Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Transportation IT

Six Questions To Ask Before Telecommuting 320

Posted by samzenpus
from the will-you-be-checking-on-my-work dept.
Lucas123 writes "With gas prices 30% higher this summer over last, telecommuting is back on everyone's radar. According to a Computerworld story, however, IT and telecommuting don't have a great record of success. For example, citing negative impacts on productivity, HP ended its telecommuting policy for hundreds of workers two years ago, and this year, Intel began requiring more than half the teleworkers in its IT group to report to the office at least four days a week. So before leaping, some questions you should ask as a manager if you're considering telework include: How will you define and measure performance? Will creativity suffer? What about employees stuck in the office?"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Six Questions To Ask Before Telecommuting

Comments Filter:
  • by Haoie (1277294) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @06:58PM (#24683405) Homepage

    Frankly, without someone to poke me with a sharp stick now and then, I wouldn't get much done.

    I want to telecommute now.

    • by Nursie (632944) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @06:59PM (#24683423)

      That's why I don't telecommute, even though I could - I get nothing done.

      Well that and I have no excuse as I live a half hour's walk from work.

      • by jbengt (874751) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @08:48PM (#24684359)
        I telecommute one day a week, and, when it comes to getting my jobs done (as opposed to responding to interruptions that I admit also sometimes need to be taken care of) I typically get more done at home than at the office. Today, though I got off to a slow start, I put in a good 8 hours, not needing to stop during for lunch, able to spend a couple of breaks outside in the good weather with our dogs and my son, and finishing some calculations that I haven't had a chance to start for the last two weeks. It also seems to help make the rest of the week in the office much more productive, as it breaks up the drag of what can sometimes otherwise become a monotonous daily routine.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by syphax (189065)

          I find it's helpful to mix working alone with working (physically) with others.

          As a consultant, I sometimes work on-site at a client, sometimes at our office with my colleagues, and sometimes at home.

          All have their pluses and minuses. Sometimes you are literally 10x more productive on-site than anywhere else; sometimes being at the client is a total time-suck. Pretty much the same for office vs. home.

          I would think that (aside from at-client stuff), 3-4 days in the office, 1-2 days at home is a reasonable

      • by KermodeBear (738243) on Thursday August 21, 2008 @12:04AM (#24685687) Homepage

        I'm the exact opposite.

        When I am at home, co-workers can't waddle by my desk and start talking about the weather, or a football game, or what they're going to do that weekend, or some other thing that is wasting my time. And let's not get started with the pointless meetings.

        I grew up with a good work ethic; I suppose that I'm lucky. I work from home three days a week. Those are the three days that I actually get things done. I can start working, get into a groove, and pump out large amounts of good code, or get testing done, or debug problems.

        The two days in the office are a complete waste for me.

        • by Bodrius (191265) on Thursday August 21, 2008 @01:44AM (#24686299) Homepage

          Personally, I think the freedom to telecommute as needed is indeed a major productivity boom - the person telecommuting (and only that person) can and should balance whichever way is more productive for the task at hand.

          But I'm skeptical of absolute claims of greater efficiency - or of attempts to prescribe X days per week, or to use it as a way to save office space, for that matter.

          Efficiency depends a lot on too many factors that are context-dependent: the exact work that you're doing, the work environment, technical reasons, etc.

          Sometimes you're lucky and you have a good chunk of uninterrupted, isolated work to finish - and indeed you can be much more productive. But other times, there is a bunch of communication that needs to happen to enable the real work, and human presence just makes a thousand things easier (and faster). Remote communication also can limit your awareness of other people's work, which will affect you one way or the other. And sometimes you just need to access resources which are a hassle to get to through a VPN.

          So far I prefer to telecommute about 1.5 days a week on average for the same reasons: I could get a lot of stuff done uninterrupted, and it balances out well enough.

          I do understand the parent post's issue, though - I get as easily distracted as anyone at home. But just separating a 'working environment' tends to do wonders for that.

          Humans are creatures of habit, so we tend to associate environments with their most common activities and mind-frames.

          I've found just getting out of the house and working from a cafe or anywhere with net access does wonders for focus, because my home is most linked by habit to free time. For some people it is just the opposite.

        • by gosand (234100) on Thursday August 21, 2008 @10:59AM (#24690551)

          I'm the exact opposite.

          When I am at home, co-workers can't waddle by my desk and start talking about the weather, or a football game, or what they're going to do that weekend, or some other thing that is wasting my time. And let's not get started with the pointless meetings.

          I grew up with a good work ethic; I suppose that I'm lucky. I work from home three days a week. Those are the three days that I actually get things done. I can start working, get into a groove, and pump out large amounts of good code, or get testing done, or debug problems.

          The two days in the office are a complete waste for me.

          I agree... I actually get MORE work done at home. I've worked from home for about 2 years now... it was several days a week, but for the last 6 months has been full-time. I work for a VERY large bank, and they have a fantastic policy on it. I live in Arizona, but work east-coast hours because that's where most of the team is. If I had to drive into the office (23 miles 1-way) I would be miserable. That would be almost 2 hours a day WASTED on driving.

          I work more hours when I work from home - and I'm ok with it. I fill up my car maybe once a month. I am on conference calls a lot during the day (project management) but if I'm on a call I don't need to be on - I can hang up! We use IM (MS Communicator - ugh) and email, phone, livemeeting, etc.

          It does take getting used to though. You learn to recognize voices when you're on a call with 50 people, even though you may never meet them in person. You have to make yourself productive, keep track of tasks. It makes your job so much easier if you learn how to communicate clearly over the phone/email/IM. I feel that I have matured greatly as an employee. I usually eat at my desk anyway. I have my comfortable setup, the lighting I like. I can keep work/home computing separate... instead of checking personal email or websites (like Slashdot) on my work computer I can switch over to my personal one on the KVM and check it. If I need to go to the Dr or dentist, which are close to home, I don't lose as much work time.

          The greatest thing about it for me? I still keep a work/life balance, and it is mostly under my control. I am up and working at 6:15 am, but I can still see my kids when they get up. When I am done working around 3 or 4 PM, I am HOME. No horrible commute to deal with or dread every day. I get to spend quality time with my family, and that makes me really appreciate my employer, and therefore I want to do good work for them. THAT makes for a good employee.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by dreamchaser (49529)

        I am just the opposite. I work from home about half the time and travel the other half. I get far more work done when at home than when at the remote (for me) office. Too many interruptions and distractions.

        It takes a certain mindset and some discipline to telecommute, but for those of us who can do so it's a godsend.

    • by Original Replica (908688) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @07:05PM (#24683489) Journal
      Frankly, without someone to poke me with a sharp stick now and then, I wouldn't get much done.

