Kuro5hin.org: technology and culture, from the trenches
create account | help/FAQ | contact | links | search | IRC | site news
[ Everything | Diaries | Technology | Science | Culture | Politics | Media | News | Internet | Op-Ed | Fiction | Meta | MLP ]
We need your support: buy an ad | premium membership

[P]
Telecommute and save the planet?

By James Mulholland in Technology
Wed Dec 06, 2000 at 11:17:42 AM EST
Tags: Help! (Ask Kuro5hin) (all tags)
Help! (Ask Kuro5hin)

Anyone living in the UK now is painfully aware that our transport infrastructure is failing badly. The trains keep getting cancelled, the roads are full, nothing works! My train home today has been cancelled, but that's nothing new. I'm tortured by the thought that I don't have to be here at all: I'm a programmer, I could work from home. Why isn't telecommuting more common?


I remember people talking excitedly about telecottages a few years ago, but I've never seen one. The only times I've ever asked to work from home, the request has been viewed with outright hostility and suspicion by my managers - how could they tell I was working if I wasn't right there in the office?

Some states (I think California is one) have laws compelling companies to allow a percentage of their workforce to telecommute. Does anyone do so regularly? Anyone have actual experience of setting up a telecommuting scheme, or encouraging their companies to allow the practice? Are there any organisations (esp. in the UK) which can help? I'm sorely tempted to actually do something about this, so give me some ideas!

Sponsors

Voxel dot net
o Managed Hosting
o VoxCAST Content Delivery
o Raw Infrastructure

Login

Related Links
o Also by James Mulholland


Display: Sort:
Telecommute and save the planet? | 23 comments (23 topical, editorial, 0 hidden)
Telecommuting makes managers unnecessary (3.62 / 8) (#1)
by farmgeek on Wed Dec 06, 2000 at 10:01:52 AM EST

Or at least that's the way most middle managers seem to feel about it.

My Take on telecommuting (4.71 / 7) (#2)
by Garc on Wed Dec 06, 2000 at 10:13:41 AM EST

The Work-life balance is one of the important issues where I work. Sometimes the job is stressful, so everyone wants to make sure employees stay healthy (emotionally, physically, and mentally).

Working from home is encouraged, and its usually done on a every other day basis, so long as it doesn't affect the customers, or make you miss meetings that you can't just call into.

In CA we also have satellite offices. They have cubes, computers, etc. They're just like the regular offices, but smaller and not so personnalized. So a couple (again no more than 2) days a week, you can go to the satellite office, and work from there. You'd have all the infrastructure of your normal office, but a third of the driving time.

The reason that there are limits in the amount of time you can work from home are twofold. One, They feel like you'll never be able to become a complete member of the team if you don't interact with the team on a personal basis. Two, they want to make sure that you maintain the proper kind of relationships with customers, which they think (and are correct IMO) is easier to do from work.

The way my employers look at work-life balance is perhaps one of my most favorite things about the job. They understand that while I find work important, I don't live for it, and need to maintain a healthy life outside of work.

garc
--
Tomorrow is going to be wonderful because tonight I do not understand anything. -- Niels Bohr
My dad... (4.66 / 3) (#5)
by retinaburn on Wed Dec 06, 2000 at 10:22:23 AM EST

telecommuted for a year or so and it was great. Here at IBM it was really pushed for a couple of years and now not so much. Mostly because with the workforce growing smaller we have expensive real-estate only at partial capacity. In my group someone is usually working from home, be it operations, management, or developers. And with the ability to access the intranet from dial-up and cable more people seem to be taking the plunge.

The reason that there are limits in the amount of time you can work from home are twofold. One, They feel like you'll never be able to become a complete member of the team if you don't interact with the team on a personal basis. Two, they want to make sure that you maintain the proper kind of relationships with customers, which they think (and are correct IMO) is easier to do from work.

I see this as the /hidden/ problem with telecommuting. Sure its great for your employer (if you are productive), they can smaller offices with only a handful of /floating/ workstations for when telecommuters come to the office. Workers are happy, and when they are happy they are more efficent and more productive. But the loss of the closeness of the team is a real problem.

