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China Focus: Telecommuters challenge workplace norms


10:38, December 06, 2012


BEIJING, Dec. 5 (Xinhua) -- Zhao Lei's morning work routine has gone largely unchanged for the last two years. He fires up his computer, reads the news and chats with clients, just as any ordinary office worker does.

However, Zhao does all of this in his pajamas, ensconced in the comfort of his home office.

Two years ago, 29-year-old Zhao resigned from an Internet company based in the coastal city of Shenzhen in south China's Guangdong province and started to work at home as an independent web designer.

Zhao spends nearly all of his time at home, arranging for his meals to be delivered, shopping online and talking to clients using instant messaging programs.

"I no longer need to suffer from overcrowded buses during rush hour, compete for a seat in the company's cafeteria or make meaningless small talk with my colleagues," Zhao said.

Zhao said he feels more free to follow his heart and live the way he wants, as he earns the same salary as before but is no longer confined to an office.

"Nobody knows or cares what I wear when I'm discussing business online," Zhao said. "When I want to relax, I just sink into the sofa and enjoy a movie or a basketball game."

The development of the Internet and e-commerce in China over the last decade has greatly contributed to the emergence of the telecommuting lifestyle, Zhao said.

"Ten years ago, there couldnt've been so many home offices, as there was little to do at home," Zhao said. "Now, you can get to know the world and live a convenient life with just a click of the mouse."

Zhao admits that such a lifestyle has taken a toll on his social life -- despite having more friends in general, he is not as close to them.

"We are so attached to social networks that we find ourselves reading microblogs even when we spend time with our friends," Zhao added.

Wang Jianxin, a doctor of cultural anthropology, said the telecommuting trend is a result of the development of consumer culture and the rise of self-awareness in an interview with the People's Daily, the flagship newspaper of the Communist Party of China (CPC).

"Instead of following the old ways of working and living, those who work from home spend more time in the areas they are interested in," said Wang.

"This lifestyle should be better understood, as it may become a common way of life in the coming decades," Wang added.

Gu Jun, a professor at Shanghai University, said modernization and the development of e-commerce have enabled more people to work from home, although the lifestyle is almost entirely relegated to urban areas.

"However, some people are confined to their homes only because of living expenses," said Gu. "For this group of people, society should provide more help and create more relevant job opportunities."

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