Working at Home in Pajamas Sounds A Lot Like Being Laid Off

After reporting on the phenomenon of start-ups as virtual workplaces, telecommuting, the rise of the four-day work-week and other cost cutting workplace innovations made possible thanks in part to technological things like Google and the Internet and electricity, Inc. magazine is conducting its own experiment in the virtual workplace.

This month, the business mag has sent its own staff home to work remotely and blog the benefits of Skype vs. IM and about what happens when an industry “where it is still common for an editor, a designer, a photo editor, and a writer to gather around a table to look at a page proof” cannot be in the same physical space. They’re capping it off with “a definitive piece on virtual work—a look at pros and cons of running a highly-dispersed team” in their April issue.

If I were a staff member at Inc., I’m not sure if I would be approaching this experiment a clever bit of participatory journalism, an innovative, cost-cutting measure that could help save the future of the ailing magazine industry, or just be really freaked out that it sounds eerily like what happens when a title in said industry goes to that virtual workplace in the sky and shuts down for good. From Inc.’s announcement:

So how does being a virtual workplace affect a company’s culture—and the quality and efficiency of its output? To find out, we’ve decided to conduct a little experiment: Starting right now, Inc. magazine will cease to exist as a physical place. We, the members of the magazine’s editorial staff, are packing up our things, turning off the lights, and leaving our offices (which happen to be really, really nice). The idea: If virtual companies are so good, why not give it a try ourselves?

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Alexandra Fenwick is an assistant editor at CJR.