Thursday, August 30, 2007

Telecommuting - The Concept

This post is a little longer but contains some good information on how to start thinking about telecommuting. This is the first in a three-part series on telecommuting.

Good Reading.


That special something you've had your eye on will have to wait. The price of gas has taken all your spare change, and then some, to get you to work. What options do you have? You need to work to make ends meet. Brainstorm!

Telecommuting - The Concept , Part 1

This article is the first in a series exploring the telecommuting concept. Part II - 'The Journey' talks about being a good telecommuter, approaching your boss about a telecommuting work arrangement, and how to set up your 'virtual office' space away from the office. Part III 'The Lifestyle' discusses how to mange your work and personal life, structuring your environment, and staying productive.

In the past, information was transmitted via Pony Express and telegraph now it travels as e-mail through modem lines. This information superhighway has created an opportunity for a new kind of mutually beneficial working partnership: telecommuting. Telecommuting is broadly defined as any method of working productively away from the office. According to the American Telecommuting Association (ATA), "telecommuting is second only to casual days as the fastest-growing shift in traditional working patterns".

Who are you and why do you think you can work away from the office? According to "The Virtual Office Survival Handbook" by Alice Bredin, you need to understand your working habits before you approach your boss. You should consider your ability to: resist distractions, manage your time, set limits on work, and deal with challenges. You also need to determine if you are internally or externally motivated, and if you are an over-or underachiever. If you think you can work from home, read on.

If your work habits and telecommuting are a match, there are advantages to this arrangement for you, your employer, and society. If your lifestyle does allow for full- or part-time work outside of the home you will be productive. Working from home alleviates the need to overcome family/personal issues such as daycare, family illness, events such as a school concert or conferences, and physical or transportation barriers. You can feel better, work harder, save money (childcare, transportation, and parking), avoid commuting time and irritations, and feel motivated to achieve the high performance necessary to keep the position. When you work from home there may be set hours you need to be at your work station yet you have the flexibility to work within the parameters of that day. If the work does not get finished within those set hours you may have the option to come back and finish at a later time that day. Finishing the work with accuracy and professionalism is the goal to gain the feeling of satisfaction and shows your manager that you can and will be productive.

According to the Institute for the Study of Distributed Work, an employer saves over $2,000 per telecommuting employee per year on the cost of absenteeism and reduces business disruptions due to inclement weather, family emergencies, childcare, labor disputes, and so on. The telecommuting option also helps businesses hire and retain experienced workers. By offering a telework option organizations can attract qualified or specialist employees that do not reside near the place of business. Offering it as an option for existing employees helps retain employees, whom have been trained for a specific line of work, and gives the employee an option to continue working with the company instead of needing to quit due to personal reasons or moving out of the geographic area. Telecommuting also saves the employer costs related to office overhead and parking requirements. Society benefits from less pressure on the transportation infrastructure and, subsequently, less air pollution and gas consumption.


Advantages For The Employee
Minimize Stress: The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) , reports that stress ranks high in the top 10 reasons employees miss work. When working at home , employees avoid a long commute , as well as the noise and interruptions common in most office cubicles.

Advantages For The Organization
Higher productivity: Both telecommuters and their managers report that workers get more accomplished when out of the office. In an AT&T-sponsored survey of Fortune 1000 telemanagers, 58 percent reported increased worker productivity. The state of California's telecommuting pilot program measured productivity increases of 10 percent to 30 percent, and American Express tallied a 20 percent productivity gain for off-site call center employees.

Success, for the telecommuter, is measured by results versus hours clocked in the office. A shift to a management-by-objectives style must be made. Set pre-established goals that the manager and employee agree on. These goals are for the success of the employee and be able to manage the results versus the process. These performance standards are a guideline of what needs to be done and by what time. Performance is evaluated directly by how the employee meets the performance standards. The performance standards also help the company to keep a close eye on actual cost benefits, productivity, and morale of the telecommuting employee. An open line of communication by phone, fax, modem, or other means allows the manager and telecommuting employee to work out issues that may arise but also keeps the employee in the office 'loop'. The manager needs to make certain an appropriate means of evaluating productivity of the pre-established goals is in place to avoid misunderstandings down the road.

Training is also essential for the success of a telecommuting program. Training should include online orientation and how to set-up a virtual office in the home. You must also determine who is responsible for what expenses (utilities, office supplies, travel expenses to meetings, and so on) and how you will interact with the main office to stay part of the team. Preparation for isolation, distractions, and technical pitfalls -- as well as how to stimulate ideas, creativity, and professionalism should be considered.

Finally, as mentioned above, not all employees are good candidates for telecommuting. Besides employee personality, an assessment if the job function and a telecommuting job are a good match. Questions regarding the job such as - Does the employee need access to office files to perform the job function?; Are there meetings that the employee will need to attend in person?; Could all supplies be made available in a remote work location to accommodate a telecommuter for a particular job? - need to be answered and successfully evaluated. Furthermore, many employers like to have an employee work in the office from six months up to two years before telecommuting is offered as an option.

Telecommuting is a personal accommodation and a tool for meeting business needs. As the employee and business work together they will realize that a virtual office can fulfill those business needs creating a mutually beneficial work arrangement. Beyond that, telecommuting can be an enviable lifestyle that adds balance to work and home life.

Subsequent articles will explore steps for selling telecommuting to management or working for yourself while marketing your telecommuting skills to others. There are also nuts and bolts to setting up your 'virtual office' and a new lifestyle that you should be prepared for. Advancements through technology have opened the door to this working partnership. It is not there for the taking but you can find your way to succeeding as a telecommuter.

Toni Grundstrom's expertise is in Marketing. Working for a professional association, government entity, and small business as a Telecommuter provides understanding of the concept and the issues surrounding this working option. She advocates for, informs and educates people who telecommute, work at home, or own a home based business. They are Professionals Working At Home.

This article may be distributed freely on your website, as long as
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Copyright 2007 Toni Grundstrom All Rights Reserved.

1 comment:

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