By Vera Wilson
You probably know people who work from their homes, but are you - and your job - right for teleworking?
garnered attention in the 1990s after the Clean Air Act encouraged its
use as a way to reduce pollution and save energy. The use of portable
computers, high-speed telecommunications, mobile devices, and cloud
computing further paved the way, and today, the majority of companies
and workers alike now see it as a viable option. In fact, half of all
interviewees inquire about teleworking, and a 2013 study revealed 48
percent of business managers worldwide worked remotely at least half the
time. The federal government is a big proponent of teleworking,
according to a 2013 survey that showed increased support by agency
leaders and higher participation across all employee groups.
known as telecommuting, virtual work, and working remotely, teleworking
is a work arrangement that allows the employee to perform their work at
an approved alternative location, usually the employee's home or maybe a
telework center or a satellite office. Most telework arrangements today
are part-time but can be anything from full-time to just once a month.
It can be permanent or for a designated period of time, like when an
employee breaks his ankle and can't drive for six weeks. The average
teleworker is college-educated and 49 years old, makes $58,000 a year,
and typically works for a company with more than 100 employees.
A balancing act
you're the employee, a teleworking arrangement usually means a better
work-life balance, among other benefits. Commute time is reduced
drastically, meaning you can spend that extra time going for a run or
helping your daughter with her homework. You save money on gas and your
wardrobe, and you might even be able to take a home-office deduction on
your taxes. There's total control over your workplace environment so no
more subzero office temperature.
The disadvantages are less
obvious. Some studies suggest recognition of the teleworker suffers,
from the spontaneous, “Great idea, John!” that one might hear at a
meeting to being passed over for promotions. It might affect your
relationship with coworkers who resent your arrangement or feel you're
goofing off at home. Over time, the isolation can be a drag on
productivity, because even though you were able to teleconference in for
the meeting, you missed the spontaneous brainstorming that occurred at
lunch that could've spurred on your creativity. It also can blur the
lines between work and personal life, as your home office beckons
constantly from the family room.
The teleworker can take action to address these impediments:
you're local, a combination of working from home and in the office
might be the ideal answer. Schedule regular time in the office when your
team can expect your presence, not only for important meetings but just
to reconnect and lay the groundwork for brainstorming. Then save the
portable work like report writing and returning emails for when you're
working from home.
- If you're not nearby, show coworkers and
management how available you really are by using the technology at hand.
Ask them via video chat how the meeting went with the new client.
Assure them you're pulling your weight by putting the proposal you just
completed on the company's server. Check email and voicemail frequently
to ensure a seamless working relationship with those stationed in the
- Periodically ask your boss about the latest vision for the organization so you're aware of any future opportunities.
a specific work plan every day, and stay focused. Don't do anything you
wouldn't do during normal business hours at work, like folding laundry.
When finished with work for the day, shut your office door, so you're
not tempted to write one more email.
Determine what motivates you
everyone is cut out to work from home. For some, the hustle and bustle
of an office environment is stimulating and working in isolation most of
the day is a big demotivator. If you don't have someone figuratively
looking over your shoulder all day, will you stare at the birdfeeder for
hours? Ask yourself these questions before you pursue a remote
- Can I work well in isolation?
- Am I self-motivated and self-disciplined?
- Am I confident I can communicate effectively with my work team and stakeholders without being there in person?
- Do I have enough technical know-how to maximize use of the technology at my disposal?
- Do I have dedicated space to work without interruptions?
If the answer to any of these questions is no, teleworking probably is not the best fit for you right now.
What's in it for the boss?
employer can have compelling reasons for supporting teleworking.
Numerous studies show teleworkers experience higher job satisfaction, a
greater feeling of empowerment over their work, and increased loyalty to
their employer - all factors that reduce turnover. Then there's the
cost savings. Employers don't need to provide office space (and all the
costs that go with it) and even some supplies. And teleworkers tend, on
average, to be more productive, due in part to more hours devoted to
work rather than wasted on commuting time.
But there are barriers
to teleworking within an organization. Chief among them are managers,
used to managing by observation, fearing they'll lose control. To be
successful, the manager of the teleworking employee should:
clear work-performance objectives and communicate them to the
teleworker. A written agreement that spells out benchmarks,
communication guidelines, and work hours are essential to teleworking
success, and the manager must hold the employee accountable.
micromanaging; trust your employee even though you can't always see him
or her working. Ask for progress reports, but focus on the final
result, not how the employee got there.
- Ensure tools, like
online meeting capabilities and shared calendars, are in place to allow
the teleworking employee to properly do his or her job. Investments in
new technology might be needed, requiring training for the whole team.
you're managing more than one teleworker, appoint a telework program
officer who can develop protocols and train others on best practices.
other department members the teleworker is no more or less important
than other employees but that the arrangement is mutually beneficial for
the company and the employee.
Proper planning and training
can make teleworking a positive for all parties concerned. Just remember
the motto “Work is something you do, not something you travel to,” and
you'll be able to overcome any obstacles in your way.