What makes web working more difficult?

There are many things that make web working sound like a dream come true – flexible hours, lower transportation costs, and the ability to work anywhere we want. However, as web workers we know that there are things that make our work more challenging. If at least 40% of the American workforce have jobs that can be done from home, what exactly prevents them all from becoming teleworkers?

Worker evaluation based on time and presence. For most knowledge workers, their workplace still tends to be time and presence oriented, rather than results oriented. This means that employees are required – or simply preferred, whether intentionally or not – to show up at the office even if they don’t necessarily have to.

Even the employees themselves are aware of this, and 62% employees in one survey actually believe that their respective companies prefer that they physically show up for work.

Lack of lay understanding. Not everyone understands teleworking, and some people don’t even recognize it as “real work”, whatever that means. It’s a small hindrance, but it has its consequences – especially if those who misunderstand teleworking are your colleagues and clients. There are several myths surrounding teleworkers, often making them sound as if they were lazy, require a lot of ‘babysitting’ from supervisors, or are less loyal to the company. If the people you work with believe these myths, even slightly, their perception of you and your work changes. The sad thing is that in business, perception is important – no matter how flawed or misinformed the onlooker’s perspective may be.

Few mass-market telepresence products. While email and instant messaging serve their purpose, we can communicate even better with our clients and companies if affordable, high quality teleconferencing products were the norm. Affordability is important, otherwise corporations would be more hesitant to allow employees to telework if doing so would cost more. With reliable teleconferencing systems, we can still be teleworkers without losing “face time” with supervisors, colleagues, and other business contacts – perhaps allowing teleworking to appeal even to those who crave the social nature of traditional offices.

Data security needs improvement. Although organizations are now being open-minded about web working, there are still several things that are being overlooked, especially when it comes to data security, according to a recent survey:

“Another surprising finding in the survey was the lack of formal policies, operational procedures or training in place to educate their employees about the risk of data loss or to prevent or mitigate the risk of breaches of privacy or security regarding personal information.”
Source: “Risk at Home: Privacy and Security Risks in Telecommuting” from the Center for Democracy and Technology

As the survey shows, apart from the equipment itself, company standards, department accountability, and data security training would make web working a safer option for both the employee and the company. The fewer security vulnerabilities occur, the safer everyone will feel about the option to telework.

These obstacles might make web working more difficult, but with its increasing popularity comes the development of best practices, revisions of company policies, and the rise of innovative products. The numbers seem to be on our side, so we only have a few years to wait before this list of difficulties will be crossed out – and replaced with new ones.

What difficulties do you face as a web worker? How and when do you think you can overcome these difficulties?

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