September - October 1998
Commentary by June Langhoff
How I Became a Televangelist
David asked me to write a bit about myself and my motivation for
becoming a "televangelist," though I promote telecommuting and other remote
workstyles instead of religion.
An Ozzie start
I started telecommuting in 1982, shortly after my son Nick was born.
I had never heard the term "telecommuter" and I didnít know anyone who
was working from home. I worked for a high-tech firm in Silicon Valley
(National SemiConductor), which was over an hourís drive from my home in
Pacifica when traffic was light. I was writing a tedious procedure manual
and was experiencing constant interruptions at the office. To reduce the
time needed for rewrites, I bought a computer - an Osborne 1,
the worldís very first portable. It weighed about 24 pounds and was the
size of a small sewing machine. The screen was smaller than a post card,
it had 64kb memory (roughly equivalent to that of a flea), but it was the
hottest piece of equipment on the planet.
My Ozzie made me the envy of my coworkers, and paved the way for
my ability to telecommute. I asked if I could work at home a couple of
days a week to get the project done. My boss agreed. Using a 300-baud modem
(the fastest at the time), I connected to the mainframe at work and clicked
away. It took more than five minutes just to log on, but still I saved
over two hours a day in commute time.
Iíve been a teleworker ever since. It allowed me to be at home with
my son, help with his homework, volunteer at his school, be a soccer mom,
and see him grow up. Heís now 17. Teenagers, though they want little to
do with their parents, still need to have someone around, so itís good
that I can be here for him. We built a soundproof (well, nearly soundproof)
studio in our garage so Nickís series of rock bands would have a place
to practice and hang out. None of this would have been possible without
the ability to work remotely.
Parenting and career
In spite of the occasional interruptions from Nick and his musical
pals (now they're into alternative music), Iíve managed to stay productive
and earn a comfortable living. Iíve even found time to write four books
(one on telecommuting) and get them published.
About four years ago, I became a section leader on CompuServeís Working
From Home forum. My role was to answer questions from telecommuters and
telecommuter-wannabes and to facilitate online discussion. I learned a
lot from forum members. Many wrote about the stringent regulations their
companies placed on their work. Companies issued RULES about what telecommuters
should and shouldnít do, such as:
Get dressed before starting work.
You must have off-site child-care arrangements for the hours you will be
Youíre required to start work at 8 a.m. and end at 5 p.m.
These rules seem incredibly strict to me. After all, I know that I work
effectively in my bunny slippers and pajamas (though I TRY to get dressed
before the FedEx guy arrives). Besides, how could oneís boss know what one
Many young telecommuting moms (and dads) work part- or full-time
with little babies around. Itís only when the baby starts crawling or walking
that child-care is absolutely essential. Once my son was in school, I was
able to dispense with extra child care. So, if the employee can work out
effective ways to take care of their family and still get the work done,
what difference does it make how they do it?
Corporate regulations about the hours of work also seem counterproductive
to me. Sure, companies need to set up core times for communication. And,
if the employee handles customer service or needs to be available during
set hours for phone calls, I can see the need for strict hours. But one
of the major benefits of telework is that employees can work at the times
when they are most productive, in concert with their own body clocks. Legislating
that is just plain foolish.
Creating a place(s) for informantion
Daniel Pink, writing in the January issue of Fast Company,
described how some of the most creative workers in America are striking
out on their own. Pink asserts that a new Free Agent Nation is being formed,
with 25 million working outside the corporate walls. If corporations continue
their Stalinistic work rules for teleworkers, I think that number will
continue to climb.
Anyway, I decided that telecommuters needed someone to speak for
their side. And since I donít earn my living by consulting, I donít have
to take the "corporate line." So I published a website, June Langhoffís
Telecommuting Resource Center (http://www.langhoff.com).
I tried to create a place where people could go to learn more about telecommuting,
obtain help talking their boss into letting them do it, and even to find
a job that allows them to work remotely from the date of hire.
The site has lots of other features. I have a calendar of telecommuting
events, a bunch of tips for at-home telecommuters and business travelers,
a comprehensive FAQ page with summaries of many of the most recent surveys
about remote work, a bookstore, and lots of links.
Iíll soon be updating The Telecommuterís Advisor -- the second
edition will be out in 1999 -- and would like to sprinkle the book with
more advice from the trenches. Iím interested in hearing stories from telecommuters
themselves: what works and what is most challenging. Iíd also love to hear
from anyone who has found a telecommutable job from a distance. Please
contact me at
and send me your stories.
Oh, I also collect jokes about telework, so if youíd like to share
some of your own or have seen something good on the web, send them along
or tell me the URL where they can be found. If youíd like to read some,
be sure to see
About June LanghoffÖ.
June Langhoff writes about the new workplace for a variety of publications
including Working at Home, Fortune, Home Office Computing, Business@Home, and Entrepreneurís Home Office. She is a contributing editor
at Telecommute Magazine, a new national magazine specifically for
the past four years, she has hosted a telecommuting section on CompuServeís
Working from Home Forum, where she advises telecommuting job seekers and
provides information on the logistics of telework. Langhoff was recently
selected as a member of Fast Company Magazineís Ask the Experts
panel (http://www.fastcompany.com /fc/ask/jlanghoff.html),
where she answers readerís questions about remote workstyles.
She is the author of four books: The Telecommuter's Advisor, Telecom
Made Easy, Phone Company Services and The Business Traveler's Survival
Guide. Langhoff is the editor of TeleTrends, the newsletter
of the International Telework Association, a non-profit organization that
promotes the benefits of telework.
Langhoff works from her home office in Pacifica, California, and
shares her space with her two office cats (Frisbee and Marsha).
Copyright © 1998 - June Langhoff
Back to Fleming LTD Home Page