      I sometimes wonder how much gets done even when people are physically present, there is a lot of solitaire and web surfing going on in many offices. Perhaps with a rise in telecommuting we can switch to getting paid for generating x amount of work done instead of x hours in the workplace. It would lead to huge efficiency improvements, and it seems the only practical way to quantify "a days work" telecommuting.
      • by Joe The Dragon (967727) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @07:10PM (#24683529)

        so you can make $0 while you wait for other people to do there job so you can get your done.

        • by MBCook (132727) <foobarsoft@foobarsoft.com> on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @07:46PM (#24683883) Homepage

          This is the problem I would worry about. I know I've had to wait for others to do their job (due to their own procrastination, etc) so I could get something done that was due already. Heck, anyone who has done a team assignment in middle school has had that experience.

          I have a simple solution to this: every moment I'm working on your project, including waiting on you (and subordinates) because you didn't do what you said you would, I charge you. I'll bill 3 people at once while I wait around. If we pre-arrange that I won't be working during a specific time (because you're busy or whatever) that's fine. But if I am supposed to be fixing your project and I can't because of you, you're still paying.

          Of course, you have to be really really good at your job to be able to get terms like that. That's why pretty much no one would be willing to accept those terms. I know I wouldn't hire someone else with those terms unless I really trusted them. And I wouldn't trust them that much without working with them, which I wouldn't do without....

          I'm with you. The "let's all bill based on actual work and not just 40 hours a week thing" is great in theory but unless you're the guy everyone else is always forced to wait on it won't work out.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            Where I'm working at the moment we've had a queue of work to do almost continuously for the last 10 years. Only very very rarely have I ever completely run out of work to do, or had every single project waiting on other people.

            I think there are definitely working environments were telecommuting makes sense.

          • by Quixotic Raindrop (443129) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @09:22PM (#24684661) Journal
            Telecommuting should be easy to do, arrange, and should be a top-notch way to get high-quality work out of employees. I attribute the most basic problem with telecommuting failures to be a lack of a manager's ability to accurately identify what a good metric is, with respect to measuring production. As a corollary to that, most managers (in my experience) are concomitantly unable to recognize good from bad performers, since the metrics that are used fail to correlate with productive work. If you can find a management chain that has a solid understanding of the workflow, the requirements of the product or service being offered, and can accurately set milestones along the path to whatever the work goal is, you should be able to do nearly all IT work remotely, all the time.
            • by the_B0fh (208483) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @10:11PM (#24685041) Homepage

              Bull. Who says I can't recognize good and bad performers? No, the problem is getting the correct metric in place so that you are truly measuring productivity and not training people to work to artificial metrics. All of a sudden, you have wonderful metrics, but actual productivity suffers.

              For example, one of the teams I manage performs access administration. The amount of work to provision accounts on different systems is radically different. AD is simple, less than a minute, unless they have a lot of strange requirements. However, there's one truly screwed up system where it can take one whole day to create 8 accounts. My top performer/team lead took about 45 minutes to set up each account. Since she typically closes out twice the number of tickets compared to others, I doubt that she was being lazy on this ticket. Other members on the team hate this system too.

              So, how do you measure productivity in cases like this? Yes, I can put a modifier on that.

              AD account == 1 minute
              Screwed up account == 45 minutes
              etc etc

              and tally up at the end of day. But that screwed up 45 minutes is only in the worst case. In the best case, it's about 5 minutes.

              Oh, so now I should measure screwed up system more discretely.

              AD account == 1 minute
              Screwed up Account Scenario A == 5 minutes
              Screwed up Account Scenario B == 10 minutes
              .
              .
              .
              Screwed up Account Scenario J == 50 minutes
              etc etc etc

              And everyone better track everything they do to the minute!! Especially after I spent months tracking and averaging out the time!!

              Oh wait, why don't I just trust that my folks do good work, and save myself that heartache? It does mean that we can't do telecommute easily, but *shrug*

              • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                by nametaken (610866)

                I've always thought that if someone is a crappy worker, it will out in some way, even if the job is a hard thing to supervise or measure.

                From what I've seen people who are lazy or slow tend to exhibit that behavior everywhere, and often don't even think that they're lazy and slow. So they're not apologetic about their work habits even when they ARE being supervised.

        • by Original Replica (908688) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @08:26PM (#24684195) Journal
          so I can mow the lawn,walk the dog,read a book,go jogging,build lego creations with my nephews,take a walk in the park,make a sandwich,etc while I wait for other people to do their job so I can get my done. I'd rather it that way then waiting for someone else, while pretending to be busy in a cubicle. Either way I'll likely have to work after business hours if I am kept waiting too long, but if I am waiting in my home, then those delayed hours aren't detracting so much from my home life.
        • by Icarium (1109647) on Thursday August 21, 2008 @03:58AM (#24686885)

          I don't get paid by the hour, but I do get evaluated on my actual output as opposed to how many hours a day I keep my office chair warm.

          As it is my only real problem with working from home is that I don't feel productive, even though I only spend an hour or two a day working anyway. I'm allowed to telecommute, but I generally avoid it unless I have reason to do so. I feel guilty if I'm goofing off at home, but I'll quite happily goof off at work. As long as my bosses don't care, neither do I.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by shadwstalkr (111149)

        The problem is how do you quantify productivity. In some jobs it's easy, but for most creative work it probably isn't. Not to mention dealing with collaboration, and people who contribute most as morale boosters or brainstormers (for lack of a better term).

      • by mrroot (543673) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @08:00PM (#24683995)

        Perhaps with a rise in telecommuting we can switch to getting paid for generating x amount of work done instead of x hours in the workplace.

        That is fine if you are a worker drone that produces X widgets per hour, or answers Y calls per hour. Having a job that does not lend itself well towards telecommuting is GOOD. It means you are valuable for something more than what can be written down in a procedure and shipped overseas. Personally, I don't want my work intruding on my personal space. Because sometimes work sucks, and when it does my home is where I go to get away from it and relax.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by gnick (1211984)

          Hallelujah. The only jobs I've had that were really metric driven were graveyard-shift-convenience-store-clerk and calc-tutor (how many hours did you work - thankfully nobody has ever counted my lines of code or my correct forecasts per data). Since then, it's been tasks & deliverables, but very hard to metric. But, back when I did technical work (I've been drafted (kicking and screaming) into PM and am looking for other employment), work came home all the time. That was acceptable - Staying up lat

        • by sootman (158191) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @10:33PM (#24685177) Homepage Journal

          And for some of us, work is where we go to get away from home. :-)

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by brianez21 (945805)

        Perhaps with a rise in telecommuting we can switch to getting paid for generating x amount of work done instead of x hours in the workplace.

