Is Telecommuting Right for You and Your Company? Part 1

Dear, Anita,

I’m a single mom with two small children – one is in 2nd grade and has to go to an after-school program and the other I currently have in pre-school.  By the time I get home, there’s barely time for dinner, homework (for the oldest) and a bath before bed. I would love to work from home so that I can save on child-care expenses, and be there more for my kids during these younger years. How can I ask my boss if working remotely is an option?

Dear, There’s No Place Like Home,

WorldatWork estimates that 16 million employees work at home at least one day a month. Believe it or not, the federal government has the highest proportion of teleworkers at 3.3%, according to GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com, over 2.6% for private sector for-profit employers.

In this two-part blog, we’ll contemplate the issues both employees and managers should examine to see if telecommuting is a feasible option.  We’ll look at telecommuting from the employee’s perspective today.

MC900156995[1]Working from home could save you commute time, but you will still be motoring to school for drop-offs and pick-ups. At least the 3 p.m. pickup isn’t during prime rush hour. (And what will you do in summer? Send the kids to camp?) Telecommuting is “green,” reducing pollution and saving gas.  The latter will save you, the employee, money. Speaking of money, as you mentioned, you’ll likely save big on childcare. You may even save on your work wardrobe, too, but be careful not to get too lazy and work in your bathrobe all day. If your company is fast-growing, adding more employees, and needing to lease more office space for its burgeoning workforce, there could be cost savings for your employer you’ll want to tout if you opt to work at home.

Think about your actual work. Do you need to be on call during regular office hours?  Do you need to use special equipment not easily replicated at home (high-end color copiers, as an example)? While e-mail is a boon for telecommuters, is telephone contact often required for your position (and will your pre-schooler understand Mommy can’t talk during important business phone calls)? Is frequent face-to-face interaction with clients or even co-workers necessary? If you answered yes to any of these questions, it’s going to be harder to convince your boss telecommuting is a good idea.

Evaluate your personality. Some telecommuters report feelings of isolation. After a few months of working at home with your kids, you may long for grown-up conversation. Are you self-motivated? There’s the refrigerator, enticing you for a snack break you wouldn’t have even thought of while working at your office. Or the washing machine whispering, “C’mon, just one little load.” The best telecommuters are disciplined to get their work done without supervisors looking over their shoulders.

Is your home environment conducive to telecommuting? One reason for working from home is to have fewer distractions than at the office, with ringing phones, coworkers interrupting, etc. With two small children in the picture, your home office may be more chaotic! Honestly assess whether you think having a full-time preschooler underfoot is conducive to getting your work tasks done efficiently. Will your company’s IT department be able to supply you with a laptop or desktop computer for your home? (Oops, there go those cost savings for your employer!) Is your Internet connection at home reliable and up to speed? Will you have a dedicated workspace or will your laptop reside on the dining room table, where your weekly report runs the risk of marinara stains?  For your sanity’s sake, it is helpful if your virtual office has a door, so you can close up shop and not be tempted to work 24/7.

Telecommuting must be a win-win situation, so be sure to prepare your rationale before discussing the idea with your supervisor. Suggest a trial, starting with working from home one day a week to see if the arrangement functions well for both parties.  As unfair as it sounds, you’ll need to prove your value working off-site more so than when you worked in the office.

Next week, we’ll look at telecommuting from a manager’s perspective.

Calling all telecommuters! Share your best advice on how to make working at home, well… work.

Need some job advice? Anita Clew is happy to help. Click here to Ask Anita.

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5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jason Pertzborn
    Feb 17, 2014 @ 18:14:30

    Reblogged this on Business Genisis.

    Reply

  2. www.workfromhomejobsguide.com
    Feb 17, 2014 @ 04:19:09

    I think telecommunication is good.

    Reply

  3. Andrew Cheadle
    Feb 11, 2014 @ 22:30:40

    I’ve worked at a few jobs which could have easily been telecommute positions if it weren’t for the fact the information I was working on was secure and I worked in secure environments. Without that factor I would have loved working on a computer in my living room though the interaction with my coworkers was a positive experience I wouldn’t want to give up even with a long commute. IOW it’s a hard choice in my case. Your mileage will vary.

    Reply

  4. Ramona Bennett
    Feb 11, 2014 @ 08:59:45

    This issue has its pros and cons. For a young mother with small children telecommuting may be ideal. While the children are in school, if only for a few hours, mom can devote some focused time to working. However, once the kids are in school all day, a more structured environment is advised. One; it gets her out of the home and rubbing shoulders with new ideas and career growth. Two; and this is very important,it allows her to keep her skills current.

    The elderly and disabled can also benefit from telecommuting. Providing they are disciplined and carve out a place in their home from which to work. Discipline is the
    key. Getting up every morning with purpose drive and career direction. This way you will continually have something to offer your kids by way of an example, your spouse by way of interesting conversation and enhance your career.

    Reply

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Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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