Telecommuting: the Good and the Bad

Computers are changing the work environment, in ways for the better, in others for the worse. Telecommuting is now enabling people to work without actually “going to work”.

What is Telecommuting?  

Telecommuting is working for an employer at a computer-equipped space in the employee’s home. It may range from running one’s own business from home using computers and telecommunications, to traveling with a laptop computer and working in a car or at customer sites. Many work in coffee shops, outside near a park, or even on an airplane.

A study conducted by University of Maryland in 2006 found that 2% of all working adults telecommuted fulltime, 9% telecommuted at least one day a week, and 8% had home-run businesses.

Although telecommuting has its benefits, making life a bit more flexible for teleworkers, employers and society, it also has many problems.

So you think you want to work from home? Here are some pros and cons of telecommuting to help you decide if it is right for you.

The Benefits of Telecommuting

Teleworking offers significant benefits to employers, employees, self employed individuals and entrepreneurs, and in developing the local economy. It also presents opportunities to secure wider social benefits.

  • Telework shrinks large offices where real estate and office rentals are expensive and this can generate huge savings
  • Many employees are more satisfied with their job and more loyal to their employers
  • Telecommuting makes it easier to work with clients, customers and employees in foregin countries
  • Employees can easily work a few hours at night with clients from different time zones
  • Telecommuting reduces rush-hour traffic and the pollution and gasoline use that comes with it, along with expenses for commuting
  • Telecommuting saves time that can be used for exercise, sleep or more interaction with friends and family
  • It provides previously unavailable work options for elderly and disabled individuals who have a difficult time commuting
  • Telecommuting allows work to continue after extreme weather conditions
  • Employees are able to save one child-care expenses, allowing them to spend more time with their children
  • Employees are able to accept a job position in a distant location without having to move and are able to live in rural areas as opposed to urban areas
  • Telecommuting enables people to have more then one job at once

The Implications of Telecommuting   

From the benefits listed above, telecommuting sounds a little too good to be true, doesn’t it? As more businesses began to send their employees home to work, problems began to arise. Here are some examples of issues involved with telecommunication.

  • Employees who must work at the office show resentment towards their employers because their fellow colleagues may have the opportunity to work from home
  • Telecommuting causes some employees to be less productive at home, while others work too hard, for too long
  • Having to constantly work with clients around the world may require employees to work odd hours to match the client’s time zone
  • Some employees find it difficult to work at home because their require direction about what work and how much work to do
  • Working at home with children may be a distraction  and the lack of boudnary between home and work may cause problems in the life of many employees
  • Costs of office space may have to be shifted from the employer to the employee
  • Employees may miss out on mentoring relationships and advancement opportunities as well as social interactions at the workplace resulting in isolation
  • The employer at the workplace may provide their workers with sophisticated firewall, antivirus software, etc. but this may not be available to a telecommuter, thus, hackers may easily get into an employee’s home computer and track down sensitive business information

Who do we Choose?

I think it is safe to say that the pros of telecommuting outweigh the cons. Telecommuting can attract people in the work field on so many different levels. It can save money for both employers and employees… can even do a great deal in saving the environment! The question is: how do we hire and manage the right teleworker? Telecommuting requires different skills than working in an office, even if the job responsibilities are the same. The most successful teleworkers are self-reliant, self-motivated and understand how to plan their days, and deal with ambiguity. Communication skills are also must-have job skills since much of the interaction a teleworker does is verbal and written, not visual or face-to-face.

Personality tests offer a reliable indicator of job fit for a telewoker. Self-reliance, self-motivation, flexibility, collaborative tendencies, dealing with ambiguity, criticism tolerance, and multitasking are all characteristics that can be assessed using a validated pre-employment assessment test. While the results of such a personality assessment are not conclusive, they are very accurate at identifying the candidates who are not suited for this type of job.

Final Thoughts

So many benefits come with telecommuting, that we cannot forbid this form of work just because there may be potential problems that arise for certain employees. If this line of work is well suited for a certain type of person, then it should be made available to them. But tests, surveys, and interviews must be performed to guarantee that this individual is well suited for the life of a virtual-worker.