How can we solve this ?

I see perhaps having 3 days a week where the whole team should work in the office, maybe scheduling an after-work get-together one of those nights.


I think that we are a young species that often fucks with things we don't know how to unfuck. -- Tycho


[ Parent ]
I work with 60+ telecommuters (5.00 / 7) (#3)
by Skippy on Wed Dec 06, 2000 at 10:16:05 AM EST

I don't have a lot of time to write stuff up but here are some quick pointers. Keep in mind that this is part of a large organization and in the US so YMMV.

Education - for both the person working at home and those who aren't. You need to explain to the people in the office what the people at home are doing and how they are evaluated. This is VERY important because otherwise misunderstandings can cause hostility between groups. The people who work at home need to be told the same thing plus educated on how to set up a home office (room w/a door, good furniture, how to handle kids/dogs/deliverymen).

Communication - company supplied communication lines are a must. These can include phone line, data line, website, newsgroup, etc. Make sure that everyone is using them, both those in the office and those at home. Just because someone is working from home does NOT mean that they should be left completely alone. They need to be able to be consulted or consult office workers. If there is no communication you run the possiblity of misunderstandings (see above).

Face-to-face time - make the telecommuters come in to the office every so often. We have meetings every two weeks and it seems to work ok. Make sure that the meetings have some slack time for 'water cooler' talk. The work at home people need this since they don't get it everyday. It fosters a sense of community which you must have to get people to work together well.

Hope this helps. Good luck.

# I am now finished talking out my ass about things that I am not qualified to discuss. #

I've been known to telecommute. (3.66 / 3) (#4)
by porkchop_d_clown on Wed Dec 06, 2000 at 10:21:08 AM EST

I telecommute occasionally, more in the past than right now. Everyone in my office is able to, but few of us do. Face-to-face time is too valuable. But, if you've got real reasons for needing to do it, I'd suggest the following:

  • First, remind your bosses that salaried employees are judged by their ability to complete their work, not how many hours they put in.
  • Who pays for the broadband internet access from home? (telecommuting at 56k is just awful). And even with broadband I do *not* recommend trying to run an X11 environment.
  • What problems will you have accessing your work environment from home? My company uses a VPN to allow us complete access - but even then I still have to have copies of various software packages on my home machine or my laptop.
  • How often? Generally, I use telecommuting as a fallback for when I can't get into the office, or when I'm sick. Personally, more than once a week would be awkward because of all the meetings I have to attend. YMMV.


People who think "clown" is an insult have never met any.
Thus why (2.00 / 3) (#6)
by maketo on Wed Dec 06, 2000 at 10:45:29 AM EST

The other day on kuro5hin chat I proposed we smart geeks make a distributed company to take on programming contracts. Perhaps in the future do some interesting r&d work. But I was told that "it is impossible to control". Well if we are really smart geeks as everyone brags we are -> whats the problem? We have machines, we have internet connections...
agents, bugs, nanites....see the connection?
Not impossible (2.00 / 1) (#7)
by farmgeek on Wed Dec 06, 2000 at 11:15:32 AM EST

Actually, I doubt it would be any harder to control than any other company.

With programming jobs it's pretty easy to keep track of what everyone is doing just by checking their nightly check-ins.

Schedule some vid-conf/conference call time so you can get the important real virtual contact.

And of course, schedule face to face meetings periodically.

[ Parent ]
The UK? Holland is just as bad... (3.00 / 2) (#8)
by coolvibe on Wed Dec 06, 2000 at 11:17:48 AM EST

We in .nl suffer from a monopolized public transport as well. The Dutch Railways (Nederlandse Spoorwegen, NS from now on) is equally bad (or maybe worse). I have to travel 1 1/2 hr. by train everyday, and every day there are delays, delays and more delays. Even worse, the NS is short on seats *in* the trains! They are refurbishing old trains so they can cater to more people, but the demand is higher than the supply. Even our government is starting to frown upon them.I have to leave home waaaaaaaaaaay in advance, so I can still be on time at work (and have a seat in the train, usually that's before/after rush-hour). I have yet to witness the day out dutch trains go on time and without *anything* going amiss...

