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Summary:

Writing on the website of The Atlantic recently, Alexis Madrigal compared telecommuting to the jetpack, describing it as a “a long-promised, much-anticipated technological system that’s never arrived.” He notes that uptake of the practice has stalled. So what’s Madrigal’s explanation for this plateauing?

telecommuting and the young

While we recognize the dangers and downsides of web work, here at WebWorkerDaily we’re pretty optimistic about the idea on the whole. But not every media outlet is feeling quite so positive about telecommuting.

Writing on the website of venerable magazine The Atlantic recently, Alexis Madrigal compared telecommuting to the jetpack, describing it as a “a long-promised, much-anticipated technological system that’s never arrived.” He notes that while studies show a great many more people could telecommute than presently do, uptake of the practice has stalled (which is true).

So what’s Madrigal’s explanation for the plateau in the number of teleworkers? Telecommuting is less pervasive than some have predicted for a very simple reason, according to Madrigal:

It’s just less fun, particularly for the people most likely to adopt it. For younger people, going to an office is more fun than sitting at home. It’s where they make friends and find camaraderie. Home is great for a few hours, and then it’s kind of lonely and dull. While there are coworking spaces and coffeeshops, the easiest solution is to just go into the office.

But fear not, fans of web work, Madrigal sees a brighter future for telecommuting at some point. Just not before we all grow up and start families. Noting that flexible working is big with parents, Madrigal ends the piece by joining the ranks of those who predict a bright future for telecommuting… eventually.

“As the Internet-native generation, which communicates by IM even in the office, starts to have kids, “ he writes, “they’ll care less about office life and more about home. Telecommuting will take off.”

20-something cubicle dwellers weigh in: Is web work only appealing to the middle-aged?

Image courtesy of Flickr user fodt.

  1. San @WorkSnug Monday, August 1, 2011

    Interesting! A certified young person in our team wrote a blog post along similar lines: Are young people cut out for flexible working? http://blog.worksnug.com/post/8335334310/are-young-people-cut-out-for-flexible-working

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  2. That’s an interesting way to look at it. I’m in my mid/late twenties and I do like a mix of working from home ,and going on-site to work with the client directly. I have a solid core of non work friends though that I meet for lunch with, hangout, etc. If I didn’t have that group working remotely all the time may be boring.

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  3. I think it’s interesting how the writer considers telecommuting and ‘web work’ the same thing.

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  4. Part of the reason I enjoy working in an office, after several years of full time web-working, is because of the change of scenery and socialization.

    Evan, UI Designer, 25

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  5. Definitely an interesting article. I am also in that IM generation and love to have the option to work from home but I wouldnt want to do it every day. I think that you are right that this generation will eventually embrace working from home more once they begin having families.

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  6. Alyssa Magnotti Monday, August 1, 2011

    I like to have the option to work from home but prefer to be in the office most days. I do agree that once the younger generation begins to have families, there will be more and more people working from home or coworking spaces (like thinkspace) in the future.

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  7. I think it’s all about how you adapt to the so-called ‘loneliness’ of freelance work. Yes, the argument is valid that young people loves going to the office for camaraderie, team building and so on… but just because you’re web working doesn’t mean you won’t get a chance to meet new people.

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  8. Barbara Saunders Monday, August 15, 2011

    The best scenario would be an office I could go to for a few hours, and leave without asking permission for the local cafe or the private home office. Barring that, better to cope with isolation than with claustrophobia.

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