One More Time: Most People Don't Like Telecommuting

from the want-to-go-to-the-office dept

This isn’t the first time this has been covered, but it seems that people are often surprised at studies like this. Despite high gas prices, plenty of people don’t want to telecommute — even if they have the option of doing so. Believe it or not, plenty of people actually like having a bit of time between work and home that let’s them separate the two things. Of course, that doesn’t seem like a good reason to ban telecommuting, but to realize that it’s just not something everyone wants to do.

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Comments on “One More Time: Most People Don't Like Telecommuting”

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Andrew Pollack (profile) says:

I'm not surprised by this.

I’ve been a home office type since 1993. Most of that time, I’ve owned my own business. The advantages of setting my schedule (to always) and no commute can sometimes be offset by a total lack of office peers and general bullshit.

Personally, I offset that by having a group of people I work with over IM and VOIP, speaking at conventions, and joining the local volunteer fire department — but one way or another, you cannot turn into a hermit and be healthy.

I, for one says:


Agreed. It’s really a hard balance to strike. Whatever your employment situation it’s like working for yourself. You need to be disciplined in separating work from home life, create the proper space to work in and not let yourself flip flop between the two modes of being.

Exposure to challenging opinions and real human characters is vital. You can quickly get right up your own ass stuck in the same room day after day no matter how pretty the outlook. If you telecommute it’s important to get out or visit the office of the company you’re working for at least once or twice a month.

But for me it’s just a more productive way of working. I like to get things done. So much so that I developed very efficient work methods over the years that mean I can get whole weks off to do nothing but roam the countryside, or play video games or gas my opinions on the internet ๐Ÿ™‚ To do that I have to create long periods of undisturbed peace where I can code or document without interruption and distraction. You don’t get that in an office.

The office is a horrible place imho. People who work in offices run at about 10-20% efficiency maximum. They spend their days engaged in pointless shirking, jobsworth games, office politics…

In fact some offices are nightmares because of the other people who work there. Bosses who cannot delegate and constantly pester you to satisfy their own insecurities, fire drills, maintainance people crawling under your desk, office jokers, the new girl in her 1/4 length skirt and stilletos… well not everything is bad, but i like to just have a screen and peace and quiet to work hard.

I had to develop theroutine and discipline to work alone, and it wasn’t easy. When your work and home life are not separate it’s actually easier to become a workaholic and neglect other things because the boundaries are not there.

But I recognise that psychological need for a home away from home in some people. It’s just not for me.

With a laptop to take out for fieldwork and a dedicated server in the farm running most of my business I am free to come and go – work is where I make it.

From that base I can *choose* to go and socialise and be around people when I need them, go visit the office on some pretext or whatever.

'lil bit says:

what do they mean by "those who can"?

I think they leave that question fairly loose, if it’s asked the same way it’s reported. I have the ability to work from home and I do sometimes. My boss works from home two days a week. When I started 14 months ago, it was because she was breast feeding, now it’s day care issues. One of our admins works out of Boston, but she’s in Florida. So I assure you, the company I work for has pretty relaxed attitudes toward telecommuting – and the expensive IT department to prove it.

Yet, if I work from more than occassionally, I definitely get the vibe from my bosses that once in a while is OK, but not too often. My preference would be a 3-2 split. Three days at home and two in the office, on a regular set schedule – I could do my job better and more efficiently.

So I can telecommute, but I don’t get to – where would I fit in their survey?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: what do they mean by

I totally agree and I’m not alone. Lots of people would much rather work from home 2-3 days per week but the higher ups just aren’t completely hip to it yet. They allow it occasionally but only if you have a decent excuse (waiting for the cable guy, have laryngitis -sp?, car’s in the shop).

On the other hand some employees can be so demanding about it, wanting the employer to buy them a home computer and pay for the monthly home internet connection and phone bills. Its those asses that ruin it for everyone else. If you’re gonna ask to work from home, have the equipment. If you don’t have it, that’s what an office is for.