Telecommuting would be nice, indeed...


--
Yet another community site: hackerheaven.org. Now in juicy Scoop flavour!

monopolised? huh? (2.00 / 1) (#9)
by motty on Wed Dec 06, 2000 at 11:32:35 AM EST

it's not the monopolistic nature of any given public transport infrastructure that is the problem, whether in Holland, the UK, or anywhere else. public transport infrastructure is inherently monopolistic, especially in terms of things like railways and so on. attempts to break up bits of it into private companies are all very well, but only one entity can own the core bits of basic infrastructure - the actual roads, railways, tunnels, whatever. you can have a bunch of bus companies competing over the same routes if you like, but that isn't going to provide half so good a service as one bus company operating over all the routes, including the unprofitable ones in remote areas etc.

i've always put the failure of public transport, especially in the UK, down to the unholy overemphasis on some alleged intrinsic goodness in the so-called 'free market' over the last twenty odd years, which has led to people actually trying to make a profit out of running bits of public transport, while the quality of service has universally plummetted. enhancing profit margins in public transport means skimping on safety (and we have had a number of major disasters as a result) and shutting down non-profitable routes (so depressed remote rural regions become even more depressed and remote...). a few people make a lot of money, a few people die in horrendous accidents, and everybody is stressed out and late for work because the system as a whole is no longer actually oriented towards public service, but instead towards profit. Thanks.

IANAE (economist) but it seems obvious to me that public transport in a city (or any area) is unlikely to be something that can actually make a profit by itself, but is something that, when invested in properly, will provide a return indirectly by boosting the economy of the city (or area). if people can get around more easily they can do more business. if they can't get around so easily, they do less business. Is this so wildly wrong?
s/^.*$//sig;#)
[ Parent ]

Great for staff - difficult for management (4.20 / 5) (#10)
by fossilcode on Wed Dec 06, 2000 at 11:42:05 AM EST

I've been fortunate enough to have "mixed" telecommuting arrangements for the last few years. I worked for an employer whose business had a lot of folks on the road, and several remote offices, so they had the infrastructure and mentality to deal with telecommuters. That said, there were still some managers who couldn't function unless they could walk into your cube and find you there.

I'm an independent consultant now. I'm finding that many of my potential clients are reluctant to engage me when they find out I prefer telecommuting. They've heard the benefits, but they either aren't emotionally ready, have had a bad experience during a telecommuting experiment, or lack the infrastructure to properly support it.

Here are some reasons why employers who should be able to embrace telecommuting don't:

  • They're afraid their staff will goof off.
  • They can't hold "impromptu meetings" involving their telecommuting staff.
  • Their business moves too fast to be hamstrung by not having all the key players within shouting distance of each other.
  • They don't want to spend money on equipment/software/procedures to allow secure remote access to their systems.

All of these "reasons" are the results of fear. Many are the results of an organization that can't plan. Yes, some staff will goof off if you let them out of your sight. You either shouldn't have hired them, or you need good productivity benchmarks which have to be met for staff to retain a telecommuting privilege. Impromptu meetings will happen of course, but many are the result of poor (or no) planning. I've been excluded from critical decisions because the party responsible for the conference call "forgot" to dial me in. The "bullpen" approach to business has lots of merit, and NOTHING is a good substitute for one-on-one face time, but again, if your people HAVE to be in physical proximity to each other to get things done, you haven't planned adequately. Last is the cost aspect. Some firms have very legitimate security concerns and should NOT permit remote access. For most though, it's a control issue and one of not understanding the costs. They can't do the math to see that good equipment, software and procedures and a couple staff on-site to support them might easily be offset by the reduced cost in office space and equipment when a significant percentage of your workers are using their OWN real estate while working.

So, is telecommuting a good thing? Yes. Should everybody in IT be allowed to telecommute? No. Should companies embrace telecommuting? Yes. Will they? Most won't any time soon.


