The Times West Virginian

Community News Network

December 31, 2012

How telecommuting threatens the work/life balance

The early case for telecommuting — made most prominently by Alvin Toffler in his best-selling "The Third Wave" in 1980 — had a strong romantic flavor to it. For futurists like Toffler, the home office would be an "electronic cottage" that might "glue the family together again," provide "greater community stability," and even trigger a "renaissance among voluntary organizations." Forget about bowling alone: In Toffler's future, we'd all be telecommuting together! (Toffler, it must be said, was only popularizing ideas that had been aired many decades earlier. For example, Norbert Wiener, the father of cybernetics, had already speculated in his landmark book "The Human Use of Human Beings" about how an architect in Europe might use a fax-like machine to supervise the construction of a building in America.)

The business press eagerly swallowed such stories of emancipation through technology; the San Jose Mercury News enthused in 1983, "Home computers are nurturing working mothers." Back then, it didn't seem unreasonable to expect that the "electronic cottage" might one day allow us, as Karl Marx once put it, "to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner." For Toffler and his followers, humans would use computers to get more work done in less time while bypassing the alienating experience of a 9-to-5 city job.

It would be fair to say that Toffler's dream — let alone Marx's — is still a long way off. In some limited form, of course, telecommuting has taken off quite handsomely. Earlier this year, a poll from Ipsos/Reuters found that about one in five workers around the globe telecommutes frequently — a practice especially common in the Middle East, Latin America and Asia. Even there, many telecommuters worry that the lack of face-to-face contact with their bosses will hurt their chances of promotion. (One caveat on telecommuting research: Each study defines it slightly differently. In this case, it refers to "employees who work remotely from their office, communicating by email, phone or online chats, either daily or occasionally.") Pollsters didn't ask, but it seems reasonable to assume that few of those workers think of themselves as living in an "electronic cottage" of any kind. One of the reasons for it is that relatively few firms have fully embraced telecommuting. Sure, many permit employees to spend every second Friday working from home, but they still require some face time in the office.

Text Only
Community News Network
  • American sunscreens need an upgrade

    The last time a new sunscreen ingredient came on the U.S. market, the Y2K bug was threatening to destroy our way of life. Intel had just introduced the Pentium III processor, featuring an amazing 500 MHz of computing power.

    April 24, 2014

  • 20140424-AMX-COFFEE24.jpg Coffee growers' prayers for rain met with threat of deluge

    Brazil's drought made arabica coffee this year's best-performing commodity. Now, farmers are facing a downpour that is once more threatening crops.

    April 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Celebrity quack moms are a terrible influence on everyday parents

    On April 15, the actress Alicia Silverstone released a book called "The Kind Mama: A Simple Guide to Supercharged Fertility, a Radiant Pregnancy, a Sweeter Birth, and a Healthier, More Beautiful Beginning." It's chock-full of attachment parenting lessons and dangerous misinformation.

    April 24, 2014

  • Affirmative action ruling challenges colleges seeking diversity

    The U.S. Supreme Court's support of Michigan's ban on race-based affirmative action in university admissions may spur colleges to find new ways to achieve diversity without using racial preferences.

    April 23, 2014

  • A 'wearable robot' helps her walk again

    Science is about facts, numbers, laws and formulas. To be really good at it, you need to spend a lot of time in school. But science is also about something more: dreaming big and helping people.

    April 23, 2014

  • Cuba is running out of condoms

    The newest item on Cuba's list of dwindling commodities is condoms, which are now reportedly in short supply. In response, the Cuban government has approved the sale of expired condoms.

    April 23, 2014

  • The waffle taco's biggest enemy isn't McDonald's. It's consumer habits.

    Gesturing to Taco Bell, Thompson said McDonald's had "not seen an impact relative to the most recent competitor that entered the [breakfast] space," and that new competition would only make McDonald's pursue breakfast more aggressively.

    April 23, 2014

  • Screen Shot 2014-04-22 at 4.42.47 PM.png VIDEO: Leopard attacks crowd in India

    A leopard caused panic in the city of Chandrapur when it sprung from the roof of a house and charged at rescue workers.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • The top 12 government programs ever

    Which federal programs and policies succeed in being cost-effective and targeting those who need them most? These two tests are obvious: After all, why would we spend taxpayers' money on a program that isn't worth what it costs or helps those who do not need help?

    April 22, 2014

  • In cuffs... 'Warlock' in West Virginia accused of sexual assault

    Police in West Virginia say a man claiming to be a “warlock” used promises of magical spells to lure children into committing sexual acts with him.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

House Ads
Featured Ads