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The Evolution of the Internet

There was a time when you had one computer in the household that was located in the living room or den. If you were using the computer, there was someone nearby, looking over their shoulder. Now, computers are found all over the house including children’s bedrooms. Who knows what kids do behind closed doors? Most computers today have Internet connections that bring the entire world into the home.

How the Internet Created New Threats to Children

Back in the day, when a child would go to buy a ticket for an X-rated movie, or purchase an adult magazine, they would, in most cases, be stopped from doing so. Today, a child can simply turn on their computer at home, and watch inappropriate videos and pictures on the internet. The Web site operator does not see that the customer is a child.

In a playground, or a mall, a parent or observer might notice a stranger talking to a child. An online child molester is not visible, and the anonymity of the Internet makes it easy for one to prey on children.

There is no doubt that the outside world can be very unsafe, not only for kids but for everyone. But the internet brings these dangers into the home, which is meant to be a safe haven for children.

Canadian Internet Usage  on the Rise 

With the Internet being such a vital part of so many people’s lives, there is no doubt that it is the same for children. Canadians spend more time online than anyone else on Earth, according to new data from Web research firm comScore. And it’s not even by a small margin – the average Canadian spends 43.5 hours a month on the Web, almost twice the worldwide average of 23.1 hours.


The Dangers of the Web

Children are making use of the internet more and more. We’ve all heard about online predators, bullying, peer pressure and many other Internet safety issues.

How many times have you searched an innocent topic on the Web, and a pornographic site popped up on your screen? Inappropriate content on the Internet arrives in e-mail, turns up in results found by search engines, and shows up in the form of pop ups or ads. A simple click, can expose us to images and videos we do not want to see, let alone want children to see. It is not just the violence, and the pornography that can be harmful to minors. There are websites out there that, if stumbled upon by a child, can persuade them that annorexia is a good thing, giving them tips on how to loose weight, or teaching them how to tie a hangman’s noose, to commit suicide.

This link is a series of videos illustrating the problems that children face when on the internet.

Preventing Children from Harm Online

The Internet can be a very scary place! Wouldn’t it be nice if we could teach children what content to stay away from? We all know it isn’t that simple. It is human nature to go where you’re not supposed to just for the shear excitement of it.

Our sole intent is to make the Internet safer for our youth   

-Department of Justice spokesman, commenting on the demand for millions of user search terms from Google, 2006        

One way of preventing children from harmful and inappropriate content online, is to use software filters, which block sites with specific words, phrases, images and rating systems. Parents can choose categories to filter (e.g., sex or violence), add their own list of banned sites, and review a log of the sites their child visits.

But, filters do not do a perfect job, only filtering approximately 91% of pornographic sites. They screen out both too much and too little. For example, if a parent is filtering out sites about “sex”, sites about “Essex” will also be filtered out.

Site owners have found ways around software filters, by purposely misspelling words like “sex” or “pornography” so that their sites would not end up being filtered.  

Laws have been put in place to prevent minors from obtaining sexually explicit material on the Internet. In 2000, Congress passed the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA), which requires that schools and libraries that participate in certain federal programs (receiving federal money for technology) install filtering software on all Internet terminals to block access to sites with child pornography, obscene material, and material “harmful to minors”.

Concluding Statements

Ultimately, there is no way to entirely insulate children from the internet. The best protection is to talk to children about the dangers that exist online and have conversations about what they do during their computer time. Parents who are highly engaged in their children’s lives have the best chance of spotting a problem early on and preventing it from developing into serious consequences. Parents cannot always be present of course, nor should they  be watching over older children constantly, but good communication can avoid many issues with the Internet.

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Facebook: A Privacy Problem?

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  Did you hear the news?!?! Nick failed out of university! :0 Ashleigh called in sick for work to go away for the weekend! :0 Who is Nick and Ashleigh?!?! They are not in my friends list! Facebook’s new privacy … Continue reading

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