--
"...half the world blows and half the world sucks." Uh, which half were you again?
Why are you so negative? (3.25 / 4) (#13)
by red on Wed Dec 06, 2000 at 01:23:28 PM EST

I'm a bit annoyed with how down on managers and the "company" everyone seems to be. Not everyone is paranoid and tight fisted, irrationally refusing telecommuting. It may seem great to the programmers, but sometimes it just doesn't make good business sense - and you ARE working for a business.

Here are some reasons why employers who should be able to embrace telecommuting don't:
  • They're afraid their staff will goof off.
  • They can't hold "impromptu meetings" involving their telecommuting staff.
  • Their business moves too fast to be hamstrung by not having all the key players within shouting distance of each other.
  • They don't want to spend money on equipment/software/procedures to allow secure remote access to their systems.

    These are all reasons, but they're all framed negatively. Maybe they need flexibility for meetings. Maybe the business really DOES move that quickly. Maybe the organization can't AFFORD the additional equipment as they're still paying off what they already have.

    All of these "reasons" are the results of fear. Many are the results of an organization that can't plan. Yes, some staff will goof off if you let them out of your sight. You either shouldn't have hired them, or you need good productivity benchmarks which have to be met for staff to retain a telecommuting privilege.

    This point I agree on. No argument. Fear of slackers shouldn't interfere with a company creating a useful and efficient telecommuting option. Having employees who goof off is as much of a problem at work as it is if they're at home telecommuting.

    Impromptu meetings will happen of course, but many are the result of poor (or no) planning. I've been excluded from critical decisions because the party responsible for the conference call "forgot" to dial me in. The "bullpen" approach to business has lots of merit, and NOTHING is a good substitute for one-on-one face time, but again, if your people HAVE to be in physical proximity to each other to get things done, you haven't planned adequately.

    This I disagree with. Depending on your industry, impromptu meetings can be a fact of life. You can't plan when a site is going to go down, and you need a specific group of tech support and development individuals there immediately. You cannot always plan away face-to-face necessities. In many cases, teleconferencing just doesn't provide the ease, speed, and accuracy of communication that face to face meetings do.

    THEN there's the factor of workplace culture and how the workplace processes. Some people aren't ready to deal with the realities of teleconferencing. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but a different thing. And some companies just don't do business this way.

    Last is the cost aspect. Some firms have very legitimate security concerns and should NOT permit remote access. For most though, it's a control issue and one of not understanding the costs. They can't do the math to see that good equipment, software and procedures and a couple staff on-site to support them might easily be offset by the reduced cost in office space and equipment when a significant percentage of your workers are using their OWN real estate while working.

    The only costs you're looking at are stationary office space and equipment versus mobile equipment and technology. There are the costs involved in developing and switching to an increased telecommuting system. There are also costs to be considered in efficiency - which WILL slow as the organization and new employees coming in must adapt to the new system. Any communication problems resulting from the new telecommuting necesstities also cost money.

    To be clear, I'm not saying that telecommuting is a bad thing. I just want to say that it's not as easy, or as preferrable, as everyone seems to make it out to be.

    Red



    [ Parent ]
    My comment was an analysis, not a rant (4.00 / 2) (#18)
    by fossilcode on Wed Dec 06, 2000 at 06:57:24 PM EST

    My earlier comments weren't intended to be positive or negative. I was simply stating some of the difficulties I've encountered with companies when the topic of telecommuting comes up. I'm in agreement with you that not every company can do it, even for the IT staff. I also know that among those who could do it but don't that the reasons aren't always rational. Telecommuting requires a culture shift that some companies aren't ready to make. Worse yet, even when a company makes the culture shift, there always seem to be a few control freaks that can't come to grips with it.

    Your comments about that fact that not all work is planned are dead on. My point is that you can plan for the unplanned. Remote support staff and managers have pagers and cell phones (I certainly do). There are processes for responding to emergencies. An impromptu meeting can still be called by sending a group page to the affected parties.

    I know that telecommuting requires education and planning on the part of both the affected staff and the management. It requires a change in thinking that many people aren't ready to make. It isn't suitable for every industry. Even when implemented, it isn't always suitable 100% of the time. One of my associates works 3000 miles from the office where his collegues and manager work. He makes 2-3 trips a year to the home office for "face time", because sometimes there is no substitute for being there.

