour work day- that's a slacker in my book. Who lounges around the office all day? Ridiculous assumption.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 3:30 PM

"I think many people who complain about excessive work hours actually see themselves as being important because of those excessive hours. It actually comes off more as boasting than complaining."

bwaHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!

I am not important and my exhaustion and work stress have never made me feel, think, or strike anyone else as important. It's called the only way to keep my job.

You have a strange perspective, poster.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 3:30 PM

to anon at 3:27 pm -- the financial services industry is exempt from the work week laws in France or so I was told by my French clients.

scarry: I knew that was you!

Posted by: Product of a Working Mother | February 1, 2007 3:34 PM

"This is why bosses hire young people for things- you get paid less and work more (and you get the crappy tasks too)!"

In my business even the old farts work that much, although they are too slow to get much done and complain about having to use computers all the time. They also get mad at the young 'uns for making them look bad, which we invariable do!

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 3:35 PM

"in fact, if you CAN'T do your job in a 7 or 8 hour work day- that's a slacker in my book."

Then your book doesn't include my job. My job is not intended to be completed in an 8 hour work day. It's intended to be completed in 60 - 70 hours per week. In other words, if I'm really efficient, I'll handle it in 60. If I spend ten minutes here and there on this blog, it expands to 72 and that's my problem.

I don't know anyone salaried in private industry whose workplace is structured such that a solid 40 hours will accomplish all that must be accomplished in order to keep the trains running. I'm free to leave any time, but you're kidding yourself if you consider that only time-wasters are working excessive hours.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 3:35 PM

ha, sometimes I forget to sign my posts.

Posted by: scarry | February 1, 2007 3:36 PM

Of course, France also has a 9% national unemployment rate, incomes between ~30K-80K are taxed at 30%, and incomes above ~80K are taxed at 40.

What do you think our tax rates are?? By the time local and state taxes are taken out, we're at pretty much the same rate.
The problem is how we divvy our money. Instead of education and healthcare for kids, it's Iraq and lower taxes for large corporations.
Example, my salary is 50K. By the time i pay for health insurance for my family, taxes are taken, a nominal 3% to the 401K etc...I make 2600/month. that's 38% tax rate. same difference. talk about a middle class squeeze

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 3:40 PM

Move to France if it is so wonderful there!

Posted by: the original anon | February 1, 2007 3:42 PM

For 2:30 and catlady,

I used to commute from Delaware to Baltimore -- I would drive to Perryville, MD to take the train to Baltimore. It was horrible. Then I found out that there are people who drive from New Jersey to Perryville to take the train to commute to DC! I only hope that where they live it is a LOT more affordable.

Posted by: Diane, Baltimore | February 1, 2007 3:42 PM

"Then your book doesn't include my job. My job is not intended to be completed in an 8 hour work day. It's intended to be completed in 60 - 70 hours per week. In other words, if I'm really efficient, I'll handle it in 60. If I spend ten minutes here and there on this blog, it expands to 72 and that's my problem."

I don't know if it is feasible, but on the surface this sounds like an ideal situation to turn into 2 parttime positions of 30-35 hours per week. It seems that many people are interested in a reduced work schedule, and those who want a full time schedule really don't want 60-70 hour weeks.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 3:44 PM

A lot of businesses make money by billing clients. Thus, the longer people work, the more money the business makes. The longer people work, the more clients the business can take on. Thus, there is never a "certain amount of work" that needs to get done. It is always "as much as possible," until there is enough to hire another person on.

With fair and reasonable billing practices, it would be hard to turn a profit with people only billing 7-8 hours per day and trying to "phone it in."

Incidentally "phoning it in" is an expression meaning doing a half-a**ed job.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 3:45 PM

"The problem is how we divvy our money."

No kidding -- let's blow billions of dollars to aggressively occupy a country full of people who don't even want us there, start a civil war, and then hang around while our soldiers are still in danger!

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 3:47 PM

To Diane: Should we infer that the operative phrase is "used to"?

