The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

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
  • Wal-Mart to cut prices more aggressively in back-to-school push

    Wal-Mart Stores plans to cut prices more aggressively during this year's back-to-school season and will add inventory to its online store as the chain battles retailers for student spending.

    July 21, 2014

  • Hospitals let patients schedule ER visits

    Three times within a week, 34-year-old Michael Granillo went to the emergency room at Northridge Hospital Medical Center in Los Angeles because of intense back pain. Each time, Granillo, who didn't have insurance, stayed for less than an hour before leaving without being seen by a doctor.

    July 21, 2014

  • Starved Pennsylvania 7-year-old weighed only 25 pounds

    A 7-year-old Pennsylvania boy authorities described as being so underweight he looked like a human skeleton has been released from the hospital.

    July 21, 2014

  • Malaysians wonder 'Why us?' after second loss of airline jet

    It was all too familiar. Grieving families rushing to airport. The flashing television graphics of a plane's last radar appearance. The uncomfortable officials before a heavy thicket of microphones.
    For many Malaysians, the disappearance of Flight 370 in March has been a long trauma from which the nation has not yet recovered.

    July 18, 2014

  • A quarter of the world's most educated people live in the 100 largest cities

    College graduates are increasingly sorting themselves into high-cost, high-amenity cities such as Washington, New York, Boston and San Francisco, a phenomenon that threatens to segregate us across the country by education.

    July 18, 2014

  • Your chocolate addiction is only going to get more expensive

    For nearly two years, cocoa prices have been on the rise. Finally, that's affecting the price you pay for a bar of chocolate - and there's reason to believe it's only the beginning.

    July 18, 2014

  • Facebook tests button to let people shop from its website

    Members on desktop computers or mobile devices can click a "buy" button to make purchases through advertisements or other posts on the world's largest social network, the Menlo Park, California-based company said Thursday in a blog post.

    July 17, 2014

  • The terrible history of passenger planes getting shot out of the sky

    What is more clear is that, if initial reports are true, this would be the deadliest incident of a civilian passenger plane being shot down in modern memory. In some instances, the causes of the disaster are still shrouded in mystery. Here are some of the worst events.

    July 17, 2014

  • 130408_NT_BEA_good kids We're raising a generation of timid kids

    A week ago, a woman was charged with leaving her child in the car while she went into a store. Her 11-year-old child. This week, a woman was arrested for allowing her 9-year-old daughter to go to the park alone. Which raises just one question: America, what the heck is wrong with you?

    July 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • web_starbucks-cof_big_ce.jpg Starbucks sees more Apple-like stores after Colombia debut

    This week Starbucks opened its first location in Colombia — a 2,700-square-foot store with a heated patio, concrete columns, mirrors on the ceiling and walls of colorful plants.

    July 17, 2014 1 Photo