    Bottom line: Telecommuting can be good, but it's not for everyone. Telecommuting could be more widespread if companies think more about how to make it work than they do about why it will fail.


    --
    "...half the world blows and half the world sucks." Uh, which half were you again?
    [ Parent ]
    Fake reasons against (4.00 / 1) (#20)
    by phliar on Thu Dec 07, 2000 at 12:15:05 AM EST

    • They're afraid their staff will goof off.
    • They can't hold "impromptu meetings" involving their telecommuting staff.
    • Their business moves too fast to be hamstrung by not having all the key players within shouting distance of each other.
    • They don't want to spend money on equipment/software/procedures to allow secure remote access to their systems.
    Incompetent and insecure management....

    Here are my responses to the bullets:

    • If they don't have faith in their staff they shouldn't have hired them.
    • Impromptu meetings are the biggest fucking waste of time.
    • People shouting, throwing nerf balls and cracking jokes.
    • I found a spare PC, put linux on it with ssh and got a hole opened in the firewall.
    That last may be better done as a fait accompli with the help of your friendly network guy.

    In response to the other question... no, I don't need Remedy guys. But I do need good C++ people. Are you smart and can you kick ass on C++ and do you want to live in San Francisco working at a pre-IPO startup that's not a no revenue dot-com?


    Faster, faster, until the thrill of...
    [ Parent ]

    Tips from a telecommuting programmer .. (4.40 / 5) (#11)
    by StrontiumDog on Wed Dec 06, 2000 at 12:25:42 PM EST

    ... my company frowns on telecommuting, but it's small and informal enough that people do whatever they want to anyway. I program, and when I have to work on a large chunk of code and I don't need user input then I check the neccessary stuff out of the code repository and work at home.

    Programming on a project at home does require that the project is set up so that programmers can check out source from CVS or VSS or whatever, compile, test and go. This requires attention to a few things:

    1. A uniform, easily reproducible build environment. Choose industry standard tools (e.g. gcc/makefiles on *nix, Visual C++ on *doze); burn a CD in so that you can take a fresh laptop, install the OS, pop in the CD and have a working build environment.

    2. The entire build environment must be stored in CVS. This includes, if possible, all dependent libraries and DLLs. When you check out your project you want it to compile straight away. To avoid bloat, modularize as much as possible, so that you don't have to check out all 300 MB of your co-worker's shit in order to get your own module compiled.

    3. Choose standardized software. I'm not plugging any platform here, just giving an example: my company is a Microsoft shop, and we use Visual Studio, Win NT, MS Office and Exchange, MS SQL Server (for small and medium sized databases) and Oracle (for large databases). The languages are C++ for systems programming and Visual Basic for glue. We have a list of acceptable hardware. There are almost no exceptions allowed. The downside to this is that we rarely get to play with cool stuff, exotic languages, or personal favourites. The upside is that we can set up shop quickly and efficiently almost anywhere: at home, at work, and at clients.

    4. Store test environments and test cases for each product. Include initialization SQL scripts and SQL scripts that create test databases quickly. Make sure the test cases match reality. There are few things more irritating than have someone code up the perfect program at home, only to have it barf all over the customer's data.

    5. Agree on standards. This includes coding conventions, modularization conventions, libraries and language features. Teleworkers should be an integral part of the company, not hermits working on isolated projects at home. This however means that programmers should be able to understand and work with each others' code without difficulty, and realizing this neccessitates the use of fairly rigorous standards.

    It is possible for a large number of workers in a software sweatshop to telecommute, if the basis is laid carefully. IMHO it can lead to much happier and more productive workers.

    Amusing/insightful look at telecommute (4.00 / 2) (#12)
    by Knile87 on Wed Dec 06, 2000 at 01:13:18 PM EST

    This is just MLP, really.
    In a Baltimore City Paper column 11 months ago, Suz Redfearn discussed the craziness that is telecommuting for a journalist. Perhaps there's a bit of hyperbole, but check it out just the same.