I saw on TV that there are people who commute from the Scranton, PA., area to NYC every day, at least in part because housing's cheaper in the Scranton area. And I don't think there even commuter trains for them till they reach the Newark area.

Posted by: catlady | February 1, 2007 3:50 PM

No kidding -- let's blow billions of dollars to aggressively occupy a country full of people who don't even want us there, start a civil war, and then hang around while our soldiers are still in danger!

Now, remember what our new speaker of the house said. If you do not have a person related to you who is or is subject to go to Iraq, you can't make policy or comment on the war.

Posted by: the original anon | February 1, 2007 3:51 PM

"Then you're all suckers!! This is why bosses hire young people for things- you get paid less and work more (and you get the crappy tasks too)!Older people are hip to these things and won't take it lying down."

And you're a bitter old geezer who starts a revolt when the office switches to single-ply toilet paper, while us young people are doing your job.

You don't have to take it lying down, but be careful not to break a hip!

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 3:52 PM

I worked for a big consulting firm and telecommuted at least several hours a week, typically 8-10. I had to work extra hard for face time opportunities while at work to make up for it, and battled perceptions about telecommuting the entire time.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 3:53 PM

"Now, remember what our new speaker of the house said. If you do not have a person related to you who is or is subject to go to Iraq, you can't make policy or comment on the war."

That pretty much includes everyone at this point...

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 3:58 PM

"Now, remember what our new speaker of the house said. If you do not have a person related to you who is or is subject to go to Iraq, you can't make policy or comment on the war."

That pretty much includes everyone at this point...


Sorry, not true. My husband is in the air force and is home safe (thankfully) after serving in iraq.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 4:02 PM

Pelosi didn't say that, Boxer said it.

And, frankly, that isn't even what Boxer said, only what Faux News distorted it into. Keep listening to Rush Limbaugh though. He's got your best interests at heart

/snark

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 4:04 PM

I don't know if it is feasible, but on the surface this sounds like an ideal situation to turn into 2 parttime positions of 30-35 hours per week. It seems that many people are interested in a reduced work schedule, and those who want a full time schedule really don't want 60-70 hour weeks.

Posted by: | February 1, 2007 03:44 PM

There's no way to say this without sounding snarky, and I apologize in advance to those for whom it is not applicable: Everyone wants a reduced work schedule but at a full-time pay rate.

On the surface, maybe you're right, but there are two problems with the concept of job-sharing, at least in my business. First, job-sharing is inefficient. Clients don't want to have to teach two people the ins and outs of their business and internal issues when they can train one. Institutional knowledge isn't developed by 30-hr a weekers at the rate clients and customers expect it to be developed. What's best for the client? One person who "gets it" and is available when and as needed.

Second, we're back to the overhead issue. It costs a company or firm more, in benefits, in office space, in secretarial and other office support, to have two employees than to have one. Until you can show that your employer and your employer's clients benefit from a job-sharing arrangement, it's a no-go.

Posted by: NC lawyer | February 1, 2007 4:07 PM

We all have a right to complain about Iraq or social security or whatever if you pay taxes and vote!

If you don't like what your elected official is doing- then say something! and vote them out next time around.

We live in a democracy.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 4:09 PM

"Second, we're back to the overhead issue"

Not as much of an issue if you work from home :).

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 4:10 PM

I certainly put insane hours into my job in my early and mid- twenties. I am now in my mid- thirties and have a track record of providing value to my company. I have learned alot along the way about office politics and how to do work efficiently, creatively and correctly. This knowledge and experience gives me flexibility (and a higher pay packet).

My view-- I had to put in crazy hours when I was younger and as a result I can leverage my experience for what I now need- flexibility (I have a 3 year old).

Posted by: poster | February 1, 2007 4:20 PM

We live in a Democracy? Vote them out?

Ask all the people in OH who didn't have enough voting machines & FL who had their ballots discarded.

That's the margin between this guy we have in the top spot today and us actually having someone with a brain in charge.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 4:22 PM

"We all have a right to complain about Iraq or social security or whatever if you pay taxes and vote!"