        And just how do you propose to measure the amount of work done? By number of emails sent? Lines of code written? Bugfixes patched? The problem is that there's just no accurate metric for this kind of thing.

      • by Lumpy (12016) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @08:55PM (#24684409) Homepage

        Exactly, and I'm up front with it. Last productivity meeting with the new bosses I sat there and said... I work 2 hours a day, the other 6 I screw off. They know what I do, I laid out a nice huge list at their feet and also mentioned that they would have to hire 2 people at my rate to replace me. I'm arrogant about time because micromanagers are worthless (I said that as well) and when I am needed I work with a vengeance. If you give me useless busywork, I'll do it crappy or not at all.

        I did this the last 5 times I had a productivity meeting with new owners and always end up promoted. Just be up front with them and hold no punches, managers worth working for understand it.

    • by wild_quinine (998562) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @07:48PM (#24683903) Homepage
      You see, what you say is funny, but it's really the employers biggest reason for not investing. They're scared that you'd sit at home and do fuck all.

      In fact, in my experience, the people that matter work wherever they are, and the people that don't matter are never going to put in an honest day.

      A good work ethic does not differentiate based on environment.

      What has a far more negative effect is being treated like shit in the workplace. I've seen so many devoted, committed, hard working employees let their work go south because they finally realised that there is no fucking point; they can spend all year making a difference for one stupid ill informed management decision to put them back way before where they started.

      The saddest thing is it's these fucking managers who go home and 'telecommute', and sit around doing no work, who think that must therefore apply to the rest of us.

      But the truth is that a bad manager can do fuck all wherever he is, and the worst thing about that is that sometimes that's better for the organisation than them getting their fingers into the pies and fucking everything up.

    • by Eggplant62 (120514) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @07:49PM (#24683905)

      I'm the exact opposite. I work for a medical transcription company, managing a team of voice recognition editors/transcriptionists. I work at home, complete telecommute, and I get lots done. I put in a good day's work, I look for and call out problems, and keep tabs on the store basically.

      I have the option of working out on the deck in my yard in summers. If I need to travel for vacation or whatever, I just take my laptop and other gear with me and still catch lines while I'm gone, if I'm really good and bored. Try it, you might like it. To me, work is Slack. Or kill me.

      Praise "Bob"!

    • by NotBornYesterday (1093817) * on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @07:54PM (#24683949) Journal
      That's the beautiful thing about telecommuting. I've done it. Being free of constant supervision is disorienting at first, but wow, is it ever a relief. It is VERY tempting to watch TV, go hit golf balls, have a few beers with lunch, etc. Eventually, self-preservation kicks in and you realize that you have to get your ass in gear. You become more organized. You plan your day. You learn to push back on spouses/kids/whomever who think it's okay to interrupt your workday with housekeeping requests. IMHO, those capable of it will become more mature employees.
      • by penguin_dance (536599) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @09:35PM (#24684775)

        I worked at home 3 days a week for about a year. I didn't have a problem getting down to work and the type of work I did--working on the internal web site--either it got done or not so it would be easy enough to determine if someone was goofing off. On the plus side, it saved me a 60-mile round trip commute on those days. I was also able to organize my in-office duties of helping people and meetings so I didn't get constantly interrupted. I was the only technical person in our group so there was no one I was leaving behind to get jealous because my duties were so different from everyone else. My job was ideal for telecommuting. However, I wonder if telecommuting help lead to my eventual layoff. We changed managers...the main problem became, I think, that he thought I was a shared resource. IOW that the monies that paid my salary were shared by the other regional managers who used me to keep their web pages up. Then he found out I came out of his budget. Even though I did work for several regions/sections in my group, this manager's idea of a web page was just uploading documents and putting up a link. It wasn't promoted or to be used to help people--more like a file storage. There was no one else to take over my work, but this manager just didn't care that it got done or left other regions in the lurch. So if you telecommute, beware this: Be sure you 'toot your own horn' and make sure upper management knows all the important work you're doing and your contributions. Otherwise it can be "out of site, out of mind" and when cutbacks come up, if they don't value your work and they don't see you, they might just feel cutting you won't hurt the workload.

    • It just so happens that tomorrow will be my first day back in the office after about a month and a half of telecommuting. For me, it's been a pretty bad experience. I don't like driving in Atlanta traffic every day to get to work, but for someone like me it's better than the alternative.

      Measuring work metrics has never been an issue; in my industry, and especially at my company, customers are very, very quick to complain about the slightest problem. So if that server doesn't get fixed or if that database is acting up, they'll call in, the support queue will back up, the emails will pour in, and it will quickly reach my boss's attention. Combined with our ticketing system and small-office, close-knit atmosphere (e.g., communication), I've never been concerned about anyone thinking I'm not doing my job.

      No, the problem is actually finding any motivation to do work. It's far too easy to roll out of bed at the last possible minute, stumble into the computer room, and sit there in your pajamas feeling like Hell because you haven't showered or dressed. You've got a host of video game at your fingertips. There's a case of beer in the fridge calling your name. Your cats are cute and want attention, or they're knocking things over to ruin your concentration. The jerk in the apartment upstairs is riding his pogo stick again. In short, there are a million little distractions at home, which aren't at the office, which will prevent you from really focusing on anything productive.

      Beyond that, I don't like work. It's not my job, or the people, or the company -- those are all fine. I'm just one of those people for whom work is a necessary evil. I therefore require a distinction between work life and free time, and the blurring of the two is extremely uncomfortable. Particularly when a user gets obnoxious enough to the point where they get sent to me -- now I have to talk to them on the phone, and it's like they're invading my home! My home, where I live. Where I come to play with my toys.

      Furthermore, the tools available to a home worker are, at least in my experience, never as good as what's available at the office. If I need information now I don't have to wait for a coworker to maybe respond to an IM when he gets around to it -- I can walk down the hall and ask. I have direct access to our servers and such, without the need for ssh over VPN which is about as snappy as the days of dialup BBS. When someone wants my help they generally come ask for it, and if they see I'm with someone else they wait, as opposed to my having to manage six ongoing IM sessions with various people at once. I don't need to wait for endless back-and-forth emails from the salespeople to try to get a straight answer -- I can just waltz down there and yell at them myself. Plus, just going to the office means I've already showered, dressed, and had some time (the commute) to wake up and become human. At a proper desk in a proper office environment I feel like I'm at work and I can focus enough to get into the groove of whatever I'm doing.

      And finally, there's a social aspect of work. Working from home means spending the vast majority of your days completely isolated. It only takes a few days of your friends being busy so you can't go out at night, and suddenly you realise you've spent the past week without any human interaction whatsoever except the cashier at the grocery store. That wears thin very, very quickly.

