Maybe Telecommuting Just Isn't Meant To Be

from the need-that-bridge dept

For years and years, we’ve discussed various trends in telecommuting, noting earlier this year that high gas prices and public transit strikes might help push the trend even further. However, the problems of telecommuting continue to mean that it’s just not for everyone. The NY Times notes that, even in the transit strike last week, many workers who could have telecommuted preferred to brave the cold and go into the office. There are a variety of reasons given — from the traditional need for “face time” to the basic separation between home and work life. For many, it appears, the “commute” is more than just the function of getting from home to the office and back again, but a mental separator to keep work out of home life. That’s one issue that’s not so easy to break down with technology. Still, it will be interesting to see if that’s more a generational issue. I would imagine that today’s multi-tasking, instant-messaging, text-messaging, listening-to-music, watching-tv, surfing-the-web all at once kids might not have as much need to separate home life from work life.

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Comments on “Maybe Telecommuting Just Isn't Meant To Be”

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Mthorn says:

No Subject Given

I’ve been working as a telecomuter for a few months. The company I work for is on the West coast and I am on the East coast so it is impossible for me to go into work. Most of our collaboration is done via a BBS/Forum/Email system and some via the phone. The company has been in business for 15 years so they are doing something right.

However I do find it difficult to seperate work from home. I do end up mixing the two during a normal work day. I plan to lease a single office out with a friend who also works from home. This will give us the option of going to “work” or staying at home.

I think that’s the best solution. If I can goto work, I can. If i’d rather stay home, I can.

averagedude says:

Re: No Subject Given

After two years of tele-comuting, I also find it hard to separate work from home. I have often thought of simply going to the library meeting/study room to concentrate. Too bad the local library does not have internet. All my call are routed to my cell – clients only see a local to them number. With my notebook I could work any where there is braodband and a desk.

Jim Pearson (user link) says:

Difficult, indeed?

I have the luxury of working from home at times. In fact, there are many days where my family needs me to be at home. I am always very productive at home – but with one caviat: I usually end up working late in the evening.

I need to make sure my company gets their money’s worth, but my family needs me during the day, so I generally work late to balance out work/home.

LCardenas (user link) says:


My job responsibilities allow me to work from home, and I end up working from home at least one day a week. I do see myself as more productive when I work from home, when I commute my commute is over an hour each way, so by the time I get to the office in the morning I?m already tired and aggravated from the traffic, and likewise I dread the drive home after a day?s work. When I stay home I start working an hour earlier and end an hour later, so the commute time is added to my workday.

As far a separating the work life from the home life, there are many ways to do this, put together an office in your home, this area must be one you only use for this purpose and do not go into it until your scheduled work time. Have a separate phone line that you only answer during business hours, forward your office line to your home line and remove the forward at the end of the work day, enjoy a leisurely lunch (outside the home) with other telecommuters in your area or friends.

Happy new year!

COD (user link) says:

Re: Telecommuting

I work from home 4X a week. At the end of my workday, I shut down my laptop and put it aside. Then any computer / web work done after hours is done from my personal computer. I don’t have my work email account even set up on my personal PC, making it impossible to check work email. That seems to me the secret. If I “see” work I’ll feel compelled to do something about it, so I just don’t look 🙂

I also have a work phone line that I ignore after hours.

CloakedMirror says:


I was able to spend two years working from my home because my client was located in another city, and the type of work I was doing didn’t require anything more than an ability to connect to their systems.

During that time, I went from getting hardly anything done, to being more productive at home than in an office environment. A major factor in being able to do that was “training” myself and my family to respect the office area I set up in my home. When the door to my office area is closed, my wife and kids know that I am working and should not be disturbed. If the door is open then dad is available for any family needs, even if he is technically working on stuff for the client.

Unfortunately, that contract eventually came to an end. I haven’t had the good fortune to find another client that will let me work like that on a regular basis, although the place where I am currently on contract has allowed me to work from home a couple of times when the weather was particularly nasty.

Icebrk says:

Telecommuting for years n loving it

Although I’ve grown up a bit the last few years I’ve held some sort of computer job since I was 12. The last few years I’ve been studying/living abroad and telecommuting is the only reason I can do it. My job was kind enough to let me work from across the ocean. I find that if surround myself by all the positive influences I can sit down at home and do a weeks worth of work in a single day. Collaboration is usually done via IP telephony and lately we’ve been playing with Video conferencing. I come back to NY twice a year at which time I spend a good week or 2 comming into the office. Having one of these 2 weeks coiincde with the MTA strike was a nice bit of irony. I can however understand for people that have their homes full with their family this is very different. if I had a nagging wife and screaming kids at home I too might be inclined to come into the office.

Anonymous Coward says:

No Subject Given

ive found that senior management just dont seem to get that you can be productive even working one day at home via vpn. unless someone is at a desk, then no work is being done. they conveniantly forget that sys admins usually have to work out of hours and a lot work is arranged by email. i wouldnt completely give up the face to face of an office environment, but one day a week without the office phone or the walkin distractions can be very good. how dfo you find a better employer ??

VM says:

telecommuting rules!