Actually, you have a First Amendment right to do those things that doesn't require voting or paying taxes (although you might have unrelated legal problems if you aren't paying taxes).

On another note, has there been a blog about the effects of the so-called "war" on families? I know a couple of families with a military spouse who have broken up while the spouse was deployed or soon after return. Must be pretty hard on families.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 4:24 PM

Brian, Your columns are getting very repetitive and don't provide enough fodder to sustain an on-topic conversation past 12 noon. Please consider. You are an interesting guy and you could tee up more complex topics.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 4:29 PM

"I certainly put insane hours into my job in my early and mid- twenties. I am now in my mid- thirties and have a track record of providing value to my company. I have learned alot along the way about office politics and how to do work efficiently, creatively and correctly. This knowledge and experience gives me flexibility (and a higher pay packet)."

This was my experience as well. I worked myself silly and learned everything I could when younger and grabbed every opportunity I could. I make more money now than I did when I was working longer hours because of everything I learned when I was working those hours. I still put in a 50-hour week most of the time and I have to travel, but no commute, an interesting job and a good salary makes that quite palatable.

Posted by: Historian | February 1, 2007 4:31 PM

"Incidentally "phoning it in" is an expression meaning "doing a half-a**ed job.""

That is an excellent point demonstrating the whole concept of "telecommuting" is on shaky ground.

Posted by: not being snarky | February 1, 2007 4:32 PM

"My view-- I had to put in crazy hours when I was younger and as a result I can leverage my experience for what I now need- flexibility (I have a 3 year old)."

Until new 20-something comes along and is willing to work insanely long hours and devote all of their time and attention to the company.

We need more reasonable expectations from our employers. Until then, employees should learn to set reasonable boundaries and expectations for their employers. There is more to life than work.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 4:38 PM

"This is why bosses hire young people for things- you get paid less and work more (and you get the crappy tasks too)!Older people are hip to these things and won't take it lying down."

What an idiotic and uninformed thing to say. Young people HAVE to work harder because in my industry there are 10 applicants for every job, and if you don't pull your own weight, any one of them would be happy to take your place. Younger employees are expendable unless they work hard to make a name for themselves.

Second, newer, younger employees haven't had years on the job to develop a reputation as being efficient, hard-working, and valuable. Younger employees don't yet have the pull and "sweat equity" the more established ones have.

Finally, the "crappy task" comment is just off-the-mark. I find younger employees get the more advanced, complex tasks that would be too complicated for older workers to figure out. Sometimes I think they play dumb, but that's unsubstantiated.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 4:41 PM

"On another note, has there been a blog about the effects of the so-called "war" on families? I know a couple of families with a military spouse who have broken up while the spouse was deployed or soon after return. Must be pretty hard on families."

You know, it's funny you mention that because i sent a blog to leslie for consideration to be published on the tuesday guest blog.


My husband is in the Air Force and it's extremely difficult. Trying to run a household with kids while working full time and missing a piece of your family is incredibly hard- and then you get hit with all of the problems that occur when the service member returns. it's supposed ot be a happy time, when in reality it is a very difficult adjustment.

I have more stories (some true, some probably exaggerated 3rd and 4th hand accounts) about the hardships this causes than I could ever tell.
And all the while they're asking what on earth they're there for. Not to make this into a debate about Iraq...some guys don't questions their comander in chief and haev no doubts, but most just don't understand why we're there and what they're risking THEIR lives for. Most just have to pay for it through their tax dollars- but many families pay with their husband's or father
s lives.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 4:41 PM

"Until new 20-something comes along and is willing to work insanely long hours and devote all of their time and attention to the company."

It's called "paying your dues," and until you do, it isn't really appropriate to ask for any accommodation.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 4:47 PM

France's income tax rates/burdens are MUCH higher than the USA: someone that has a gross annual salary of $50K, in France, would pay "employee social contributions" tax of about $10,500 PLUS "regular" income tax of another $7,000 PLUS "contribution for reimbursement of the social debt" surtax of about $250. That is $17,750 in French payroll/income/surtax taxes (single person). Or, about a 36% tax rate, effectively. That's high.

