Telecommuting-- substituting the computer for the trip to the job ----has been hailed as a solution to all kinds of problems related to office work.
For workers it promises freedom from the office, less time wasted in traffic, and help with child-care conflicts. For management, telecommuting helps keep high performers on board, minimizes tardiness and absenteeism by eliminating commutes, allows periods of solitude for high-concentration tasks, and provides scheduling flexibility. In some areas, such as Southern California and Seattle, Washington, local governments are encouraging companies to start telecommuting programs in order to reduce rush-hour congestion and improve air quality.
But these benefits do not come easily. Making a telecommuting program work requires careful planning and an understanding of the differences between telecommuting realities and popular images.
Many workers are seduced by rosy illusions of life as a telecommuter. A computer programmer from New York City moves to the tranquil Adirondack Mountains and stays in contact with her office via computer. A manager comes in to his office three days a week and works at home the other two. An accountant stays home to care for her sick child; she hooks up her telephone modern connections and does office work between calls to the doctor.
These are powerful images, but they are a limited reflection of reality. Telecommuting workers soon learn that it is almost impossible to concentrate on work and care for a young child at the same time. Before a certain age, young children cannot recognize, much less respect, the necessary boundaries between work and family. Additional child support is necessary if the parent is to get any work done.
Management too must separate the myth from the reality. Although the media has paid a great deal of attention to telecommuting in most cases it is the employee’s situation, not the availability of technology that precipitates a telecommuting arrangement.
That is partly why, despite the widespread press coverage, the number of companies with work-at-home programs or policy guidelines remains small.
30 The origin of Refrigerators
By the mid-nineteenth century, the term “icebox” had entered the American language, but ice was still only beginning to affect the diet of ordinary citizens in the United States. The ice trade grew with the growth of cities. Ice was used in hotels, taverns, and hospitals, and by some forward-looking city dealers in fresh meat, fresh fish, and butter. After the Civil War( 1861-1865),as ice was used to refrigerate freight cars, it also came into household use. Even before 1880,half of the ice sold in New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore, and one-third of that sold in Boston and Chicago, went to families for their own use. This had become possible because a new household convenience, the icebox, a precursor of the modern refrigerator, had been invented.
Making an efficient icebox was not as easy as we might now suppose. In the early nineteenth century, the knowledge of the physics of heat, which was essential to a science of refrigeration, was rudimentary. The commonsense notion that the best icebox was one that prevented the ice from melting was of course mistaken, for it was the melting of the ice that performed the cooling. Nevertheless, early efforts to economize ice included wrapping up the ice in blankets, which kept the ice from doing its job. Not until near the end of the nineteenth century did inventors achieve the delicate balance of insulation and circulation needed for an efficient icebox.
But as early as 1803, and ingenious Maryland farmer, Thomas Moore, had been on the right track. He owned a farm about twenty miles outside the city of Washington, for which the village of Georgetown was the market center. When he used an icebox of his own design to transport his butter to market, he found that customers would pass up the rapidly melting stuff in the tubs of his competitors to pay a premium price for his butter, still fresh and hard in neat, one-pound bricks. One advantage of his icebox, Moore explained, was that farmers would no longer have to travel to market at night in order to keep their produce cool..