telecommuting : Java Glossary
Working from home, tying into the office via communication lines. Tools for
communication include include email, phone, conference calls, video conferencing and
the CVS (Concurrent Versions System) version control system. It offers many benefits for
both employer and employee:
Telecommuting has its disadvantages too:
- Save on commuting time and pollution.
- Employer can rapidly put together a team of talent from all over the
- Employees can live in pleasant rural surroundings where the cost of living is
- No hassling with green cards, income tax deductions, workers’
compensation, legal liability, immigration laws or bureaucratic red tape.
- Employer does not need to provide office space and computers.
- Flexible hours.
- Code gets tested on a wider variety of equipment as an ongoing process.
- Written record of all communications.
- Extended access to the team leader without interrupting him.
- The team leader is typically much more on top of what his telecommuting people
are actually doing since they typically check in with him several times a day. He
relies more on looking at the code produced rather than whether they
look busy at their computers.
- You waste a lot less time with idle chit chat.
- The main disadvantage of telecommuting is employers or contract customers who
don’t pay. Since they are typically in another country, you can’t very
well take them to small claims court or arbitration. Because there is no mechanism
for resolving disputes, they can boil over into angry public newsgroup exchanges
where each party tries to destroy the other’s reputation. The best guard
against this is to seek longer term contracts where you get paid as you go. If they
stop paying, you stop working. Once you have shown a customer some custom software,
you can’t very well repossess it. Employers have the advantage here, since
they can ask to see samples of the employee’s previous work. Employees
can’t easily find out about the employer’s record of ripping people
off. If you visit the employer’s offices, you see at least some evidence of
his ability to pay. A telecommuting employer may have no money at all, but that
would not be obvious. On the web everyone can look like a millionaire.
- Similarly, it is fairly easy for someone to chew up substantial amounts of your
time with preliminary discussions on a project before you discover they have no
money and they want you to create this marvel for free, market it for them and
give them 95% of the profit.
- Most employers want to control their employees tightly and don’t like the
idea that their employees might be working in their underwear, or taking a nap and
billing them for it. Thus contracts where you work in the office are much more
numerous than telecommuting ones. As a result you typically get paid less for the
same work. If you bid fixed price contracts, then it is none of the
employer’s business when and if you take a nap, so long as you meet the
- It can be hard persuading friends and relatives that just because you are home,
you are not at home to their visits or phone calls. Similarly your
housemates may expect you to do extra errands or household chores since you are not
really working in their eyes.
- You can’t get away from your work. You tend to work very long hours.
- To avoid any suspicion you are padding your bills, or simply out of ego that
you think you should have been more productive, you may find yourself putting in
large amounts of unbilled time.
- In email, it is harder to read your fellow team members psychologically. It is
easy for someone to hide their irritation. However, people tend to be more blunt
with each other in email than in person, which can lead to protracted