ITGS Syllabus

Friday, October 06, 2006

Topic 149

social effects of telecommuting by Simon

Telecommuting is the practice of working from one's home, or at a satellite location near one's home, where employees use communication and computer technology to interface with internal and external stakeholders. Most reports on telecommuting suggest that this alternative has been positively received by both employees and manager. Employees view telecommuting as a way to maintain better balance of the demands of work and family, and managers regard it as an opportunity to gain a number of benefits for their own commodities.

The definition of telecommuting is described as “is working, in which, the work, the location of which is independent of the employer or contractor and can be changed according to the wishes of the individual teleworker and/or the organization for which he or she is working. It is work which relies primarily or to a large extent on the use of electronic equipment, the results of which are communicated remotely to the employer or contractor. The remote communications line need not be a direct telecommunications link but could include the use of mail or courier services.”

Telecommuting is significant in the nature of the working atmosphere of which advanced technology are used frequently, often computers. Our society is moving away from a manufacturing and industrial focus and becoming an information-driven machine. Jobs based on information are obviously more suited for telecommuting than manufacturing based positions, where the materials cannot be easily transported. However, this is not simply an effect predicted to occur at some point in the future. As of 1998, approximately 7.6 million Americans are full time telecommuters and sixty two percent of all American companies offer some type of telecommuting program.

Despite cultural gender stereotypes surrounding gender and technology, the overwhelming majority of telecommuters are in fact women. Most social scientists suspect that it is related to North American gender role which demands that women must care for the children in a family. In fact, a 1995 study by Telecommute American showed that roughly 75% of American teleworkers claimed that they chose to telecommute in order to "balance work and family life".

Although this claim does not link telecommuting to caring for children, but it is definitely suggestive of the trend. Furthermore, most of the data gathered from companies about their teleworkers indicate a definite gender difference in reasons cited for telecommuting. While most men often indicate that they telecommute in order to save money and have less direct supervision, women, who constitute the vast majority of teleworkers, almost invariably cite family considerations. In terms of worker class, studies show that telecommuting is an almost classless phenomena, with telecommuters ranging from low level clerks to highly paid executives.

This broad range of telecommuters is indicative of its widespread use and importance. It is not simply a new work style which affects a small, elite percentage of the population, but rather a fundamental shift in how all work is being done as a whole.
The advantages of telecommuting vary from different perspectives. From the corporate perspective, worker productivity is increases significantly. Many statistics are available to support this claim. One of the most studied and publicized telecommuting experiments occurred at a company known as Antelope Valley Health Net. Their statistics show that productivity is 15 percent higher for telecommuters than for non-telecommuters. Another benefit is that corporate real estate costs are cut dramatically. Studies have shown that companies that have instituted telecommuting programs have had real estate costs cut by anywhere between 25% and 90%.

Worker perspective claims that telecommuting increases free time by eliminating transportation time and allowing them to schedule their day to maximize performance They also claim that telecommuting allows those who cannot work in the traditional workplace to have jobs. For example, the disabled, who would have a difficult time getting to and working in the traditional office, can work productively at home. Also, it allows workers to spend more time with their families.

From society’s perspective, telecommuting is ecological. It Can: clean up air pollution, ease the load on transportation systems, and lower our dependence on foreign oil imports. This is due to the fact that telecommuting reduces the demand for transportation, and therefore the cost of transportation, which is mainly oil, will be less consumed. This would significantly reduce traffic problems, reduce our oil consumption, and improve our environment.

There are few known disadvantages to the corporation from telecommuting. One is that there are few possibilities for career advancement. Some workers don’t feel that their possibility for promotion or career advancement had increased due to telecommuting. In fact, many reported that their decision to commute was "career suicide", as without face to face contact with their managers, they were unlikely to be chosen for promotions or assigned to their top choices for projects. Another problem is social isolation. Telecommuting separates each individual worker from the team of employees found at the office. This undoubtedly leads to feelings of isolation, as workers cannot associate with their colleagues. Although it is difficult to quantify how isolated a worker feels in hard data, it should be fairly obviously that a worker who is telecommuting definitely loses an important part of his social life.


social effects of telecommuting by Dwarkesh

What Is It?