      I expect I'll get more done tomorrow at the office than I have for the past week at home, or at least, it'll feel that way. That having been said, I'm not looking forward to waking up an hour earlier.
  • by camperdave (969942) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @06:59PM (#24683419) Journal
    The most important question is...

    Can you reboot it remotely. If you physically need to press a button, or change media, you won't be telecommuting.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by v1 (525388)

      check out bay technologies [baytech.net], they have some very useful stuff there for remote management. I've used their RPCs (think powerstrip with an ethernet port) for several years. Reboot anything that can power-on-after-power-fail, and you're set.

    • by missing000 (602285) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @07:05PM (#24683487)
      Most modern servers have facilities to do just that.

      I do a day from home each week and use remote tools for everything from power resets to OS installs remotely.

      The times you have to touch a server itself in a modern environment is infrequent enough you can work from anywhere most of the time.
    • IP KVM (Score:4, Informative)

      by bigtallmofo (695287) * on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @07:13PM (#24683549)
      Look at this: IP KVM [google.com].

      With many of those products, you can not only remotely control the system (including see the power on self test, modify CMOS settings and even install an operating system) but they have a feature to cycle power as well.

      We've been using them for several years now. Works great.
    • by nurb432 (527695)

      Thats why you rotate people one or 2 days off a week, making sure that every department has at least one person in the office on every day.

      Even the best planned remote management tools can fail.

    • Don't your servers come with an ILOM?

    • by syousef (465911) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @08:38PM (#24684283) Journal

      Wrong! The most important question is...

      Can I do my work in my underwear, or am I expected to video conference? (To clarify you may need to ask: Is it okay if I video conference in my underwear?)

  • by cats-paw (34890) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @07:06PM (#24683495) Homepage

    As many on slashdot have pointed out in previous threads about offshoring, one of the main drivers of the high cost of living, i.e. a high salary is the necessity of working in expensive urban areas.

    Companies are perfectly willing to take non-trivial jobs and ship them overseas, but seem to be extremely reluctant to let workers telecommute, which would probably help in lowering costs, allowing the jobs to stay here.

    Really, WTF ?

    • by compro01 (777531)

      Likely because telecommuting would require them to pay existing wages and would require the purchase of hardware/software to facilitate it.

      • I think there are people who would take a lower wage in exchange for a telecommute. I would, anyway. It would probably save me about two hours a day, if not more.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by jbengt (874751)

          I think there are people who would take a lower wage in exchange for a telecommute. I would, anyway.

          I did, anyway.
          Though it was more of a raise - I got offered a job with a 10% raise, my employer practically begged me to stay, but they would only give me a 5% raise (above the regular end-of-the-year raise). They asked me what would keep me there, and I asked for one day a week working at home. I stayed because it saves me over three hours commute on that day. And I find I usually get more productive wor

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by devilspgd (652955) *

        I've been working remotely for over five years now, and one of the biggest perks is that I get to use my own equipment.

        I don't have to justify a couple 24" monitors to anyone, I just go buy 'em.

        I don't have to get a doctor's note just to get an ergonomic keyboard, no one can turn down my request for a high resolution mouse and gaming grade mousepad (and no, I don't game, and yes, it does make a difference when you have 1920x2400 pixels and don't enjoy picking up your mouse and moving it from one end of the

    • Because they feel more comfortable with the though that there's some manager over there watching to make sure the underlings are actually working.

      I'm not saying it is a *valid* reason, but there ya go.

    • by plutoXL (1314421) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @07:21PM (#24683631)
      When you offshore, they still keep the whole big office on the other side of the world, you still have slaves and slave drivers in the same place.
      If you telecommute, you get one slave with his tv, bed and fridge close by (or nagging significant other and bunch of kids running around) and no one to kick him around when he gets lazy.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by CodeBuster (516420)
        So don't pay him by the hour but rather by what he gets done and if he is consistently late or doesn't meet standard then you are free to fire him at any time. Do you really care how something gets done as long as it gets done in a reasonable amount of time at the price that you are willing to pay and the level of quality that you desire?
    • by JaredOfEuropa (526365) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @07:31PM (#24683719) Journal

      Companies are perfectly willing to take non-trivial jobs and ship them overseas, but seem to be extremely reluctant to let workers telecommute, which would probably help in lowering costs, allowing the jobs to stay here

      Companies usually offshore whole teams or departments rather than individual jobs. The guys in India work as a team under a team lead or manager, sitting together and (hopefully) communicating effectively. If you want to compare it to telecommuting, it would be allowing you to work from home, but only if you'd let your team mates bring their laptops to your place and work with you...

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by fm6 (162816)

      All "high costs" are not created equal. You can get some fairly skilled labor in India or China for $30K. And that person has the same standard of living as a US resident who makes more than twice that, due to the difference in the cost of living.

      Working from home may save your employer money. But half your salary? Unlikely.

    • by Jaime2 (824950)
      I would guess that it is because most jobs that can be performed effectively via telecommuting, could also be outsourced. Why go halfway? The only reason you still have your job is precisely because your job is not concusive to being doen somewhere else. What's the difference between India and an employee's mom's basement?
  • by Creepy Crawler (680178) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @07:07PM (#24683501)

    Try THIS [computerworld.com] link.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      And since I have the mod points, Ill ask the karma-killing question.

      Where did the "Nintendo Gets sued for patent violations in Wiimote" go?

      • by Roblimo (357) Works for SourceForge

        There was some sort of comment bug, but only on that story. It'll probably come back once the problem is fixed.

  • by edcheevy (1160545) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @07:07PM (#24683503)
    Many of these questions should be asked for ANY position, regardless of how much telecommuting is involved. Questions 2 & 3 are relevant to most any job (i.e. "what am I actually paid for?"). #4 & 5 are relevant in any place that has teleworkers, even if it's not you, since they might be on your team, and 6 applies to just about any job situation. It's the "what if things change?" question.
  • Anecdotes (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dsginter (104154) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @07:07PM (#24683509)

    A while ago, I was finishing my degree while maintaining a full-time job. I reached a point where I needed to take time off in order to concentrate on one of my classes - so I did. In those two weeks, it immediately became apparent to me that I could not get things done at home (too many distractions), nor at the library (I have to pack up everything in order to use the restroom?).

    So I made the 45 minute trek into work (each way - 1.5 hours round trip) in order to have a productive place to concentrate on The Code. While this is my own experience, I do realize that others can be productive in the middle of the Sahara or in a dimly lit basement. I'm just trying to provide some contrast to this panacea that everyone is painting with telecommuting.

