Sonya Sorich: The debate over telecommuting

March 5, 2013 

If you’d like to challenge your co-workers to a collective eye roll, try uttering this line.

"I'm working from home today."

Sure you are -- I bet your bedroom cubicle sits far, far away from the reality TV marathon that's scheduled to air this afternoon.

Sound familiar?

Despite the conveniences of modern technology, working from home in many professions is still often equated with some level of laziness. The topic attracted widespread debate when Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer announced her decision to ban telecommuting.

While the news hardly marked a national ban on working from home, it made many professionals wonder if they, too, would be permanently deprived of a God-given right to compose serious memos while flaunting flannel pajamas.

In fact, an article on Mashable cites a SurveyMonkey study in which roughly 46 percent of respondents maintained "they wouldn't be as satisfied with their work if they were required to come into the office every day."

"About 6 percent said they would even quit," Mashable's summary adds. Your employer doesn't allow 24-7 quality time with your dog? Life is so unfair.

In all seriousness, I understand the benefits of telecommuting. The traditional professional world favors certain absolutes that don't always make sense. For example, employers sometimes cling to the concept of an eight-hour day without examining the value and quality of work produced during those eight hours.

The same goes for the often antiquated notion of spending an entire day at a cubicle. When you're producing services or materials designed to fill a community's needs, shouldn't interacting with the community be part of your job?

In addition, the technology that eases telecommuting has also led to an increasingly distracting collective work space. Raise your hand if you have a co-worker who refuses to use headphones while watching YouTube videos. Yeah, I thought so.

Plus, some critics say Mayer's announcement has broader cultural implications -- specifically pertaining to women in the workplace. The Los Angeles Times notes, "Opponents have criticized Mayer, calling her decision regressive, anti-family and a punishment to working moms."

From the comfort of your couch, it's easy to forget the traditional work environment's benefits. You can hold meetings via Skype. But those meetings probably won't produce the ideas that come from spontaneous cross-cubicle conversations. And as tough as it is to admit, many of us need the socialization that comes with a standard office.

When used to enhance productivity, telecommuting has value. But if your home office is primarily an escape route, you have a problem.

Sonya Sorich, reporter, can be reached at ssorich@ledger-enquirer.com or 706-571-8516. Visit ledger-enquirer.com/sonya to read her columns.

Ledger-Enquirer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service