There was an article in this month's issue of Wired magazine touting the advantages of telecommuting and openly wondering why working from home isn't wholly embraced by more businesses. It got me to thinking about the reality of working from home. The other posits that businesses are averse to telecommuting for fear of losing control of their staff. I think this is probably the least of most managers' worries when considering whether to let their staff work from the home office.

Firstly, there is a whole industry of folks that simply don't have the option to work at home. If you are paid an hourly wage, chances are you can't take your work home with you. Next, consider experts and professionals such as lawyers and doctors. Running the business from the home is certainly an option, but having a separate office gives a much greater impression of professionalism to the clients.

So who does that leave? What niche of people could realistically work from home? People in my profession (programmers) certainly qualify. Authors, artists, accountants...anyone who only needs simple materials (including a PC) to complete their daily work could probably do their job from home. Video conferencing and the internet permit easy communication with colleagues regardless of location.

So could I work from home? Sometimes, and I have enjoyed that opportunity on a few occassions in the past. But in most cases, it wouldn't be the best solution for me. For one, there are three kids in the house, and explaining to a two year old, a four year old, and a baby that daddy needs to be undisturbed for 8 to 10 hours even though he is in the basement just doesn't work. Second, there are some pieces of equipment that I need to complete my job from time to time, and having those on hand at home isn't always possible. It is much more cost effective for my employer to purchase common resources that we can all utilize while at the office (such as test benches, faxes, printers, etc.) rather than for each employee to require them in their home.

In my opinion, the sluggish adoption of telecommuting is less about control issues, and much more about the realities of who can work at home, and in what capacity.


Jade Mason