Because of the routine use of e-mail, the Internet, fax machines, teleconferencing, and other high-tech solutions, many companies are allowing employees to work in their own homes, away from the office. The increasingly portable nature of computing and communications devices has made telecommuting cost-effective and viable enough to attract the attention of both large and small organizations. So although your company’s office might be in New York City, you may be sitting in your bathrobe typing away at your computer in Lubbock, Texas. This scenario probably seems like a dream come true, but there are important issues to consider when deciding whether or not telecommuting is right for you.
One of the biggest surprises about telecommuting is that not only is it a desirable situation for the worker, it also benefits the employer in easily measurable ways. Employers can reduce their overhead and operating expenses by a reduced need for desks, chairs, bathrooms, computers, copy machines, parking spaces, heating and lighting, telephones, and all the other accoutrements required for maintaining a working office. Also, studies have shown that workers who successfully telecommute are up to 20% more productive than those who do not. Because of less interference with co-workers and less ‘water-cooler’ time, telecommuting employees have more time and attention to devote to their work. Telecommuting makes for happier workers, so the best employees stay longer, saving on recruiting and training costs. Hi-tech gadgets enable telecommuters to conduct meetings and interact with colleagues and support staff just as easily from a home office as they can in a central office. And by carrying pagers or frequently calling into the office, telecommuters can remain in close, frequent contact not only with co-workers, but also with management and clients.
Productivity and Less Stress—Plus More Money and Time
There are many clear and documented advantages to job seekers who want to explore telecommuting. The most obvious benefit for employees in telecommuting is the elimination of the time, trouble, and expense of physically commuting to work. Right off the bat, this gives the average person about an extra hour each day to use for the thinking, writing, telephoning, planning, and paperwork that keeps the wheels of business turning. This extra time also translates directly into more discretionary time, more time with the family, less stress, and general health improvements. In addition, more control over their time allows employees to take short breaks during the day to have lunch with a friend, pick up the kids from school, or cook dinner for the family, with less pressure to keep every minute crammed with work-related activities.
Working at home part-time or full-time also saves money—less gasoline, less wear and tear on dress clothes, and lower food costs due to being able to eat at home. Creating a comfortable, personalized work environment with no distractions from other employees or office politics gives individuals more freedom and control over their work, making them significantly more productive and efficient, as well as happier with their work. And employees can spend part of their evening or nighttime hours working, so they can do their shopping, banking, and other personal business during the day.
Deciding Whether Telecommuting is Right for You
The benefits of telecommuting are easy to see, and the idea is extremely attractive to many job seekers. But not every personality is suited to telecommuting. Success at telecommuting seems linked to employees who have a stronger-than-average motivation and drive to succeed. The best telecommuters are independent enough to keep working without the eyes of a supervisor upon them, and self-sufficient enough to stay productive without the constant feedback and support of colleagues. Well-developed time management, organization, and planning skills help telecommuters deliver their results on time so that others can rely on them to fulfill their responsibilities. The most effective telecommuters are those who develop specific goals to achieve, and who have their importance to the company measured by results rather than by meetings attended or hours clocked.
Before accepting a telecommuting job, you should consider the main issues that will affect your success or failure. Do you have the organizational skills and self-discipline necessary to work effectively at home? Will your personality adapt working alone, with less face-to-face interaction with co-workers? Working at home, will you be able to maintain a high enough profile to advance to the position you desire in the company?
A good way to learn more about telecommuting and what it involves is to read about others’ experiences. There are thousands of Web sites devoted to all aspects of telecommuting, from how to set up a home office to how to find companies that are amenable to telecommuting. For example, The American Telecommuting Association (www.knowledgetree.com/ata.html) is a good place to start. On their site you can read current and past issues of their newsletter, Tele-News, as well as basic information about the history of telecommuting. Their ‘Instant Telecommuter Information Pak,’ available for a small fee, provides a copy of their official policy on telecommuting, a ‘how to’ guide for approaching your boss with the idea, a ‘how to’ guide for successful telecommuting, and the current issue of their newsletter. The ATA has also developed a unique Telecommuting Affinity Index that helps individuals and organizations do a quick evaluation on the likelihood of success for any person or group of people.
Another good source of information is The Telecommuting Knowledge Center (www.telecommuting.org), a not-for-profit organization that provides a comprehensive online sourcebook and information center for telecommuting technologies. TKC participants have access to an extensive resource of telecommuting literature, vendors, consultants, products, services and events, all categorized to make it easy to research specific telecommuting topics.
Telecommuting is one of the fastest-growing shifts in traditional working patterns, and it’s far more effective than wearing sneakers and t-shirts for improving employee morale and efficiency. Millions of people in the United States and around the world are discovering the power, pleasure, and increase in productivity that comes with telecommuting to work. If you think your personality, work ethic, and professional goals are suited to working from home, you can expand your job search to include telecommuting opportunities. With the right telecommuting job, the whole world can be your office.