Up your career

As a busy work-at-home parent, I enjoy reading the "careers" section of newspapers and fondly remembering the days back when I had one.

We who work alone often feel out of touch with the modern corporate scene, and it's always a comfort to read an attitude survey or a trends article and learn that not much has changed out there. Workers still hate their bosses. Everyone is underpaid and underappreciated. Office romances continue (though I gather they're mostly done these days by e-mail). And goldbricks are more creative than their peers.

Here are some news factoids gleaned from recent articles about the workplace, and how they apply differently to those of us on the home front:

--Only half of American workers are satisfied with their jobs, and more are unhappy with their bosses and working conditions than they were five years earlier, according to a survey of 5,000 households by The Conference Board's Consumer Research Center.

The numbers are slightly different for those who work at home: each of us is dissatisfied half of the time. Fifty percent of the time, we're giddy at the notion that our bosses are far away, and can't see us working in our bathrobes. The other half, we're surrounded by barking children and screaming dogs. Periods of dissatisfaction tend to clump around paydays.
Homebodies hate our bosses, too. The self-employed are into self-loathing.

--Baby boomers are the most dissatisfied.

Surprise! We boomers always have been a surly lot, haven't we?

--"It may be that the fast-paced, 24/7 working climate is triggering more workplace malaise than we've imagined," said Lynn Franco, director of the Consumer Research Center.

You said it, bubba.

--Getting the best numbers in the worker survey were respondents' colleagues, with 59 percent reporting they were satisfied with their co-workers.

But, see, we who work at home don't have any colleagues, or at best we rarely see them. My main co-worker is a dog. I'm satisfied with him, I guess. Most of the time.

--Nearly 24 million people are regularly employed telecommuters, according to the International Telework Association & Council.

That's why I keep seeing other people in the neighborhood out and about in their bathrobes.

--About 73 percent of American workers aspire to work at home, says a report by consulting firm International Data Corp.

Pretty soon, everyone will be working out of their homes, all strung together by fiber optic networks. Memo to self: Invest in bathrobe stock.

--Some business pundits predict the work-at-home phenomenon will stall as the economy slows. Bosses will want to keep a closer eye on employees, and will be more likely to scale back workforces.

Yikes. Here comes trouble.

--A survey by Nielsen/NetRatings finds that 46 percent of online holiday shopping was done at the office.

Now here's an example of worker creativity. Back when I toiled in a regular office, we had to sneak out to do any Christmas shopping during the weekday. Now, people do it right from their desks, when they're not busy playing Free Cell or forwarding jokes by e-mail.

--Even during the rest of the year, workers do 40 percent of their online shopping on the job, according to Vault.com, a job search and research Website.

I've tried to avoid online shopping, mostly because I figured it would eat up all my work time. Solo workers have to think about such things, and practice some discipline. It's not like the boss will stop by and interrupt your shopping. Try to take a quick peek at E-Bay, and, whoops, your work day is gone.

--Vault.com says workers spend 23 hours online per month at work and only 10 hours online per month at home.

Naturally, since us work-at-home folks tend to do all of our online stuff on the same computer, one would combine the two figures and come up with, er, 187 hours per month. Wait a minute . . .

--Many companies haven't established firm policies about telecommuting and on-the-job Net surfing.

Shh. If we keep this quiet, maybe more of us can sneak home and set up our offices there, before the personnel types set restrictive policies. Eventually, the majority of us can work where no one looks over our shoulders.

Workers of the world: go home.

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