On Telecommuting and Cyberspace

It's a hot trend in the workplace: working from home or the coffee shop or anywhere, thanks to the Internet.

"Imagine a work world with no commute, no corporate headquarters and perhaps not even an office in the physical world at all," suggested ABC News the other week.

I'm familiar with the concept.

I've been self-employed since 1993. In addition to writing this weekly column, I provide communications services to corporate clients. My biggest client is in Virginia. I work from Pittsburgh.

I have a broadband card on my portable computer that gives me Internet access from anywhere. I dial into meetings and conduct interviews with my cell phone. There's no need for me to go to an office.

I sit in coffee shops most days and pubs most nights. I sit in the corner and peck away on my keyboard. I make a fine living wearing blue jeans and sipping a latte. And I've got plenty of company.

I've befriended others who work as I do: a marketing consultant who works 30 hours a month so she can spend most of her time with her children; a computer engineer who from Pittsburgh works for the Virginia company that also pays me; a pro who ghostwrites books for big publishers.

It's a grand time to be alive. It's a grand time to be free.

I'm free to work or not work on any given day. I don't punch a clock. Nobody cares where or when or how I work. My clients only care about results — about how well I get the job done.

I'm free to fail or succeed, too. If I want to make more money, all I have to do is work harder — work harder to find and service new clients. The more hours I bill, the more dough I earn.

And while I can earn more as a self-employed fellow than I ever could as an employee, I save money for my clients. I'm a bargain. When they contract with me, they are buying my experience and skill. I get things done faster than someone less experienced.

 Better yet, they don't have to worry about taxes, health insurance, worker's compensation and a million other government-imposed obligations and burdens associated with full-time employees.

When companies contract my services, they don't need to worry about the high cost of office space, either — heat, electric, wiring, security and all the other headaches and worries of operating large buildings.

Most employees don't know it, but their salary is only a fraction of their overall cost to their employer. If your pay is $50,000 a year, your full cost to your employer is closer to $75,000.

While I charge a nice fee for my services, my clients save money. We both win. In fact, there are lots and lots of winners.

The environment wins. Four years ago, I commuted daily to an office building in Virginia. I put 24,000 miles on my car that year. I burned a lot of gasoline and sent a lot of money to oil-producing countries that wish us harm.

But now I walk to the coffee shop in the morning and hardly ever use my car. I put only 6,000 miles on the odometer last year. I put gas in the tank about once a month. I use the savings to buy good coffee, and the coffee shop wins, too.

I'm a lucky fellow, I know, but here is the best part. I was able to establish a wonderful quality of life on my own. I didn't need a government program to do it. Sure, the government gave birth to the Internet, but you get the point.

There are lots of jobs that can be done from anywhere nowadays. Why live in a high-cost metro area when you can move back to a wonderful place such as Pittsburgh? The housing is cheap here and you can walk to the coffee shop in the morning.

What a great time to be alive — a time to exercise our freedoms to the fullest. Now if you'll excuse me, my latte is ready.

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  • Guest



    I also telecommute from home.

    I am a systems analyst for  a major bank .

    It works out well both for them and me.


  • Guest

    Tom, how many laptops have your lattes destroyed?

  • Guest

    I install flooring for a living: hardwood, vinyl, etc. I do it online from anywhere. It's great–no more tools, work van, or travel to and from customers' homes! What a wonderful time to be alive!

  • Guest

    Dubblwide, attach some photos. Did you consider going commercial and doing tilework at the internet cafes?

  • Guest

    Dubblwide made a point that I was considering addressing also — for many kinds of work dealing with physical objects (my husband is a manufacturing engineer, for example) this whole telecommute thing has no relevance. And the fact is that the health of our economy will always depend on people who take raw materials and add value to them by molding, soldering, welding, turning, bending, shaping, gluing, wiring, etc.

  • Guest

    I am also in the manufacturing sector.  Still, the points I got are 

    a) Tom's costs are going down;

    b) his customers' costs are going down;

    c) his income is going up;

    d) overall wealth is going up;

    e) the Nanny State didn't have anything to do with it. 

  • Guest

    You better clue in the church, Tom. This morning at Mass we prayed that the worlds NATIONS would ensure that resources and wealth was more fairly distributed…. I never knew Nations distributed resources and wealth… but then again I flunked Marxism in college… guess i will never be a bishop.


    Can you imagine, praying for the advent of world wide socialism at Sunday Mass? I think it was Pope Pius IX who said that you can't be a true socialist and a true Catholic – that has to be bad news for Catholic members of the democrat party.

  • Guest

    The democratic party is not the same as the socialist party.

  • Guest

    I live in a remote area. There are two small grocery stores that service our 50 mile stretch of valley in the North Cascades. Lucky for us, the main grocer invests a lot of money back into our community. He is a kind and wise man! Every Thursday, spring through fall, he and his elderly father spend the afternoon in the forest cutting firewood to sell at the store. He doesn't have to. There are certainly lots of local suppliers. But he says he does it so that he doesn't forget what it's like to earn a dollar doing hard physical work. He wants to give his customers value for their money. Which means he has to remember that for the masses, money isn't earned at their computer sipping lattes.

    Tom is privilaged! And he sounds not just aware of that fact, but grateful too! I'm thankful for how telecommuting has served families, the environment, and the free market well. But I hope those that do telecommute, have the humility to recognize that they ride on the shoulders of the masses that work in a very physical, not virtual, realm. 

