The Telecommuting Alternative
© 2013 Elena Fawkner
So, here you are, Sunday night again, and your thoughts turn
to the working week ahead. Pretty soon your mind turns to
the Monday morning commute. And the drive home again.
What you wouldn't give to be able to work from home instead
of downtown, you think to yourself for the umpteenth time this
year. How much more you could accomplish if you could use
the time you spend sitting in traffic doing something that's actually
productive! After all, there's no reason why you MUST work
in a corporate office. Not all the time anyway. Well, what
you going to do about it? Maybe the time has come to bite the
bullet and make a proposal to your boss that you both give
telecommuting a try.
Before you launch into such a discussion though, a word to the
wise. Many employers are leery about employees working
from home. Not that they would come right out and say they
don't trust you to do what you're paid to do, but, well, how
would it WORK exactly? So take some time to plan your
proposal and anticipate the kinds of objections and concerns
you might expect to encounter.
In this article, we take a look at the pros and cons of
telecommuting and some of the issues that can arise. By
taking the time to work through these issues, you will be
well placed to make a considered, balanced and, most
importantly, accepted proposal.
THE ADVANTAGES OF TELECOMMUTING
=> Improved Productivity
By far the greatest advantage of telecommuting is increased
productivity. Telecommuters invariably say that the time they
save not having to commute, coupled with fewer interruptions,
means that they get more done in their workday than ever
Not only that, studies have shown that telecommuters are
more likely to spend a spare hour in the evening or a few on
the weekends on work since it is there to be done. While
this may be good news for employers of salaried employees,
some employers will be concerned not to infringe overtime
rules though, so be mindful of this potential pothole.
=> Retention of Valued Personnel
The availability of telecommuting as an option means that the
employer may well retain valued personnel under circumstances
when the employee may otherwise be forced to resign due to
changing life circumstances. Obvious examples include
pregnancy and relocation to accompany a transferred spouse.
=> Reduction in Office Overheads
If the business has a number of personnel who telecommute,
there are cost savings to be made in office overheads. Smaller
office space can be negotiated as well as fewer paid carparks.
=> Attract Quality Recruits
If the business has a telecommuting policy, this will be
attractive to many prospective employees, allowing the
employer to better attract more quality recruits.
=> Reduce Absenteeism
The flexibility inherent in working from home translates to
reduced absenteeism. No longer does the working parent
have to take a "sick" day to care for a sick child.
=> Broadens Labor Pool
Telecommuting allows the employer to recruit from a
broader labor pool than would otherwise be the case if the
employee had to travel to the employer's office each day.
Geographical boundaries become less significant for one
thing, but special needs personnel, such as those with
physical disabilities who prefer not to work in a traditional
office environment, or with chronic illnesses, can still
participate in the workforce. This allows the employer
to recruit from the broadest talent pool possible.
THE DISADVANTAGES OF TELECOMMUTING
The disadvantages of telecommuting largely fall on the
employee rather than the employer, and include:
One of the reasons you will be more productive working
from home is that you will have fewer interruptions.
That, of course, is a double edged sword. You may
find yourself missing those drop in visits and gatherings
at the water cooler that you think of now as
=> Out of the Loop
You will also be out of the loop with what is going on at
the office. This makes it difficult to participate in the
office politics that can be so crucial to the wellbeing
of your career.
=> Propensity to Overwork
The fact that you are living and working in the same
space makes it less easy to turn work off at the end of the
day. Say what you like about your evening commute,
it at least signals the end of the workday. You may find
yourself working at 10:00 at night just because you can.
This can quickly lead to a lack of balance between
your personal and business lives, the very thing you
were perhaps hoping to redress by making the move to
working from home.
=> Invisibility Factor
You should be alert to the fact that not being in the office
could lead to something of an "out of sight, out of mind"
situation. You need to be certain that your work is
visibile, even if you are not.
ISSUES TO BE ADDRESSED WITH YOUR EMPLOYER
Now that you have a grip on the pros and cons of telecommuting
you are in a position to begin making your pitch. While you can
certainly use the pros in support of your argument in favor of
telecommuting, be ready to discuss the cons too. After all, the
decision to telecommute must be one that works for you AND
your employer. Your employer will feel more comfortable
with the idea if you demonstrate that you are alert to the
downside. This shows that your proposal is considered and well
In addition to the pros and cons discussed above, be prepared
to address the following issues which your employer is likely to
=> Why Do You Want to Telecommute?
Even if the primary reason is because you want to spend more
time with your young children, answer this question with a
secondary, mutually-beneficial answer, such as improved
productivity. You know that being home for your children
when they return from school won't undermine your work
performance (in fact, you plan to work for a few hours after
they're in bed which will more than compensate), but don't
expect your boss to believe you. Focus instead on a win-win
reason such as improved productivity as a result of fewer
interruptions and being able to work when you would otherwise
=> What Happens When I Need You Here For Client Meetings?
One thing you may want to consider, at least in the beginning,
is easing into telecommuting by working from home, say, two
days a week, and in the office for three, gradually moving to
more time at home and less in the office over time. Under this
type of arrangement, it's easy to schedule client meetings for
those days when you are working. Sometimes, of course,
that won't be convenient for the client. At these times, you
need to be flexible. You may have to come into the office
for a morning or an afternoon on a day when you would
normally be working from home.
=> Many Clients Will Not Be Comfortable Dealing With Someone
Who Works From Home
There is no need for a client to even know you work out of
your house if you don't want them to. All that is required is
a diversion of calls made to your office phone to your home office
phone. It goes without saying, of course, that professionalism
demands that you have a completely separate communciations
system in your home office from your home. You need a
dedicated phone line for your work and family members
should be under STRICT instructions that that line is to be
answered by no-one but you. If your boss calls your home
office number and your five year old answers, expect
problems. Rightly so, too. Same goes for your spouse.
That's what voicemail is for.
=> What Will Take Priority: Your Work or Taking Care of Your
Do not believe for a minute that telecommuting means the end
of daycare. If your kids are in daycare now, they will probably
still need to be in daycare if you work from home. You simply
cannot attend to a five year old and work effectively at the same
time. So, do not think of telecommuting as an alternative to
day care. It is not. At best, telecommuting will give you
additional couple of hours a day with your kids; the time you
would normally have spent commuting to and from the office.
=> What Will It Cost the Company?
A recent study by Forrester Research showed that the
average initial investment by the employer on equipping
an employee to work from home was $4,000. Annual
maintenance costs were around $2,500. If you think this is
likely to be a major obstacle, consider using your personal
resources to meet at least some of this cost. After all,
you will be saving money in terms of commuting costs,
lunches and work clothes. If you already have a personal
computer at home, perhaps you should offer to use that
for your work, at least until both parties have given this
telecommuting business a try and are happy to continue
on with it.
As with any negotiation, the best outcome is one with a
win-win solution.Telecommuting has many advantages
for employer and employee alike. But it is not for
everyone. If you are not self-disciplined, if you need
supervision to keep you on track, then it's not for you.
It's probably not best suited for projects that require
you to work as part of a team if that means you need
to be sitting around a table together for much of the
But most importantly, telecommuting requires a relationship
of trust and goodwill between employer and employee. If
your employer doesn't trust you, then you will have an uphill
battle getting this thing to fly. But then again, if your employer
doesn't trust you, you have an uphill battle period and it may
be that you should be looking elsewhere in any event.
Fortunately, however, there are many more enlightened
employers who understand that employees treated with
trust and respect will return the favor.
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Elena Fawkner is editor of Home-Based Business Online.
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Tuesday, 20-Apr-2021 15:47:42 CDT