I am doing software programming, and I feel like there is really no need for me to be at the office most of the time.
If there is a meeting because thing can be solved faster if everyone was present personally, then it happens ones a week or so.
If there is a support call – there is no reason why I can’t take at home.
The only problem that I have is that the remote software is not fast enough and some network related transactions take more time than in the office. But as speeds go up with newer technologies, I see that more and more people will find it more appealing to work from home rather then waste time on commute.
And I can things set up much better in my home office than any company would care to do it for me.

Sissy Pants says:

Re: Telecommunting Does Rule

I love working from home. The majority of interaction at work is pointless and a huge distraction. 90% of the converstations are just ways to pass the time.

If I’m at work wasting time, why the hell don’t I just go home and waste time? Half the people just sit there and IM or email their friends…

Plus beer for breakfast is AWESOME!

bob says:

Not allowed to telecommute

I work at a rather large wireless phone company. You’d think that they would be on the cutting edge of office work, You’d be wrong.
They have policies in place that contractors aren’t allowed to telecommute. 99% of my work is done via phone, email, and web conference. I even effectivley tellecommuted before the policy was reinstated (apparently someone got caught abusing the relaxation of said policy, or someone who didn’t like telecommuting complained). There are days when the only reason I get up from my desk is to onload and offload coffee. The only reason I’m at my desk is because I’m a contractor. The only reason I’m a contractor is that some bean counter doesn’t want to pay benefits for all the people that work here.

titanandrews says:

No Subject Given

I am allowed to telecommute once in a while, like once every 2 weeks or something. I find that I get twice as much work done at home because I don’t have the distractions of other people making noise and talking about non work related things. If I could work from home all the time, I definitely would do it. And since I get so much done when working from home, I don’t have any trouble separating work life from home life. I have a real sense of accomplishment when the work day is over. Most companies just don’t get it. Don’t they understand that they could save a lot of money on office space by letting workers telecommute? I know that telecommuting is not for everyone, but those who want to do it and are productive should be allowed to as much as they want.

Paul Nejad (user link) says:


So I read your article and I think that it really comes down to the generation, I am a 26 year old Sr. Project Engineer and telecommute to work about 90% of the time when not in travel for work, I think it’s great, in the hour it takes for me to drive to work I have accomplished many things except waste gas…of course when needed I go into work for time in the lab and/or recreating an issue. My mother who is a Finance Director can also work from home however she prefers to drive into work, even though her commute is only 30 minutes, she can not stand to work from home…

Lisala (user link) says:


I work after hours, holidays and weekends from home, a one bedroom apartment. If I am sick, I can still take care of matters at the office.

I also live on my computer, imming, planning, reading, working my own site, communicating, all for entertainment or personal use.

I hate working from home. At 33, I definitely need a seperator between the two places, and would like to keep as much work at work as possible. At the same time, if I had three more rooms and could designate one as a place for work and shut the door when I was done, telecommuting would seem more “doable,” but I’d rather keep work at the office, for the sake of staying sane.

Sue Shellenbarger says:

Re: Telecommuting

I’m a workplace columnist for a national newspaper and I found these posts very interesting. If you’re a corporate telecommuter who would rather work from an office, I would love to talk with you for a possible column. No names without your permission — just looking for insight and the benefit of your experience.

Please contact me at Thank you!

Sue Shellenbarger says:

Re: Dislike working from home?

To Lisala:

I saw your post and found it very interesting. Although most people like telecommuting, I think it’s difficult for others, depending on their home situation and other factors.

I’m a newspaper columnist and I’m actually working on a column on this topic — corporate employees who dislike working from home.

I’d love to talk with you about this. Please send me an e-mail at and I’ll introduce myself and explain my interest. I hope to hear from you soon!

Best regards,


Mousky (user link) says:

Observations and Comments

After reading the comments, I offer the following observations and questions.

1. Some telecommuters end up working an extra 2 hours a day because they are not commuting to and from work. Does that mean you only work 4 days a week? Do you get a credit for those additional 2 hours?

2. One person says they are very productive at home, however, they have to work late into the evening. If you are so productive, why do you need to work late into the evening. Being productive means that you should be spending less time on tasks.

3. Continuing with productivity, some people are only productive at home because they have created a space, aka an office, preferably with a door, in their home, that lets them shut out the rest of the world (including the home world). Perhaps if businesses built more offices and less cubicles in the workplace, productivity would increase.

4. Naturally, with little to no distractions, one is more productive, but some of the people citing the lack of distractions as a positive also spend some time in a real office. I guess it depends on the nature of the business, but it sounds like that some face to face time is required in order to be a successful telecommuter.

By no means am I condoning telecommuting. If done properly, it can be a very productive choice. Given that telecommuters tend to be people with a better-than-average high-tech knowledge, I would expect the comments on this forum to be biased in favor of telecommuting. Not saying that is a bad thing, but one has to consider all issues and viewpoints. Enjoy your virtual trip to work and back 😉

Brad Neuberg (user link) says:

Coworking: Structure and Community for Developers

I created coworking for exactly this reason; I am a telecommuter, and started missing the structure and community of an office, so I created a way for other telecommuters and self-employed business people to come together several days a week in a cool space. Check out pictures and details here:

We run it as a simple co-op structure, pulling in enough money to cover the cost of the space. We are located in San Francisco if you’d like to drop by and see what we are up to. People can try it out for free to see if they like it.

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