Anonymous Coward says:

Hard to differentiate

For me it’s really hard to draw the line from work and home when I work from home. Call it self-discipline, call it whatever but when I’m surrounded by my like-wise individuals I get more done and do better work.

I’m a firm believer that two heads are better than one. There are always things that come up that actually take longer to explain on instant messager or the phone than they do in person. Really you waste more time MIS-communicating than is worth it.

Gas prices suck, stop making our cities so spread out.

Thomas Osborne (user link) says:

best of both

my business partner and I do both and we have subcontractors that telecommute from all over the U.S. with the right tools (pocket pc/phone) we can be productive anywhere, even at something like a hockey game. we are in the office together at least three days a week, because I agree that two heads are better than one… getting feedback on projects or design ideas moves things along much quicker. or even just talking out a problem you get ideas even if the other people around can’t help. do both.. and get the best of both, freedom and feedback.

Search Engine WEB (user link) says:


1- Telecommuting is still more acceptable by the Geek-High Bandwidth Crowd, perhaps the average person just finds it difficult to embrace life changing norms initially.

2- Also an important part of advancing in any career is NETWORKING, that just can’t be done with telecommuting.

Regardless of how skilled somone might be TECHNICALLY, socializing with ones superiors and peers really is essential for advancing.

Also, there may still be a paranoia about NOT being around to constantly access the atmosphere, and to be able to defend oneself if necessary.

Clair (user link) says:

There is comfort being around other people

Sometimes we get comfort by being around other people. We may not like them all the time but it doesn’t matter much. Some people have temperaments that make them go ballistic when they are at home alone too often.

And for others there is what they call compartmentalization. Work is done in an office. Home is a place of rest. They are separate compartments so to speak. To merge them would upset their balance.

windpowered says:

like it is too close

Seriously. I guess I just lack self control – working from home ocasionaly I find I wonder to the kitchen too often. I guess it just shows I do not feel this much at work, working from home…

Besides, the altimate freedom of telecomuting is to become sole proprietor and charge for work done, not hours. Then nobody should care when and where as long as it’s done.

shinji says:

Re: like it is too close

agreed.i will say that my home kitchen is alot cheeper and much more healthy than the venting machines and fast food around the office.

also, i think most here are forgetting that “most” people are not partners, or developers. in most cases workers are service and production. and most service and production cannot be telecommuted.

telecommuting is really a privilege in “most” work enviroments. one that has few professional benifits.

i will agree that “most” management is closeminded about telecommunications. aswell as floating work times. wich by the way, is as effective in “most” industries.


Nathan says:

Telecommuting rocks!!

I tellecommute 5 days a week with a team of Sotware engineers. We are spread out across a few states and at least 2 countries. There is a base of developers and business analysts who do work from a central office.

For me, tellecommuting helps me remain highly efficient. It doesn’t take me long to get ready each morning (shower, towel-dry, casual clothes), and I am saved the time of commuting. I tend to work at least an hour longer every day than if I drove into the office (I’m about 1 hour away from the central office). I don’t have to walk to meetings (just dial-in) and I can work during meetings (I’m still at my workstation). I can work lunch as well, and I typically leave only twice a week for lunch.

I do have my wife and 2 kids home with me all day, but my office has a door, so interruptions are minimal (and far less than the typical interruptions at work to BS).

This life is not for everyone, I do know those that find the temptation to do non-work things on work hours too great (and can’t multi-task), but for me…this is the life.

jason (user link) says:


Although, I agree with the article, I also believe that this would be an amazing opportunity. I did my education online and am presently working on my master’s online. It allows the freedom to make your own schedule and the opportunity to work from your own home office. If anyone knows a good way to get into a telecommuting job please send me an email! jasonwdonnelly(at)


Anonymous Coward says:

I can work from home on occasion, and I love it. I’ve never had a problem seperating the two. When I’m at home working, I usually stay pretty focused on the task if I’m busy. Most of the time, I get even more done at home, really.