    It doesn't work for everyone.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      True.
      It's about being able to separate your home work time from all else.

      Fortunately, my wife keeps the kids out of the room when I telecommute.

      I do know some people who stopped becasue there wife thought it was ok to leave the kids with them for 'quick' errands.
      I don't really understand that. I mean, should there be enough respect for that not to happen?

      • Re:Anecdotes (Score:5, Informative)

        by CrazedWalrus (901897) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @09:09PM (#24684549) Journal

        I did telecommuting for about 6 months. I loved it, no doubt, and wish I could do it again.

        Some notes from the experience:

        * wife/kids initially respect the boundaries, but it very soon becomes real effort to maintain them.

        * wife realized what I actualy do for a living. Got this gem several times: "why can't you go do XYZ? You're just sitting in front of the computer anyway.". WTF? Yes dear, I'm a computer programmer. Apparently she didn't realize it involved the computers.

        * people can't figure out why daddy doesn't want to talk/play/whatever every 15 minutes. This turns into "you're ignoring me/us", to which the only answer is "well, I"m certainly trying, but you're making it pretty difficult."

        Now, you may see those and think "Hah! See? There are too many distractions at home!" ... And you'd be totally ignoring what goes on in the office.

        Office has bench-style desks where everyone sits side-by-side. The level of noise and commotion sometimes reaches the level of the absurd - especially around lunch time (between 12 and 2, as not everyone eats at the same time). The air conditioning vent is right over my head and makes an unholy racket. Every time I have to pee, it's a 5 minute walk.

        Add into that 3 to 4 hours of travel every day, and the office just doesn't seem to have many advantages over working from home.

        There are significant distractions in both places, but at least at home the distraction is my daughter giving me a hug or my son showing me what he did at school. Lots better than the inane chatter and insanity around the office.

        That's not to mention the fact that my home office has a door that, while easily opened by the random interloper, does a much better job than the open layout office where there's never a moment's peace.

        Which one's better? Truth is, they both suck, but working from home sucks a lot less.

        By the way, I'm writing this at 10pm on the train on my way home. I got to the office 13 hours ago, left my house 15 hours ago, and won't be home for another hour. When I get home, there's another hour of work to do. If I worked from home, I could have done all that work, and still had a much shorter day. The office? No redeeming qualities as far as I can see.

    • Re:Anecdotes (Score:5, Insightful)

      by houstonbofh (602064) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @07:43PM (#24683849)
      One thing I have found is that if you want to work from home, you need a home office. It needs a door, and should have nothing but office stuff. (No TV) Other people in your home need to understand that if someone opens that door, and no one is in need of urgent medical care, someone will be. Many companies that I have seen do telecommuting well require a picture of the home "workspace" for approval.
    • Re:Anecdotes (Score:4, Informative)

      by theJML (911853) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @08:37PM (#24684275) Homepage

      The funny thing is that the office is where all of my distractions are. Now, for background, I am married, but my wife works and we have no kids. I have a seperate "Office" though it's really just where all the computers and books are... In anycase, on a number of occasions lately I've had doc appointments or ups packages due or whatever so I said "I'll be working from home this evening". As we've always had a number of full time offsite employees, they let me go ahead and do it and they were the most productive times I've had in a LONG TIME.

      There are probably a few things that lead to this. #1 I apparently am the "go-to guy" at work. This is annoying, but it comes from being there a long time, being useful, overhearing people and having general knowledge of most all major things going in the company. So everyone comes to me with questions/requests/favors/opinions/discussions/meetings. It's really annoying when you're trying to code. I can't even make it through a 7min mp3 most of the time without getting bombarded. I recently took a half day for an appointment in the am, and I found at home I knocked out more, solid code in 4 hours than I had over the last two weeks. It was a scary realization that I was really that hampered at work.

      After this I asked if it would be acceptable to work 4 days a week from the office and one day a week, fixed or not, where I could work from home to help productivity. I was politely told hell no.

      I really have to wonder at this point, why I even code at work if we're that not-worried about our productivity. Maybe I'm wrong, but it seems to me that anything to increase productivity while saving the company money (all the IT infrastructure is already in place for remote work as we still have about 15 full time remote employees).

  • by Seakip18 (1106315) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @07:18PM (#24683589) Journal

    Heh. I actually just made a journal entry regarding this. I work for a gov't agency that does not have a clear telecommuting policy and we're about to actually find out how well it will work.

    Unfortunately, a concrete schedule hasn't been decided on so it will be played by ear till we figure out if the arrangement is going to work or not. I'm pretty sure I'm the first worker that is actually going to telecommute the majority of the time.

    I think the biggest problem with non-software companies is to determine what requires face-to-face time and what doesn't. I know I'm going to be pretty dejected if I show up to work and end up spending a week behind a monitor instead of meetings with Finance, etc.

    You can tell if I'm getting work done by issues being resolved. No "If I'm doing it right, you'' see nothing at all." job here. I feel if they allow me to do this, I'm going to have prove them right in letting me work offsite.

    Another question is why they simply don't replace me. Our two recent hires left much to be desired, so I'm guess the market here is pretty bad or they are looking for talent in the wrong places.

    If it doesn't work, I'll at least say I gave it a shot. And no, I'm not saying which agency.

    • you can set them and have them for any kind of work, software or not. any company/agency, government or private. they work.

      actually they are the prime identifier of any output. therefore if you set those, facilitate the communication tools (contact IM contact, email, a solid web project manager software), you can get all kinds of stuff done.
  • I have done this... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Psychotria (953670) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @07:20PM (#24683619)
    and, on occassion, I still try to do it (telecommute). Unfortunately, my new manager does not see the advantages and it's less likely these days that I am allowed to. I can see my managers point, even though I might disagree. I am just as productive (if not more productive) at home as I am when at work. The "problem" my manager sees, though, is something along the lines of needing a clear separation between "work" time and "lesiure/relaxation" time. Having a physical distinction (i.e workplace/home) between these two activities he sees as a way to ensure that employees lives are balanced and the home does not become just another workplace. Personally I have no problem seperating work and home, but I can understand his point, and I can understand his dilemma (how would he "know" that I can make this distinction). It gets me angry sometimes that I can no longer telecommute, but I guess I should just be grateful that I have a manager who (apparently) looks out for the mental well-being of employees.
    • im working from home since 2 years. and its true that home becomes half a workplace after some time. its not a total work place, not a total relaxation place, but becomes something in between. you are never as stressful as at work, or relaxed as at home. you live in an optimal point in the limbo between them. half ready to work all the time, half ready to have fun all the time. weird.
      • Yeah, that is an excellent way of describing it. And, yes (I didn't make it clear) I do think my manager is right. Working at home means it's much more difficult just to "turn off" at the end of the day. There is always the temptation to do just one more paragraph of a report, or just one more function of code. Or, google one more piece of information. Or, look up one last reference. Etc.

