Fueled by rapidly changing lifestyles and technology innovation in the new media ecologies, comes with the rise of “telework”, particularly the online work economy. Telework marks a shift from office-bound work to mobile or home-centred work. With the integration of digital technologies in society, it affects the work environments as well. “Like libraries, workplaces are significant information ecologies. They are a dynamic and driving part of our evolving media ecologies.” The changing of media ecologies affects our futures of work. According to CSIRO report, “Technological change is a major driver of the economic growth which has raised living standards enormously (though unevenly) across the world” (2016).
Corporations take advantage of telework by outsourcing work to people all over world and employees benefit by being able to make money on their own terms (Johnson 2017). Without the constraints of physical space, work can be streamlined, increase productivity and improve industrial efficiency by going on 24/7, around the clock (McCosker, Reed, Farrell 2016). Video and messaging platforms, such as Skype, Slack and Yammer, replaced the needs of being at a meeting in person, handling communication with our superiors and co-workers, and enable people to work from home instead of in a cubicle in an office. According to Melissa Gregg (2011), she cited “ambient lightning, freedom of movement, and lack of stress” as some of the benefits of being able to work remotely at the comfortable at your home instead of in an office environment, something which I resonate as a freelance designer. Back in Malaysia, instead of renting an office and worry about the overheads such as equipment and hiring staff members, I personally deal with clients on a one-to-one basis, usually meeting once or twice in person for a briefing before moving our communication online. Gregg said working from home allows her to just focus on her job without the need of keeping up her appearances according to dress codes and potential workplace drama (2011).
However, telework also has some negative sides to it. One of the challenges Gregg faced working from her house was the patchy infrastructure support from her company to facilities her work online, such as the need to get a better internet connection, at her own cost (2011). With media environments involving social media platforms, while large organisations such as Telstra have the power and labour to be available 24/7 on social media network, it is more difficult for smaller organisations to manage the expectations of 24/7 social media communication (McCosker, Reed, Farrell 2016).
I was unlucky to experience the negative aspects of both teleworking and traditional workplace, at the same time. Working a 10-hour job on a minimum wage, plus the time and expense of commuting back and forth to my workplace, and to top it off, having the clients, my manager and boss contacting me in spite during after-hours, makes a very havoc life for two months before I eventually resign from the job.
With clients and superiors able to reach you, anywhere, anytime, when do we actually “clock out”? Is our job ever done for a day? The answer to this is, yes, but it will take lots of self-initiative, discipline, endurance and, most importantly, knowing where‘s your limit.
CSIRO 2016, Tomorrow’s Digitally Enabled Workforce
Gregg, M. 2012, ‘Working from Home: The Mobile Office and the Seduction of Convenience’, in Work’s Intimacy, Polity Press, Cambridge, pp. 39–55
Johnson, C 2017, “8 Companies Shaping the Future of the Booming Online Work Economy”, Entrepreneur, viewed 16 October, 2017, <https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/270542>.
McCosker, A., Reed, D., Farrell, C. 2016, Social Media Industries: Bridging the Gap between Theory and Practice, Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne