Telecommuting – It’s all so personal


I’ve long believed that the decisions we make are far less rational and objective than we would believe. We are driven by our emotions, fear being the most powerful. This is no better illustrated than within the structure we call the workplace. Business objectives are so easily converted to personal objectives (often described as egoism) and “power politics” becomes the main game. That’s why, so often, the “shit” rises to the top. Those who fight the hardest to be promoted to positions of power are so often the weakest and the most afraid.

Almost everyone seeks recognition and affirmation, socially and professionally. That is perfectly natural and is something we need from the day we are born. It is part of identifying and defining ourselves, and our way of managing those self-doubts we have developed. But for those who have a very negative self-image and feel threatened by their environment, it becomes a dysfunctional need for power and control. Thus is born megalomania, which is no most explicit than in our workplaces.

This brings me to the matter of telecommuting, or simply, working from home. Recent studies have confirmed that the benefits to both the employee and the business are significant. But employers are remarkably reluctant to introduce telecommuting to their workplaces. The big question is why. I believe that it’s all very personal.

A 2013 McCrindle Research survey of more than 580 workers in Australia found almost 80% of them were keen to work from home with a large proportion of these people believing that telecommuting would encourage greater loyalty to their employer. And the benefits of working from home go way beyond the workplace. Research last year by Access Economics suggests that telecommuting can deliver nationally an additional $3.2 billion a year to the gross domestic product. This is equivalent to 25,000 extra full-time jobs. And a study by the Business School Institute of Transport and Logistics found that encouraging employees to work from home just one day a week could cut traffic congestion significantly at peak travelling times, not to mention the environmental benefits. These findings are available to every Australian employer. Yet, in the last five years, the percentage of employees who telecommute has decreased.

It seems that so many business managers prefer their employees to be present in the workplace because they think that this gives them more direct and immediate control over performance and effort. A University of Queensland study deduced that management attitudes and workplace culture presented the biggest obstacles to adopting telework in an organisation.  Employees reported that many managers were reluctant to allow them to work from home because of concerns about their inability to monitor and control their work, and a general lack of trust.

So, our business productivity is stifled by management, not by the workers. I have no doubt that is not only a matter of their paranoia, but their resentment of the people they see as underlings having an advantage that is denied them.

It makes me wonder about the whole hierarchical structure of workplace employment. Perhaps that needs to be studied in depth and any changes recommended be adopted. Problem is that the megalomaniacs would never allow such a “radical” change. These people are inherently conservative because fear rules their thinking. This is why we need leadership on this issue (and many others). If a government would actively promote and reward businesses that adopt the tellecommuting infrastructure, not only would the economy benefit, but the work/life balance would be positively impacted. And it would largely relieve the problem of the daily traffic congetsion that clogs our streets, mentally impact upon worker mental health, and significantly REDUCE carbon emmissions.

I implore my political colleagues of The Greens to begin openly talking about this issue. Please guys, carry this banner.


Geoff Mooney