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Telecommuters: Invisible workers?

Those who work from home struggle with isolation. But few would give up the arrangement.

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During the six months that Allison Brinkman worked at home as a public relations manager, she savored the advantages.

"I didn't have to dress up, fight traffic, or worry about paying for doggie day care," she says.

But she found disadvantages, too. "I missed the social aspect of being part of a team and developing a rapport with colleagues," says Ms. Brinkman, who works with Eisen Management Group in Cincinnati.

As the ranks of telecommuters grow – pushed by soaring gasoline prices – some in the work-from-home crowd point to disadvantages surrounding what many office-bound workers might assume is the ultimate deal.

A feeling of isolation counts as the biggest challenge many of them face, says Jay Malki, marketing professor at Northeastern University in Boston. He conducted a study for IBM, where more than 40 percent of workers do not come into the office every day.

Remote workers also express concerns that they are invisible and their work is not being recognized. "Isolation happens when telecommuters can't get the support they need," Professor Malki says. "When face-to-face communication isn't possible, workers need a substitute – and voice mail isn't it."


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