A resident of Virginia, for example, making the same $50K would pay $3,825 in soc security and medicare taxes, PLUS $6,951 in federal taxes PLUS $2,393 in state income taxes. Or, $13,169 total USA taxes (and this assumes no pre-tax contributions to a retirement plan, which would reduce his taxes) - which is an effective tax rate of 26%. And, a resident of one of the five states with no income tax (Texas, New Hamp, Florida, Alaska and Wyoming) would pay even less in tax on his pay - in my example, $2,393 less than a Virginia resident. And nearly $7K less than a French employee.

I don't know how the "Feb 1, 3:40 p.m." poster could EVER argue that France has a lower tax regimen that the USA. And that 35 hour (not 30) work-week limit? It did not create the additional jobs that the French socialists believed that the 35 hour week rule would, and most employers just ignore it, and the French authorities have started to not enforce the rule, and in fact there is political discussion to end the rule, since it did not do what it was hoped that it would do (create additional jobs).

I telecommute one day a week, although not today, and am quite thankful for the opportunity to do so. I do wish more employers allowed more telecommuting by their employees, but think that eventually telecommuting will be much more common in the world, let alone the USA.

But there's no way that France is less "taxing" to its citizens than the States are to their citizens.

Posted by: Manassas stepdad | February 1, 2007 4:57 PM

Bruce,

As someone who has run his own business from home for the past six years now (which of course is a form of telecommuting), here is my perspective on why telecommuting can sidetrack a rise up the career ladder:

1) office politics -- promotion decisions are political decisions. So to the extent that an organization (still) operates in a face-to-face mode, promotion decisions will be made on the basis of f2f politics rather than the kind you can do online.

2) Social networking skills are (meet-and-greet with superiors, maintaining relationships with peers, etc.) also important. This is related to but distinct from political skills; many people are great networkers but don't get promoted as fast because their office political skills are not so great.

3) Lack of understanding -- as many posts here illustrate, many employees do not really understand telecommuting. Many people with the power to promote don't understand it either. Same principle as promoting executives -- if you're an exec with a finance background, are you more likely to promote an IT or HR person, or someone more like you?

4) Being available to do jobs on an immediate basis applies in certain types of jobs (IT and Finance were mentioned here).

The point made by several people is the most important: getting promoted is not about doing the best job; it's about being the best political animal. That may sound cynical, and it's not always or 100% true, but political savvy is usually paramount. Anyone who doubts that ask yourself if you truly believe that our should look around at our current leaders in business, politics, etc. were the best workers...

Posted by: been there | February 1, 2007 5:04 PM

Bruce,

As someone who has run his own business from home for the past six years now (which of course is a form of telecommuting), here is my perspective on why telecommuting can sidetrack a rise up the career ladder:

1) office politics -- promotion decisions are political decisions. So to the extent that an organization (still) operates in a face-to-face mode, promotion decisions will be made on the basis of f2f politics rather than the kind you can do online.

2) Social networking skills (meet-and-greet with superiors, maintaining relationships with peers, etc.) are also important. This is related to but distinct from political skills; many people are great networkers but don't get promoted as fast because their office political skills are not so great.

3) Lack of understanding -- as many posts here illustrate, many employees do not really understand telecommuting. Many people with the power to promote don't understand it either. Same principle as promoting executives based on their area of expertise -- if you're an exec with a finance background, are you more likely to promote an IT or HR person, or someone more like you?

4) Being available to do jobs on an immediate basis applies in certain types of jobs (IT and Finance were mentioned here).

The point made by several people is the most important: getting promoted is not about doing the best job; it's about being the best political animal. That may sound cynical, and it's not always or 100% true, but political savvy is usually paramount. Anyone who doubts that should ask yourself if you truly believe that our current leaders in business, politics, etc. were the best workers...

Posted by: been there | February 1, 2007 5:07 PM

What it comes down to is that you'll do better working remotely in an office where that's not unusual. In that case, the boss will probably also work remotely some of the time, and you and your co-workers will be used to exchanging information via email.

If the workplace is truly set up for remote work, then this really helps business travelers, because when they're traveling they won't miss anything.

In an office where telecommuting is the exception rather than the norm, then it could be a real liability, but in an office where everyone does it--and I work in one--then it's fine. I used to work in an office where my telecommuting made me the exception rather than the rule, and I finally left (commuting was not an option) because the lines of communication were not there so I could not do my job well. These days, I use my occasional time around my co-workers to reconnect but don't miss the in-person contact on a daily basis. It hasn't hurt my advancement in the company.

Posted by: Thank heaven for Skype | February 1, 2007 5:26 PM

I actually enjoy being around people and would feel very isolated working from home.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 5:28 PM

I stand corrected, it was Sen. Boxer to the Sec'y of State Rice and here is her quote: "Who pays the price? I'm not going to pay a personal price. My kids are too old and my grandchild is too young. You're not going to pay a particular price, as I understand it, with an immediate family. So who pays the price? The American military and their families. And I just want to bring us back to that fact."

The clear implication is that the Sec'y of State is unfit to make policy in this case as she has no children. The senator also effectively excludes herself. And by further extension, the only people qualified to make policy on this are people who have a family member who is, has been or could be subject to duty in the war theater.

I have an immediate family member that is subject to be called to duty in Iraq. BTW, I do not listen to Rush, I think that he is a bombastic idiot.

Posted by: the original anon | February 1, 2007 7:21 PM

anyone out there?

Posted by: Fred | February 1, 2007 7:50 PM

Fred - it is lonely here today.

Posted by: KLB SS MD | February 1, 2007 8:12 PM

I guess eveyone is snowed in!

Posted by: Fred | February 1, 2007 8:31 PM

nah...snow is now rain here.

Posted by: dotted | February 1, 2007 8:37 PM

I see that the Carolinas are snowed in. When AF daughter arrived in NJ this am, it was snowing.

Posted by: Fred | February 1, 2007 8:40 PM

well, maybe someone from NO would think we here in NC are snowed in...he he he. All the schools were closed and the snow is now g o n e. rain rain go away.

Posted by: dotted | February 1, 2007 8:57 PM

"Winter Storm Strikes Carolinas" headline fromthe WashPo. What can I say? Altho, I have seen too many winters when I lived in Chicago and (believe it or not) Kentucky!

Posted by: Fred | February 1, 2007 9:14 PM

Original Anon, nowhere in that quote does it say that Rice is unfit to make policy because she doesn't have a personal stake.

What I think it DOES imply is that she is not going to personally feel the pain of any mistake she makes in the deployment of troops. It implies that she can afford to be callous and make crappy decisions because she won't be crying her eyes out because her son is KIA.

I think it can be interpreted as Boxer imploring her to consider the troops as human beings, not some frigging chess pieces or political widgets.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2007 10:42 PM

"What I think it DOES imply is that she is not going to personally feel the pain of any mistake she makes in the deployment of troops. It implies that she can afford to be callous and make crappy decisions because she won't be crying her eyes out because her son is KIA.

I think it can be interpreted as Boxer imploring her to consider the troops as human beings, not some frigging chess pieces or political widgets."

OK, Let's go with your interpretation. You are saying that Rice has not compassion or empathy for human life. I find it hard to believe that most people have no compassion or sympathy or empathy in their psyche. Ms. Rice's best friend was killed by a terrorist. She has recently spoken on what effect this has on her to this day. I believe she understands sudden death.

As for Sen. Boxer, she has the power, any day, for the last several years, to introduce legislation in the senate to end the war. She could draft a bill to cap the number of troops in theater, require a rapid or measured movement of troops away from Iraq or just defund the war tomorrow. If she is totally sure that this would be the correct action, she should do so and not just support some mealy mouth non-binding resolution.

Posted by: The Original Anon | February 3, 2007 5:33 PM

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