Magazine article American Libraries

Telework, or Watching Television? (Will's World)

Magazine article American Libraries

Telework, or Watching Television? (Will's World)

Article excerpt

The issue of telecommuting, or the more recently preferred term "telework," has received a lot of attention in the wake of the terrorist attacks in New York City. When a company's headquarters is blown away in a disaster, telecommuting becomes a necessity for workers who have not yet been relocated to new offices. An increasing number of business leaders now realize that a decentralized network of teleworkers can be an important part of a major-disaster response. Having a dispersed work force lessens the blow of an attack on one central headquarters building. The telework option also cuts down on rush-hour traffic congestion, air pollution, and vehicular accidents. In addition, it creates an attractive work benefit for the highly skilled technical employee whose main occupational tool is a personal computer.

In this day and age it's hard to think of a good reason not to implement a telework program, but resistance still exists. Many traditional bosses feel that telecommuting maybe good for staff morale, but not for staff productivity. I know one supervisor who defines telecommuting as "staying home and watching television." The common fear among the older generation of managers is that without the vigilant eye of a supervisor or the snoopy gaze of a coworker, what typical employee is not going to resist the temptation to sleep late, watch television, take naps, snack often, and quit early? One corporation that I am familiar with even puts out a 24-page telecommuting handbook that states: "Watch out for bad habits especially snacking, watching soap operas, randomly surfing the Web, drinking alcohol, smoking, and wearing your pajamas all day long."

There's an additional problem for librarians. We live to serve the public. Although we inhabit a rapidly changing world, it has not changed to the point where patrons go to librarians' dwellings looking for information, books, and reference assistance. Yes, if it weren't for those pesky patrons, telecommuting would be an attractive option for librarians. We could stay home, drink tea, and read the collected works of Jane Austen without having to worry about inconveniencing anyone. Isn't that what most people think we do anyway--read books?

It is true, however, that not everyone who works in a library interfaces with patrons. …

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