Telecommuting – How Champions Work

telecommuteNot every job is conducive to telecommuting.  You can’t whip up and deliver a drive thru Happy Meal from your home office.  Well, if you could, you’d revolutionize the fast food industry.  But most professional-type jobs do lend themselves to telecommuting.  If you find yourself sitting in front of a computer every day at work, you are a prime candidate for something your company should already be offering.  If the company you work for doesn’t have a telecommuting policy where telecommuting would be easy from a technical and logistical point of view, you should discuss it with management.  Telecommuting isn’t necessarily good for everyone, but at the very least worth a try.  This concept is nothing new, as many companies have had telecommuting policies in place for many years.  It still amazes me, though, how many companies today won’t even consider it.

Companies that offer telecommuting reap many benefits, and so do the employees that participate.  My wife works for a small company that instituted a telecommuting policy for their employees about three years ago.  At my last job, there was absolutely NO telecommuting permitted although we all sat at computers all day writing programming code.  If ever there was a job where telecommuting should be the norm, it’s computer programming or web development.  Oh sure, we could and were expected to work from home during off hours but there was a strict policy that we had to be in the office Monday through Friday, no ifs, ands, or buts.

That is sheer and utter stupidity.  Ninety-nine percent of the time, we developers weren’t exposed to people in other business units.  We just put our heads down and wrote code.  Yes, we had meetings within the department, but each of those meetings could have been held online using any of the multitude of online meeting tools available today.  The issue we had was management – they were all old-school, ex-military types who felt people couldn’t do their jobs in an unsupervised environment.  You know, they have that control thing they like to do.  They saw fit to hire us but didn’t trust we were mature enough to work from home.  That’s pretty ridiculous if you ask me.

The benefits of telecommuting pay huge dividends for the employer and the employee.  They’re not just intangibles, they are measurable, quantifiable results that every company should take a close look at.  Here are just a few scores that add up in everyone’s favor. There are many more, but these are the obvious ones:

Increased employee morale

The first thing an employee feels when allowed to telecommute is a trust that has been given to them by their employer.  That feeling of trust immediately improves a person’s morale.  At my last job, when we tried to convince management to at least try a telecommuting policy and they flatly turned us down, the first thing we all felt was management didn’t trust us.  That’s not a healthy mindset at work.  Also adding to morale is a reduction in the daily stress of having that actual commute.  Driving in traffic every day to and from work, whether you realize it or not, adds to the stress you heap into your life.

Increased employee production

One thing that used to drive me crazy about my last job was the number of distractions I had to deal with each day.  Every office has those clowns who like to just walk around and chit-chat most of the day about non-work related things.  These people are probably the biggest roadblock when it comes to productivity in the office.  Throw in a few hundred emails and phone calls and you’re lucky if you can get anything done.  When you work from home you can control those distractions.  You can turn your phone and email off for chunks of time and focus on your work.  My wife doesn’t have a work-issued cell phone so she calls her office phone a few times a day to catch up with any voicemail instead of picking up the phone every time it rings.  One of the biggest challenges for people who telecommute comes if you have small children at home during the day.  If that’s the case, you’ll need to handle that accordingly.

Employee financial benefits

My wife works from home two days per week.  You would be surprised to see how much money we save every month in gasoline purchases alone!  She’s putting fewer miles on her vehicle and in turn that reduces maintenance such as oil changes or repair work needing to be done because of normal wear and tear.  Also, when you telecommute you don’t need to dole out the cash to go out to lunch.  If you go out of the office to get your lunch most days, that adds up pretty fast.  When you telecommute, you simply grab something you already have in the house that’s already been paid for! Also, be sure to check with your auto insurance company to see if you’re eligible for a discount because of your reduced annual mileage.

Reduced employee sick or out of office time

Let’s face it, other than schools, the workplace is a prime place to get sick.  Everyone brings their cold, flu or whatever virus they have with them and spread it everywhere.  Reducing exposure to those issues can only help.  One thing I absolutely love about my wife telecommuting is when I need to have someone come to the house to service something, I don’t have to take time off work.  We just schedule it for one of the days Kim is home working and it makes everything so much easier.  The same is true for auto repairs.  Things that used to cut into work time no longer do and that makes things much, much easier.

Smaller corporate carbon footprint

Here’s a shocking fact:  One of the last companies I did web development for was a recycling company.  They didn’t recycle trash per se, they recycled commodities such as metals and plastics.  They’re corporate slogan is “We exist to eliminate the need for landfills”.  The first thing you’d think is the company was very concerned with using “green” technologies.  As it turns out, they were adamantly against telecommuting. Ironic? You bet. Stupid? Uh, yes!  What better way is there for a company to reduce its carbon footprint than to allow telecommuting?  Such a policy has an immediate, positive impact on the earth’s ecology.  Just the reduction in vehicle emissions and paper use alone go a long way to helping the planet.

Smaller drain on company assets

If you’re in the office you tend to use much more in the way of office supplies.  Yes, that means paper, but you also use other things that need to eventually be recycled such as toner cartridges in printers.  When you work from home you purposely reduce your need to print because you don’t want to wear your personal printer down by using it for work.  Less printing means less paper consumption.  Most people who telecommute devise their own system at home to be less reliant on the things they’d normally consume in the office.  If your office is heated and cooled in zones, you can use less power to heat and cool the workplace because fewer people are there each day.  In the case of where my wife works, the offices along the outside walls are heated and cooled using units inside each office.  When people in those offices work from home, there is no need to run the heat or air conditioning in those offices!

Better employee retention

This is quite possibly the biggest benefit of all resulting from a telecommuting policy.  Every person I talk to that is allowed to telecommute says it is one of the most important benefits they receive where they work.  Many people I know stay put at their jobs simply because of telecommuting.  It’s part of the point I made earlier about increased employee morale.  For many it’s more important than having a gym on the premises or a cafeteria.  Companies save time, money and resources when they have a lower attrition rate.

When you calculate all of the benefits, corporate telecommuting policies are a win for everyone.  Our planet also benefits from these policies.  With today’s available technology, there is no excuse for any company not to offer a telecommuting policy if it’s appropriate for the type of work people do.  It just makes common sense.  If a company believes they shouldn’t offer it because employees would abuse the privilege, they should at least try it on an experimental basis instead of using the old-school way of thinking.

If you feel you have a job where telecommuting would work, discuss the possibility with management.  Put a thoughtful proposal together and submit it.  The worst they can say is no.  Personally, I say shame on any company that uses technology if they don’t offer a telecommuting policy.  It can be for one or two days per week – it doesn’t have to be overkill.  Companies just need to set up some guidelines or rules, and measure the results every now and then.  There is no excuse for old-school thinking in today’s corporate world.

Any company’s most valuable asset is their employees.  If your company doesn’t offer telecommuting and you’ve made your case for it and they still say no, you should consider finding a company that has a telecommuting policy in place.  Your career will thank you for it.

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