    "We're all on a big ship! We're on a big cruise, across the world!" -- Iowa Bob, in Hotel New Hampshire


    It all depends on the people (4.00 / 1) (#14)
    by scsiboy on Wed Dec 06, 2000 at 01:47:29 PM EST

    I telecommute full-time for my company, as does every member of the group that I work for (there's something like fifteen of us, scattered around the country). In my opinion, we are one of the most efficient groups within the company.

    Another group, which manages our network backbone, is also mostly comprised of folks who work from home. A lot of people within the company view them as the laziest, least efficient people in the company.

    It all depends on who the people in question are. My group is made up of hard-working, self-motivated people who take pride in what we do. We will work long hours if we have to, even though we can (in theory) simply walk away from our desks at any moment and no one will really know the difference. For a while there I was routinely putting in 70-80 hour weeks from my home office. But I felt they were productive weeks, rather than the 60 hour weeks I used to put in down at the office where I really got more like 20 hours of work done and had 40 hours of worthless meetings, stupid banter with co-workers I didn't even want to talk to, or folks coming in and asking me questions because they didn't know how to do their own jobs correctly.

    If you have a good group of people, and a manager who isn't an overbearing gorilla, telecommuting can work very, very well (it certainly has for us). If you have a group of people who aren't motivated properly or whose boss is a micromanager or apathetic, it's going to be a disaster. In short, like anything else in life, "it depends".

    Oh, and we're not programmers (except when our job requires us to be) - we're mostly Solaris administrators working on sites from remote which range all across the US from coast to coast, for a large ISP (or are they an ASP this month - can't recall :-)

    Yes, it can work (3.66 / 3) (#15)
    by phliar on Wed Dec 06, 2000 at 02:20:47 PM EST

    Does anyone do so regularly? Anyone have actual experience of setting up a telecommuting scheme, or encouraging their companies to allow the practice?
    I'm a manager at a small company, and a couple of the people in my group work from home two or three times a week. Across the whole company, about half of the engineers telecommute two or three times a week. As far as how management feels about it - I hired most of these guys, I've worked with them, and I trust them to make their schedules. And they do. (And to be frank, I get more work done when some of the guys are working from home and not playing in the hallways!)

    I think high-speed access at home is important for it to work so things like remote X11 sessions, source code checkins etc. are usable, email is responsive, and you're available on the phone.

    I don't telecommute myself because I want to get out of the house and it's a short bus or train ride to get to work. Also, I usually have to be in meetings most days.

    (We're in San Francisco.)


    Faster, faster, until the thrill of...

    What?!?!? (2.33 / 3) (#19)
    by theboz on Wed Dec 06, 2000 at 08:35:43 PM EST

    I'm a manager at a small company...I hired most of these guys, I've worked with them, and I trust them to make their schedules.

    And you are a manager? Wow...ummm...need any Remedy developers?

    Stuff.
    [ Parent ]

    Re: What?!?!? (1.00 / 1) (#21)
    by phliar on Thu Dec 07, 2000 at 12:20:13 AM EST

    And you are a manager? Wow...ummm...need any Remedy developers?
    Remedy? Ugh! No, I'm looking for C++ people. Anyone looking for a C++ job in San Francisco?


    Faster, faster, until the thrill of...
    [ Parent ]

    Telecommuting will continue to grow (3.50 / 2) (#16)
    by smartbomb on Wed Dec 06, 2000 at 05:21:12 PM EST

    I'm actually surprised by all the people who think telecommuting can even sometimes work. My initial thought was no way! But now that I've done it, it's amazing to find how many things you can do if you have a decent connection.

    I'm still not at all crazy about the lack of human contact; that is the main source of problems -- lack of communication. But I still can't write off telecommuting as being a trend. It's just too easy & convenient for so many people, and moreso every day. People will adapt, they will learn to make the most out of the resources available to them. The problems will become known issues, and practical solutions will be devised and adopted by companies & workers that benefit from it.

    Geographic distribution of bodies (3.00 / 2) (#17)
    by scsiboy on Wed Dec 06, 2000 at 05:56:31 PM EST

    As I remarked earlier, my group at work all telecommute full-time (except the couple that go in a day or two each week because they want to do so).

