Former leading New Zealand publisher and bookseller, and widely experienced judge of both the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the Montana New Zealand Book Awards, talks about what he is currently reading, what impresses him and what doesn't, along with chat about the international English language book scene, and links to sites of interest to booklovers.
Wednesday, January 02, 2013
Why telecommuting may destroy your work/life balance.
Is working at home as good as it sounds?
The early case for telecommuting—made most prominently by Alvin Toffler in
his best-selling The Third Wavein 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 Beingsabout how an architect in
Europe might use a fax-like machine to supervise the construction of a building
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 famously
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 would 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. Full article at Slate.