Lively and in-depth discussions of city news, politics, science, entertainment, the arts, and more.
Hosted by Larry Mantle
Airs Weekdays 10 a.m.-12 p.m.

How telecommuting splits, stretches and eats your time

A mother talks on her cell phone, ignoring her young son.
A mother talks on her cell phone, ignoring her young son.

Listen to story

Download this story 8.0MB

If you asked people from a few decades ago about what they expected to see in the future, you’d hear some seemingly outlandish predictions. By now, we were supposed to all be riding around in driverless cars. Well, Google is on its way to take care of that. And the Internet was meant to revolutionize the way we present ourselves to the world and communicate. Facebook’s got that covered. And technology was going to advance in such a way that we’d all be able to work from the comfort of our own homes.

As many employees know, telecommuting is now a possible and accepted means of getting work done without having to make the weekday journey to an office. In fact, a recent Ipsos/Reuters poll shows that, across the globe, one in five workers telecommunicate. But what was intended to be a way of making life easier now seems to be backfiring.

A Freedom of Information request of a U.S. department which gave employees free reign in choosing when, where and how to do their work revealed that the output got worse, while employees and employers felt disconnected and uncertain of their performances. Even when telecommuting seems to work, as it does at Aetna, there are still problems. The insurance company’s telecommuters are heavier than those who go into work, and now Aetna offers online trainers to keep their employees healthy.

What other examples are out there of telecommuting gone wrong? What about in your own lives? Have you ever had the telecommuting job from Hell? What was so bad about it? Did you notice a physical problem or an emotional one? Was it harder to work at home with the kids than putting them in a daycare and trudging to work? Call in and give us your horror stories, from the comfort of your own home.


Mary C. Noonan, Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Iowa, co-author of the recent study “The Hard Truth About Telecommuting” which appeared in ‘Monthly Labor Review’