        There is also the issue that I am enduring right this moment. I am home sick, and know it would be very easy for me log
        • by unity100 (970058)

          Yeah, that is an excellent way of describing it. And, yes (I didn't make it clear) I do think my manager is right. Working at home means it's much more difficult just to "turn off" at the end of the day. There is always the temptation to do just one more paragraph of a report, or just one more function of code. Or, google one more piece of information. Or, look up one last reference. Etc.

          exactly

          There is also the issue that I am enduring right this moment. I am home sick, and know it would be very easy for me login to the VPN or fire-up the remote desktop and continue my current project. It's taking quite a bit to resist that temptation actually, but at the end of the day: I am sick, I should not be doing work. When I was telecommuniting "not" working was probably more difficult when I was ill, meaning that I wasn't giving myself much needed rest. All in all, not telecommuniting anymore is a Good Thing, even though I would still like to do it (mainly to save fuel costs :-).

          there is a solution though, you can create a separate workplace at your home. like, a well equipped garage, or an extension of your home. this will create the necessary work/home life separation, will provide the concentration you need (since you aint gonna be letting any home life stuff - kids and all - encroach into that space and anything out to home), and also cut fuel costs.

          you just need the space though.

  • Carpool (Score:2, Interesting)

    by KalvinB (205500)

    Carpool [dawnofthegeeks.com] is a simple Google Maps based app I wrote.

    Your employer (or you) can create an account for your place of work. All the employees can then create an account and join the account created for the workplace. Just send your coworkers the username and public password for the place of business so they can join the group. The public password can't be used to log into the account. It's just to help maintain your privacy.

    You can then see (or have the site tell you an approximation of) who would be best to

    • Re:Carpool (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Free the Cowards (1280296) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @07:33PM (#24683755)

      For the curious, I'd have to drive 1 million miles at $4 a gallon before I spend as much money in gas as I save on my mortgage.

      Well, over a typical 30 year mortgage at 50 miles each way per workday, you'll be driving about 624,000 miles so you're already a good chunk of the way there. Add in to that the additional wear and tear on your vehicles, the probability of gas prices rising further, the likely need to have two vehicles instead of one at least at some point, and this ceases to sound very good to me.

      • by Seakip18 (1106315)

        AAA actually has rates for maintenance per mile and tire wear per mile in addition to depreciation per year on the miles. Makes computing cost of driving pretty nice.

      • Re:Carpool (Score:5, Insightful)

        by mrroot (543673) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @08:13PM (#24684107)

        Well, over a typical 30 year mortgage at 50 miles each way per workday, you'll be driving about 624,000 miles so you're already a good chunk of the way there. Add in to that the additional wear and tear on your vehicles, the probability of gas prices rising further, the likely need to have two vehicles instead of one at least at some point, and this ceases to sound very good to me.

        I didn't check your math, but you are RIGHT about your point. People only think things through the first step, but if you add up the additional costs, sometimes what appears to be a financially smart move actually is not. And don't forget the non-financial costs of living farther from work... having to spend more time in the car, instead of doing whatever you like. And also the fact that you are more likely to get into a car accident, since you spend more time on the road. Or what about the health toll? So you get home later and you only have time to eat fast-food for dinner, or don't have time to go for a jog or work out?

      • With a mortgage you're stuck paying it until it's done.

        With cars you can do things to cut costs. Like carpool. Get an electric car. Buy used. Find a different job. Ride a bus. Telecommute. Your mortgage isn't going to adapt.

        In your calculation that good chunk of the way leaves about $67,000 worth of gas you've saved over the life of the mortgage at 24mpg.

        The biggest savings is in the ability to pay the mortgage off in 15 years as opposed to 30. If I lived in town that extra money going into the mort

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by maxume (22995)

      Have figured it including the 4-5 hours a week of time?

  • Milestones (Score:5, Informative)

    by unity100 (970058) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @07:27PM (#24683687) Homepage Journal
    when telecommuting, you will find it VERY difficult to explain being late on any milestone. in office, you are there, people see you 'work', and therefore your excuses (valid or not) has greater acceptance. however when telecommuting, everyone is on the lookout to prevent slacking, and any excuse will have a greater rate of being taken as slacking.

    simple as that. milestones, output. rock solid.
    • Not hard at all. CC the manager each e-mail when you are requesting something missing, late, or not to spec. That way you have a nice record to fall back on. Also, he may light a fire under the other people at work who only "look" like they are working. :)
  • by onehitwonder (1118559) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @07:31PM (#24683727)
    Well duh. Anyone with an ounce of common sense will ask the questions outlined in this story. I can't believe Computerworld felt this article needed to be written. Obviously, companies should have policies about telecommuting. And obviously, not every employee or role inside a company lends itself to working from home. No one is advocating a telecommuting free-for-all.

    I'm also disappointed that the article called out two examples of companies that back-tracked on their telecommuting arrangements without discussing any of the success stories--and there are many. I realize this is shameless self-promotion, but last month I wrote an article for CIO.com about a small software company, Chorus, that closed all of its offices in an admittedly rather drastic cost-cutting move, and now everyone at Chorus--everyone--works from home [cio.com]. And you know what, the strategy is working out well for Chorus employees' productivity. The company made some mistakes in rolling out the telecommuting strategy, but overall they approached it sensibly, and it's working.

    Let's learn from the success stories and not use the failures to promote an anti-telecommuting agenda.

  • by MobyDisk (75490) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @07:32PM (#24683743) Homepage

    I work from the east coast, for a company on the west coast. I can tell you it isn't as glamorous as people think. It is tough on the employer, and tough on the employee.

    Employee:
    Your work will encroach upon your personal time, and you will miss that commute time as a way to separate your personal life from your work life. If you work in the same space you play, you will have a hard time separating work stress from your home life. How do you handle design meetings? Code reviews? Staff meetings?

    Employer:
    Some companies just don't know how to handle telecommuters. How do you know someone is not happy with their job, or is having personal problems, if you can't see them on a daily basis? Another hint: Staff meetings over IM are not highly productive!

    --
    11:45 (Manager) Joe, what is your status on Project X?
    *crickets*
    11:50 (Joe) Sorry, I went out to get the mail. ...45 minutes later, the 15 minute staff meeting continues...
    --

    Does the company pay for separate work and home licenses for software? Or do they give you a laptop? These are all expenses the company needs to consider.

    Overall:
    Both the employer and the employee need to spend more time communicating and collaborating, and more time on tools and licenses than when someone is working from the office. Beware.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by geekoid (135745)

      YOu only proved that telecommuting doesn't work for people who don't know how to behave professionally.