I still like to go into the office most of the time, but on occasion it’s great. Especially when you have a chronic health problem that can sometimes keep you from even wanting to go out of the house.

Anonymous Coward says:

Networking via telecommuting

I have worked in large global spanning orginizations for the past few years and I have built solid personal relationships with people that I have never personally met. I think that if the culture that you live and work in uses remote conferencing that telecommuting is no different then sitting in the office.

Also I cannot tell you how many times someone scheduled a phone meeting with me and they were just a few bays over. Why bother with the pain of the morning commute when most people will not walk 25 feet to meet with you anyways?

ET says:

not-so-tele commuting...

I work from home about 1/4 of the time… and I only live 1.5 miles away from the office…

I think one of the main reasons I do not telecommute more is because of the lack of social interaction. I’m a people person (kinda) and I cannot see myself work from home full time… I’d go nuts. And calling someone to chat or IM is not the same.

Leslie (user link) says:

Its odd that telecommuting is always the focus when it comes to flexible work options. Companies that offer telecommuting often offer other flexible schedule options such as the 10 hour day- 4 day work week, or job sharing, but I don’t see articles about how people don’t take advantage of those options and what that might mean.

Telecommuting isn’t for everyone just as job sharing or other perks companies offer aren’t used by everyone. And even with a flexible option in place, not employees can use it. Further, many managers don’t understand it or they question an employee’s dedication to the job if they take advantage of telecommuting. Even though studies show that telecommuters are more productive, managers don’t think people are working if they don’t see them wasting time by the water cooler.

I work from home and sure it has its downsides, but, it beats going to work!!! Still I understand that for some people, the structure or routine of a regular work situation is something they prefer.


Brad says:

It's not healthy

Telecommuting in and of itself is not wrong and can be a very useful and sometimes necessary tool, if used wisely. However, never leaving your home to go to work can have a very negative impact on you socially. It is simply not healthy to do it on a continuous basis. As it’s been said, the commute between work and home allows time to separate yourself from it, and it lets you get out and see the world around you. Too many people in this country are workaholics, and even the commute won’t stop them since they insist on working at home even after they come home from work. The way technology is going, it’s possibly that someday people will never want to leave their homes. They can work from home, get any and all forms of entertainment at home through TV, the internet, etc., order all their food clothes, groceries online and have them delivered, etc., etc. The thought of that scares me to death. There’s so much more to life than sitting at home and doing your job. Personal networking is very important to the life of any individual, and anybody who says otherwise is severely misguided.

Joe says:

Telecommuting isn't always working from home

I think what most people miss out on “telecommuting” is that you don’t have to work from home. I used to telecommute from multiple locations. I have worked from my vehicle, remote office locations, shared office parks, restaraunts, coffee shops, public libraries, etc.

The best part about it is the fact that I don’t have to seperate worktime and hometime. I have taken my children to museums while stopping occasionally to conduct phone business. I completed a project via telecommuting while I was on the AMTRAK. It’s all about how to use your time.

Britonius says:

Re: Telecommuting isn't always working from home

Great point Joe.

I also have worked from church (not during services but througout the week), from family & friends houses on the road, and even while on vacation so to speak. It gives a tremendous amount of freedom. As long as I have high speed Internet, I can work if I need/want to.

Sarah says:

What study was this?