Telecommuting is defined by Webster's New World Dictionary as "using a computer terminal, microcomputer, fax, etc. to perform work in one's home that traditionally has been done in the office." A mid-level employee is defined as anyone above an entry-level position or one rank above entry-level on the corporate hierarchy. A technical position would refer to a position where the job duties, to a significant extent, involve dealing with data or machines, and not human beings.

Reasons for Telecommuting

One of the most frequently cited motivations for telecommuting by people who wish to telecommute is the opportunity to alleviate some of the hassles that are created by commuting to work on a daily basis. Regardless of where we live or what mode of transportation we use to get to work, it seems that, almost without exception, people find their commute to work to be an extremely annoying aspect of their lives. If we live in a densely populated urban area we frequently have to take overcrowded, uncomfortable, somewhat unreliable, and sometimes dirty buses or trains to get to work. If we live in a less densely populated suburban or rural area we commonly have to drive to work through massive traffic jams over poorly maintained roads and then park in expensive parking lots. Not too many people find either alternative particularly appealing.

The financial aspect of traveling to and from work is frequently regarded as an undesirable part of commuting, and motivates some people to find an alternative to commuting. There are several components to the financial aspect. These include the actual cost of the ticket on the mode of transport (if it is a form of public transportation), the maintenance costs of using one's own vehicle (including tolls, gasoline, and parking fees), the costs of obtaining nourishment while at the place of employment, and the costs of maintaining a suitable wardrobe for one's working environment.

This is a relevant issue because an increasing number of large corporations are offering, or in some cases even requiring, telecommuting for a certain portion of their employee population. The issue is of interest because many of us, as potential employees of these corporations, or maybe as entrepreneurs who will start our own corporations, are insisting that telecommuting be offered as a work option, and every day more of us have the possibility of telecommuting in our future.

What is The Issue?

Self-identity is an important concept to this issue because in psychology one's continual sense of self is based on one's personal attributes and the external relationships that one identifies as defining. Hegel located human identity in social activity, concluding that our consciousness of self arises from our interaction with others, and this interaction will at times be competitive, while at other times it will be collaborative. Obviously, when we are going to work, our work environment will influence many of these interactions, and if we are working from home, our interactions with others will be impacted dramatically. The social basis of personal identity is determined by common links of identification within groups. These common links are defined and bolstered by making contrasts with those who are perceived to be of a different group. If one is not a member of any work group because one is working from home, where are these common links going to come from? They will have to come from someplace other than one's work situation. Erickson said that confusion between social and professional roles may cause an identity crisis. My own opinion is that one's self-identity is, to a large extent, determined by the things in life that one is passionate about.

As long as people are living in one place and working in another, it is difficult to be optimistic about the possibility of commuting being made less onerous anytime in the foreseeable future. Much time and money has been spent in recent years to promote alternatives, such as car-pooling or public transportation, to driving alone to work. In some cases, employers have been required to implement programs to reduce the number of trips that their employees make in order to get to work. For example, Southern California employers were required by Regulation XV (1990) and its successor regulations to implement trip reduction programs for their employees, but drive-alone, carpool, and mass transit rates have remained remarkably constant throughout the period of the regulation and thereafter.

The only way to substantially increase the percentage of trips made on public transit would be to make the use of automotive vehicles far less convenient or far more costly — such as by quadrupling the cost of gasoline or placing heavy taxes on automobiles … But these steps will be so strongly opposed by a majority of Americans that there is absolutely zero chance that they will happen. The most important thing to understand about traffic congestion is that it is a problem that cannot be solved. There is no remedy for traffic congestion because traffic congestion is essentially a balancing mechanism that enables people to pursue six objectives other than minimizing their commuting time. All these problems with commuting and the unlikely possibility of commuting being made less difficult combine to make the idea of telecommuting more and more attractive.


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