      • by westlake (615356) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @09:07PM (#24684527)
        YOu only proved that telecommuting doesn't work for people who don't know how to behave professionally.
        .

        I respectfully disagree.

        I have seen too many family businesses - where you cannot separate work and home - in time or space.

        The stresses on relationships are enormous.

        There is no privacy - no buffer zone, no chance to decompress.

        Things said "at work" cannot be unsaid "at home."

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by penguinbrat (711309)

        I wouldn't say it as much as being professional as it is in COMMUNICATING.. I used to have a contract position for coding a new online app, no big deal but when I came to a cross in the roads that I needed direction on, I emailed the "Boss" and explained the situation and that I was at a stand still until receiving feedback - I never did, in fact a week later when he emailed me asking for an update and progress report and I replied back saying I was waiting on him - he had the gall to blame it on me saying

    • Staff meetings over IM are not highly productive!

      If only someone could invent a device that would allow instant spoken communication between two separate locations... we'd really be getting somewhere then.

    • by Psychotria (953670) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @08:05PM (#24684041)

      [...] you will miss that commute time as a way to separate your personal life from your work life.

      You know, I'd never thought of that before. My commute is 45 minutes each way and I am thinking of work in both directions. It's true though, the 45 minutes into work my mind is preparing for work. The 45 minutes home, my mind is tying up loose ends so when I finally get home, I can switch off. I do write notes when I get home if I think of something while in the car driving, but they're very short notes that I email myself so I can refocus on them the next day. If it were not for the drive, I'm not sure the switching off when I pull into the garage would be as easy.

      • by phallstrom (69697) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @09:50PM (#24684893)

        The transition time is very very real. I work from home and have for 3 years now. After a day's work I go for a 10-15 minute walk (or try to). My wife calls it my transition time. And it's exactly that.

        Also, get a home office. With a door. And headphones that kill the noise. Most days are great, but sometimes our two kids decide to yell all day. With the headphones I don't hear them, zone out, and code. Without them I go nuts.

        But it is pretty awesome when your 2 year old comes in just to give you a hug in the middle of the day!

  • Cancel unproductive workers who telecommute instead. In all seriousness, it takes a special person to be able to actually keep on task at home. Hell, most of us are posting to slashdot from work. Just think about this--NSFW doesn't apply when you telecommute. I'd tell my boss straight up that I wouldn't be able to telecommute because I wouldn't get any work done.
  • 4. How will telework affect collaboration?

    IMHO, this is the most thoroughly neglected aspect of telecommuting. Collaborating with people over the phone is hard. You can't look over each other's shoulders as you work, and you can't share a white board. Productivity suffers, big time.

    Thing is, there are some technical solutions to these problems. Handy little online meeting tools like WebEx abound. But too many places (including all the places I've every worked) just can't be bothered with them. I'm guessing they don't want the expense of the tools a

  • this year, Intel began requiring more than half the teleworkers in its IT group to report to the office at least four days a week.

    If you're coming to the office four days a week, you're not really a teleworker, are you?
  • I currently do it one day a week, and work better for it, the change of pace, the ability to not have to travel for the one day all works really well. I have some of my best coding days when I work from home.

    BUT

    You really do need that real facetime with people, and the office environment with your colleagues to keep it all working.

    I would say you need AT LEAST 2 days a week in office to make it work.

    Unless what you're doing is a real 'package' of work that is self contained and can be done without any real

  • Working from home is only productive, long-term, for persons of a certain personality type. I'm not going to flat-out say "and that type is usually described by a word beginning with "A", ending in "S", and with "SPERGER" in the middle, but for most OTHER people telecommuting just doesn't work as anything other than a short-term option.

  • I get so much more done working from home, with my fast PC and large monitor, than I do stuck in an office, hunched over a 2005-era laptop and being bothered by inane questions or stupid smalltalk all day long by co-workers.

    I don't have to put up with the smell of other people's lunches, I don't have to put up with alpha-male managers sitting on my desk while they discuss their sportscar's superior performance with some idiot who sits behind me.

    Humans were not meant to spent eight hours a day in the close p

  • by plopez (54068) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @08:22PM (#24684167) Journal

    Ummm.. isn't this what managers are supposed to do anyway? In other words, if you have performance objectives in the office, shouldn't they be the same as in telecommuting? In other words, if a manger hasn't defined performance objectives in the first place he/she is a poor manager.

  • by satan666 (398241) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @08:36PM (#24684263) Homepage

    Finally, someone is willing to tell the truth about those deadbeat American IT workers!

    As we all know, Americans don't want to work.

    Yes! All they want to do is stay home and take care of their annoying little brats or work on stupid crap, like having a life.

    Well, this country wasn't built on that bunch of shit!

    So, Computerword, with their history of protecting corporate and management self-serving interests (and that's a good thing), is on the ball with this fine article.

    A brief synopsis:

    Fuck you, you lazy motherfucking American IT worker-motherfuckers!

    Management wants face time bitch. Don't make me slap you!

    You work from home? You're a deadbeat. You're fired. Fuck you!

    I am a manager. I get paid to show other managers that I got bitches working for me.

    I don't give a fuck what you do at home. That's "home". That's not work.

    I need you bitches to be here so when the Indian outsourcing mofo's show up, you can tell them what the deal is.

    I am not paying you to have a life, bitch... Fuck you! ...

    Also, other recent Computerworld articles you might be interested in:

    How to suck your manager's dick.

    How to make your manager feel good about firing you.

    How to help the outsourcing company get rid of you faster!

    Words of wisdom that don't mean dick: "deliverables", "resource", "timeline", "paradigm shift", "bring it to the next level", Use them!!!

    How to get ahead by sucking dick and fucking people over.

    How to fuck your workers and have them apologize for it.

    Back stabbing for dummies

    ...

    All that and much more.

    So, let it be known that satan666, of Slashdot, has overwhelmingly endorsed this fine Computerworld article!

    Fuck you and goodnight!

  • Telecommuting FTW (Score:5, Informative)

    by billcopc (196330) <vrillco@yahoo.com> on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @08:38PM (#24684281) Homepage

    I'm very pro-telecommuting, but I can understand why it fails for so many people.