    What I forgot to mention was that the 14 of us live in six different states. Those of us living in the same state don't always even live in the same part of the state. So there's little reason for us to have "office" environments at all (probably why our management is so peculiar in their willingness to let us telecommute, I guess).

    Because BT are crap! (none / 0) (#22)
    by PenguinWrangler on Thu Dec 07, 2000 at 07:01:16 AM EST

    That's the UK reason, anyway. For example. BT announced their ADSL service months and months and months ago.
    (It's pretty crappy really, the 'home' version (40 GBP a month, payable only via credit card) uses USB to connect rather than ethernet!)
    I pre-ordered, during the period where if you pre-ordered you got free installation.
    Months later, BT started installing ADSL. It was incredibly buggy. Rather than "always on", it was "On until we decide you're not". Then as the servers failed to release the IP addresses from disconnected users, they ran out of IP addresses making it impossible for anyone to connect until some guy from BT went and rebooted the servers!!!
    All this time, I heard nothing. I recently got an email, and went to the web page to request installation. They tried to charge me the 150 GBP installation. But I'd pre-ordered during the free installation period!
    BT had been sitting on ADSL for ages, trying to squeeze the last piece of money out of their ISDN business.
    Meanwhile, my cable TV company is now doing cable modems with an ethernet connection and way cheaper than ADSL.
    The broadband situation in the UK is way behind what it is in the US, and most of the reason for that is directly at BT's door.
    "Information wants to be paid"
    ...speaking as a middle manager (1.00 / 1) (#23)
    by pgrb on Thu Dec 07, 2000 at 02:35:59 PM EST

    I've read the comments here and will add my small contribution.

    I let my team members routinely telecommute/work from home one day a week. Non-routinely two days a week. Above that - no go.

    Why? Partly corporate culture (presenteeism), partly bad technology.

    Technology:

    All team members have mobile phones, so they are contactable at home while dialled in on their 33.6 kbit/s connections. No broadband.

    The modem pool isn't big enough. If more than a few people in the organisation work from home, those that dial in late are shut out until people log-off to go for lunch.

    E-mail attachments are routinely multi-megabyte. This plus slow connections makes keeping quasi-real-time contact more than usefully difficult.

    I do not have budget to upgrade the modem pool, or use a broadband-based VPN solution.

    Basically, you go home to get away from the distractions of the office and 'get some work done' - often documentation requiring uninterupted thinking. It works well for this.

    Corporate culture:

    My team provide support resource to a large division of the organisation. A significant part of the business runs to deadlines and the people involved need info from my team - if they are not contactable or can't supply the needed info (remember the multi-megabyte e-mails) the temparature rises dramatically.

    We also need face-to-face time. We work with parts of the organisation in Asia, Europe and the USA. This means a lot of e-mail and voice confererencing - however we still *need* face to face meetings. Removing people from the office would kill the 'buzz' needed to get work done (did I mention deadlines). We know from the feedback we get that e-mail and voice conferencing with our overseas colleagues is not enough - that people need human interaction every once in a while. We provide a far better service to our 'local' people who can get 'face time'. I'm looking to place people in the geographic areas we need to support for precisely this reason.

    To sum up:

    Telecommuting over slow modem links works well for getting uninterrupted jobs done. We still need the human interaction of the office/campus. Broadband may change that, but that will not happen soon where I am.

    Note, I have deliberately not said what we do, or who I work for, or even where in the world I'm based.



    Telecommute and save the planet? | 23 comments (23 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)
    Display: Sort:

    kuro5hin.org

    [XML]
    All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. The Rest 2000 - Present Kuro5hin.org Inc.
    See our legalese page for copyright policies. Please also read our Privacy Policy.
    Kuro5hin.org is powered by Free Software, including Apache, Perl, and Linux, The Scoop Engine that runs this site is freely available, under the terms of the GPL.
    Need some help? Email help@kuro5hin.org.
    My heart's the long stairs.

    Powered by Scoop create account | help/FAQ | mission | links | search | IRC | YOU choose the stories!