You know… this is one of those things I hate about the media. You cite a study but provide no information – where was this study done? How many participants? What scientific controls? Were the participants in the study people who have actually telecommuted in the past? Were they actually reasonable candidates for telecommuting? Were they people with a long commute? Were they in metropolitan areas with high housing and gas prices? To say as a blanket statement “most people don’t want to telecommute” is just meaningless – and yet, frustratingly enough, I’m sure there are business decision makers who will look at this scrap of information and say “See, people don’t want to telecommute”. How can we know if your study matters if you don’t provide any data aside from that blanket conclusion? Now if you told us that most people in jobs that do not require you to be in the office every day who also live in metropolitan areas with high gas, housing, and daycare prices did not want to telecommute – that would be an interesting statistic. But since the study participants could be truckers from Des Moines for all I know, why should that be relevant to my work experience? If telecommuting is possible and practical for even a portion of the society, isn’t it the ecologically responsible thing for us to do? Doesn’t it put people closer to their families so they have more free-time to spend with them when they are not working? Why would you want to subvert that just to create controversy (clearly the intent of this little piece of shoddy journalism)?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: What study was this?

I clicked on the links after I posted my comment – but my complaint still stands, because most people who read the posting will not click through to the survey. And… the title and summary posted here on techdirt seem to misstate the actual findings of the study. Here is a case in point:

“Thus, if everyone who had an employer policy allowing them to telecommute took advantage of this, the share of telecommuters would grow from 11 percent to 16 percent; if everyone who could or felt they could telecommute did so, even if their employers do not currently have a policy, the share would grow to 25 percent.”

In other words, of the 14 percent of people surveyed who could telecommute (in terms of the type of job they have), the barrier to telecommuting is not, as this summary suggests, personal adversion to telecommuting, but could in fact be company policy. WAY different message than “Most People Don’t Like Telecommuting”.

Also, if you add up the percentages here:

o 18% would telecommute less than once a week

o 25% would telecommute 1 day a week

o 17% would telecommute 2 days a week

o 17% would telecommute 3 days a week

o 3% would telecommute 4 days a week

o 6% would telecommute 5 or more days a week

o 14% would still not telecommute

… 32% would not telecommute or would telecommute less than once a week and 68% would choose to telecommute. Sure the highest percentage among that 68% might not choose to telecommute more than one a week, but why throw the baby out with the bathwater? Would it be a bad thing to say “Most People Would Choose Limited Telecommuting, Given the Option”? Esp. since that is more, um, accurate?

Britonius says:

I Love Telecommuting

I have been telecommuting with my company since 1999 and I love it. I have more time for other things. If I don’t have as much get ready time and I don’t have the round trip drive time, not to mention the savings in gas. I can perform all of my work just fine from home. I can help out with the kids and see my family more. I can step away when I need to to take care of something around the house. When a technician needs to come, I don’t have to use vacation or sick time to take off work. I don’t understand why more people don’t like it. I simply Love it and wouldn’t have it any other way.

anony mouse says:

the people that don’t like telecommuting are those losers whose sole social network is comprised of coworkers that are equally as pathetic. their social interaction consists of ripping on the cute young marketing chick while they wolf down donuts in the break room. if you take that away from them, they have nothing.

my GF works from home and wouldn’t return to an office setting if you paid her. the difference is, we live in an urban center and she has a wide range of non-work friends and has plenty of human interaction when she is done with work.

Russ says:

Lots of arguing back and forth...

…but I’d like to argue that there are at least some people that simply don’t get on with telecommuting. I have ticks in all the right boxes – I live alone so have peace and quiet, I have a long commute, I generally prefer my own company above and beyond that of other people, I have a lead developer position that is well suited to working from home, and the corp I work for encourages telecommuting and pays for home broadband connections. Despite this, I have chosen to make the 80-mile each way, 2-hour commute to and from the office every single day for the last 15 months. I worked at home during my last job, and *hated* it. Diff’rent stokes, I guess.

Nicholas (user link) says:

There's a term for it

It’s called cabin fever.

And it isn’t healthy. I know, because I’ve tried doing this for years, and always believed it beat working in an office where you’re less than halfway productive when you consider the non-work related stuff that happens all the time. But in the end, humans are, well, humans, and eventually yearn for the companionship or at least being in the proximity of other people.

What they say about being a hermit is true.

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