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Working from Home: Work, Slack Off, or Run Errands?

Via Meadia often talks about the importance of telecommuting for the future of the American economy. Many businesses these days allow employees to work from home. But how can a manager make sure they aren’t slacking off? One solution involves new software and management techniques that make it possible for managers to monitor their employees’ productivity, even from afar. It’s a slight invasion of privacy, when your boss has access to the websites you visit during the work day, but many people are happy to pay that price in return for the comforts of a home office and the flexibility to run a few errands during the day.

This new software and other monitoring techniques are making it possible for more and more companies to allow employees to work from home at least part of the time. This is an important trend in the American economy.

More specifically, the more Americans who work from home, the less impact on the environment they will have. Less commuting, less greenhouse gas emissions. Smart greens could do more for the environment by promoting this trend than by chasing after fantasies like cap and trade and boondoggles like high-speed rail.

The future is coming faster than you think.

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  • Michael Sheldon

    The green/blue agenda is all about control. Anti-sprawl regs force people into cities. Then they try to get us out of our cars. In Seattle, where I live, they are deliberately creating congestion by taking away lanes for cars and giving them to buses. Once they’ve converted us to straphangers–all it takes is a transportation strike to keep us in line…. Telecommuting runs counter to this agenda, so don’t expect the government types to support it any time soon.

  • Kurmudge

    Yeah, but the easiest thing to do is just have productivity standards wherever piecework is possible. When I telecommute, I tend to go from 7 AM to 11 PM because I want to be sure that I have gotten enough done that day. The office is almost more restful.

  • Everyman

    And how about the ability to react and respond when the muse is nigh, whatever the time of day or night? Timing and unexpected inspiration can be everything if there’s an intellectual component to the “work”. Both are more likely when I’m open to them, which is to say when I’m not sitting at a desk and not distracted by everything in the office setting.

  • JG

    While the WSJ article today is mainly about traditional office workers, work-at-home is also a great opportunity for large numbers of entry-level contact center employees. Companies save from less facility costs while employees save on commute and other areas. These are sizeable, recurring savings for both — a true win-win scenario.

    I may be biased as I design the underlying technology platforms.

  • Kevin

    It’s just as easy to goof off in the office. Self motivated go getters are highly productive in either setting. In fact i find most people are more productive when working from home. In my view the disadvantage of working from home is the lack of interaction with colleagues.

    I also think the focus on eliminating slacking off is counterproductive. When the work involves non-routine intellectual activity (as many white collar jobs do now), periodic breaks enhance productivity. If an employer does not trust an employee to be a productive telecommuter then they probably do not want that employee anyway.

    My experience has been that telecommuting some days is a win-win for employees and employers. It’s a low cost benefit employers can offer that, by increasing lifestyle flexibility and reducing commuting (and lunch!) costs, improves employee morale.

  • Corlyss

    @ Michael
    “they are deliberately creating congestion by taking away lanes for cars and giving them to buses.”

    You left out the bike lanes. Insane biking lobby conspires with anti-prosperity envirothugs to take streets away from autos in the name of “saving Gaia.” In their theology, man was created to serve creation, not to exercise dominion over it.

  • An

    JetBlue has their customer service operators work from home for years. They are mostly mothers in Salt Lake City, Utah who have the option work part time/full time. Certain industries/jobs are ideally suited for home-sourcing.

  • spandrell

    What if I have two computers one next to the other?

    You have to be very stupid to slack off in a monitored PC.

  • Hayne Hamilton

    Employees working at home should be paid on piecework bassis with incentives with measures of qulity standards built in. They are then free to work as they choose at some minimum acceptable measure of output.

  • Boritz


    Think big.

  • Susan

    “Once they’ve converted us to straphangers”


    The Green movement is all about affluent hyper-paranoid hypochrondriacs who want to keep poor people out of their affluently purified environment.

    There is reason why Greenies have zero guilt about flying their private jets around the world while guilting Others into riding mass transit.

    The Green movement is an extension of the Utopianist movement of the early 20th; they are the next Margaret Sangers who believe that poor people-especially blacks and disabled-should not breed because poor people cause dirty poverty.

    Greenies cannot tolerate poor people so they’ll shove poor people into compact high rise ghettos, force abortion upon poor people, deny poor people access to mobility because to Greenies poor people are dirty and intrude upon their affluently pristine environment.

    Go Green is the worldly way of committing evil upon God’s innocent children.

  • phil g

    When can we stop it with the ‘greenhouse gas’ toss off. Local air quality impact from auto’s I get, ‘greenhouse gas’ is just a tired cliche.

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