    "A work world with no commute, no corporate headquarters and perhaps not even an office in the physical world at all," will always represent a VERY small slice of the work pie.


  • Guest

    Beg to differ with Claire, yes it is. A rose by any other name is still a rose. Modern day dems. are socialists through and through. I don't often support the bishops' social agenda but nations do distribute wealth and resources to a great degree because businesses and industry are regulated by national laws. Have you heard of "favored nations status" that is enjoyed by certain countries as trading partners while others don't have it? China now holds that status. Right now www has the freedom to get around most of the regulations but as sure as the yr. 2020 is coming so the bureaucrats are crafting legislation that will reach into Tom's pocket and raise the price of his latte to ten bucks. Actually, I love going out and working physically. It's work at the computer that vexes me. So everybody has a place.

  • Guest

    Well, I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree.  If anything, I think the contemporary Democratic politicians have less socialist tendencies than those of twenty years ago.  I myself am a registered Democrat (although I often vote Republican because while I'm currently disgusted with both parties, the candidate who is the most restrictive on abortion always gets my vote), and I am also a true Catholic, so I don't appreciate the post that implies that Democrats are equivalent with socialists and therefore not true Catholics.

  • Guest

    Twenty yrs. or fifty yrs. is not the point. If you examine the platform and the logic and philosophy of the prominent dems. they're not that far from Marx. Now being a registerd Democrat and a good Catholic is somewhat of a seperate issue. Your own personal ethics and voting pattern is the criteria. Sometimes party affiliation is just tradition or like selecting regular or filtered cigarettes. There are also well intentioned and decent socialists. The Church is above party affiliation. Many marriages have one of each and manage to create a loving family. They go to the polls and cancel each others vote. That one is a puzzlement.

  • Guest

    I know exactly what you mean.  My husband and I belong to different parties, but I can't imagine us ever voting for different candidates.  For both of us, pro-life is the # 1 issue.

  • Guest

    I would be willing to grant that there may be in fact a pro life socialist somewhere – but I would never vote for one. I am not trading away my God given right to economic freedom – once you give in to that level of slavery to government, you will soon also lose your God given right to life anyway. Then our hard working pro lifers wont even have the right to protest. You would still lose on ALL the life issues.

  • Guest

    I didn't say I would vote for a pro-life socialist.  I said I would vote for a pro-life democrat. 

  • Guest

    Back to the original dispute: Is the American Democratic Party a socialist party. I say it is and you say it isn't.   If you see a whit of difference between the agenda of the the Democrats and the political parties of England, France, Germany and Italy that admit to being socialist, please show me.  The Dems just avoid use of the "S" word at all costs – but that does not change the reality.

  • Guest

    The American Democratic party does not advocate anywhere near the level of taxation that the Scandanavian parties promote, for one thing.  And I don't appreciate your implication that I am a socialist and that I am therefore not a true Catholic.  You have no right to make that judgment.

  • Guest

    JimAroo It sounds like we go to the same church.  I don't remember hearing it this Sunday, but the children were distracting.  I clearly remember hearing it last Sunday.  You don't happen to have a native Columbian for a pastor, now do you?

  • Guest

    No Mr Hyne- we don't go to the same parish – I actually go to the best parish for hundreds of miles but Sunday someone let that petition slip by…. many parishes use canned petitions they get from a national service and no one pays any attention because hardly anyone in the congregation listens anyhow.


    Well Claire your argument boils down to the dems aren't as bad as taxers as the Godless Swedes – wow what a claim to fame. Show me one democrat candidate that does not want to nationalize 1/7th of the national economy on their 1st day of office. Can you say socialized medicine? They are all trying to outdo each other to show how their own plan is wackier than the other ones…. 1/7th of the total ecomomy nationalized from the get go???and that isnt socialism….Karl Marx must be laughing his head off if that is possible where he is!

  • Guest

    A question to consider, regards Bishops, Democrats, and socialism

    … its pretty basic ..

    A lot of folks advocate "progressive taxes", including the Catholic Conference of Bishops. Taxing in 'even shares' is arranging for contributions to the common good. Taxing in progressive shares is redistributing the wealth of the rich. When those who advocate progressive taxation also … work for the government (eg: environment, energy), work in jobs whose funding primarily comes from the government (eg: social work, education), aren't those folks also breaking the commandment against "Coveting thy neighbor's goods", since a direct result of increasing progressive taxes is to take your neighbors goods and apply them to your own benefit (your salary) ?


    Not sure which party really is against progressive taxation, but it seems clear that one party is pretty much for reducing taxes … To me, the implication is clear.

  • Guest

    Which would you vote for — a pro-life candidate who clearly can not be elected, OR for a strict-constructionist candidate who clearly can be elected AND whose efforts are likely to return the so-called 'right to choose' to the states, where there is no "penumbra of the right to privacy" to hold up a "constitutional right" to kill unborn babes, and in which case, further action of the democratic process will at least have the chance to return the moral law held by a majority of citizens to its proper congruence with civil law?


    Also, which Republican candidates are NOT "pro-life" and which Democratic candidates are NOT"pro-life", and how does one know, and is there a "mugwump" position on this issue, and which candidates of either party fit there?

  • Guest

    One more thing, Claire.  I have every reason to think you are a great Catholic – but probably a lousy democrat.  You are on the right team but like a lot of born and bred Catholic dems, you just cant manage to call yourself the "R" word.