    Reasons it works for me:

    - I'm a developer, and almost all the jobs we see are one-man gigs - it's not a team development kind of company.
    - I communicate via email and phone, and rarely attend meetings. I just take the specs and produce the app. Client interaction is very limited, mostly handled by our dedicated sales and support guy (our human shield!)
    - I'm self-motivated. If I'm working 9-5, then I'll work 9-5 from home too, and the wife can pretty much pretend I don't exist during those hours.
    - I live with the wife, but we have no kids
    - I have a ridiculously overpowered workstation, and I know how to use it
    - I can focus better with some background music, and the headphone thing just doesn't cut it, compared to my nice speakers
    - I actually find the office distracting, since we're all quite rowdy and jocular (think Animal House)
    - If a box barfs or panics, I can always hop in a cab and fix it - IF it happens! If it's mission-critical, the appropriate KVM-IP and/or remote-reboot gadgets be acquired.

    Turn all of those things around, and you'll get all the reasons why some people can't telecommute. The noise, the distractions, the plentiful opportunities for laziness - some households just aren't suitable for work.

    Me, I work all the time. I have private contracts, I build web sites, I produce music - my home is my office. Another little bit that helps is my job is a 10 minute bike or bus ride away, so I don't care about travel time. I telecommute because I like it, and I wish I could do it more because I think I could accomplish more work per week. I'm comfortable at home, no need to buy lunches (not a pack-lunch kinda guy), and since I'm so used to working here, my brain subliminally shifts into high gear - at the office I'm always kinda half-dazed, the environment just doesn't suit me.

    One day a week will accomplish nothing. It takes a while to get into the telework mindset, it's a psychosomatic thing - working from home is like trying to change your sleep schedule: the first few days will be chaotic, but over time you get the hang of it and you're back to sleeping/working like you always did.

    I could write a book on the topic, but really most of it is just common sense. Make a list of your reasons why you want to telecommute, then make a list of goals or success indicators. If you hesitate while writing either list, then telecommuting is not for you.

  • Always telecommute (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Sandman1971 (516283) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @09:43PM (#24684843) Homepage Journal
    A few years ago the bulk of our servers were moved to a bigger centre in another city. So even when I go into the office I'm remotely doing the work. We moved to a VOIP system at work, so when I'm working from home my office line is forwarded to my home business line. We have offices across the country so most meetings are held via conference calls and/or netmeeting. So there's zero difference between me working from the office and me working from home, except to get some face time with co-workers and the boss (all of them also telecommute, so sometimes I'm actually alone in the office when I do go in!).

    I also find that I'm more productive at home than in the office. I don't have people dropping by my desk every 5-10 minutes to chat. I don't have to go out for smoke breaks, and my lunch break consists of taking 3 minutes to heat something up in the microwave. Working from home also allows me to work when I'm feeling under the weather.

    I'm also more productive on the home front. While stuck on conference calls that I don't chair or don't require me to be in front of my laptop, I can do things like do the dishes, do some laundry, etc... all while participating on the calls. Not spending 2-3 hours a day commuting also benefits my family life, as I get to spend more quality time with my wife.

    Luckily my job and my boss permit me to work from home 3-4 days a week, and I have the fortitude to actually work and not slack off. Heck, I couldn't slack off even if I wanted to. If I did, users would scream when a system/app is down, project managers would scream if I didn't do my part of the work, etc.... For my line of work, telecommuting is a win-win situation.
  • by GoogliBear1960 (1348503) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @10:04PM (#24684993)

    I could write a whole article on this subject, but I will try to keep my comments brief.

    I work in the software industry and for 22 years it was all "work from the office". For the last 5 years I've been working from home with a virtual team, spread around the globe, of people also working from home. We rarely physically see each other, but we communicate often.

    As people have already posted, telecommuting is not a panacea and is not for everyone. Just like any other endeavor, in order to do it right, you need to think about what you're doing, why you're doing it and try to build a working environment that is as productive as possible for everyone.

    Here are some thoughts about whether telecommuting might work for you:

    1) Where do you get your motivation/focus/inspiration? If you get your energy from being around and working with other people, then working remotely is probably not the best option for you.

    2) Can you be productive and still have a personal life when working solo? If you have trouble being self-focused, motivated and managed, then telecommuting may be a problem. Some people really do need separation from work and having work and home in the same space means that you never start or stop working. That would be bad.

    3) How does the company/organization compensate for the fact that it's workers are remote? The three biggest issues with telecommuting are communication, communication and communication. Do you have the proper hardware, software and telecomm setup to make you productive and comfortable remotely? How are inter-group meetings and status managed, and does it work? How is the manager-employee relationship handled, especially around priorities, expectations and evaluations (regular communication or "annual surprise!")? There are significant repercussions to telecommuting -- make sure that you have thought them through before diving in.

    4) Are the company processes and procedures oriented to facilitate telecommuting or not? Telecommuting sounds great, but if "all of the real action" only happens in the office (think forms, training, approvals, meetings, planning, etc.), then working remote can really be counter-productive.

    I don't buy the "you won't be productive if no one is watching" nor the "you'll be super productive if you can just stop commuting". They are both myths. Productivity is a combination of personal motivation/self-management, the working environment, and the commitment/thoughtfullness/focus of the company/management to enable productivity in their employees. If those three things work, then telecommuting can be great. If those three things are not working, then it doesn't matter where you work -- you are not going to be very productive.

    So, like any situation, you have to look at the pros and cons. Maybe telecommuting works for you, but not for your company/organization. Maybe it works, but not 100% of the time.

    I do think that companies that are not thinking about telecommuting are really missing an opportunity. It can enhance people's lives, improve employee retention, reduce corporate costs and improve productivity. But telecommuting can also be a nightmare if not well thought through and openly discussed.

    I've participated in and managed remote teams for several years now. I'm happy to answer people's questions or provide suggestions if you want to contact me directly.

  • by OneSmartFellow (716217) on Thursday August 21, 2008 @02:54AM (#24686617)
    ... if you can do you job entirely on a 'puter, you're either totally unnecessary to the real success of the business, or you're a prime candidate for downsizing/outsourcing.

    I know several marketing and sales (snigger) people who think they're the business because they can do all their *work* from home. Sure they're laughing all the way to the bank when times are good, but they'll be snivelling the loudest when their job is cut first.
  • by Von Helmet (727753) on Thursday August 21, 2008 @07:44AM (#24687907)

    Telecommuting is an odd word. The word is used to describe the solution, but the true meaning would more accurately describe the problem. Telecommuting is an option to avoid long commutes to work, by means of phones, the Internet, etc to allow you to work from home.

    However, looking at the word, "telecommute" means a distant commute, in the same way that television means something to see at a distance and telephone means something to hear at a distance. Telecommute should mean commuting a distance.

    Clearly the management-speak gurus picked "tele" as a nifty prefix with all it's modern sounding technological mystique and misapplied it. A better choice would be the somewhat dubious e- prefix i.e. e-commute. That would make much more sense than telecommute.

Optimization hinders evolution.

Working...