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Building a Case For Telecommuting 230

Posted by Soulskill
from the where-did-my-robot-avatar-go dept.
Esther Schindler writes "Many of us geeks prefer to work at home without distractions, but a lot of bosses still believe that if they don't see you, you must be lolling about, eating bon-bons and playing Angry Birds. 'There may be many reasons a manager is distrustful of telecommuting but the phenomenon of what Albiero calls "presentism"—that is, only trusting and rewarding the folks you see at their computer is a major factor.' So it may be of some use to read through the research compiled by Diann Daniel that says telecommuting creates happier and more productive employees (which naturally include fewer distractions and better work-life balance), and an accompanying infographic showing the environmental benefits from reduced commuting. She follows it up with suggestions on how managers can mentor and support teleworkers. Some of this is general advice, but some of the tips are more specific: 'It may seem like a lot more work—all this up-front addressing of communication issues that happen far more naturally in the office—but the upside is increased efficiency. Albiero sees this especially in the area of meetings. He speaks of one client who has now instituted a meeting format that is structured to allow for the first five minutes of all meetings to be "small-talk minutes." Thus, everyone knows they needn't call in for those minutes unless they want to join."
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Building a Case For Telecommuting

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 05, 2012 @08:28PM (#39255911)

    Going to work creates a balance by segregating time between work and pleasure. I work at home and the only thing that happens 18 hour days.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by __Paul__ (1570)

      Log out and turn off your phone at 5pm, then. If you're not getting paid for those extra ten hours a day, you are giving your employer free labour.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I once told them if I'm stuck doing all the other employees work, they might as well fire them and pay me instead. I guess they took that seriously.

    • Learning some self discipline will solve this problem.

    • by b4dc0d3r (1268512) on Tuesday March 06, 2012 @01:04PM (#39262627)

      It depends on your situation. A 2 hour commute (hour both ways) makes telecommuting a lot more attractive. And when you can spread out in a larger house in the 'burbs instead of being in a tiny place in the city. Have a dedicated office where you can close the door and put away the business phone.

      Extended days is one of the well-known problems of working at home, the temptation to clear your inbox as long as you're taking a break. Some people say it's a self-discipline issue, but when you have both that and a feeling of responsibility, the two get in each others' way a lot. Turning on the work computer to get a personal mail from your corporate outbox can be quick or a two-hour issue response.

      Especially, and this is where people who say "self-discipline" can be forgetful, if your job entails on-call work. A quick response now, while you have cycles to spare, could prevent a call early morning or middle of the night. And if you work internationally, late night turnaround means your India, China, or maybe UK team can get back to work instead of having a day lag.

      The temptation to get a problem checked off the list varies with your situation, and the benefits likewise. I'm currently on a virtual team, and there are perks, but I miss being able to slap someone on the back of the head when they screw up. In a few years I'll be looking to work in a physical building with as many people located on site as possible. And then I'll wish I could work from home, I'm sure.

  • Lights Out (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Jonah Hex (651948) <hexdotms@gmaiCOFFEEl.com minus caffeine> on Monday March 05, 2012 @08:29PM (#39255921) Homepage Journal
    All the iron I work on I never get to see anymore, which is fine by me. At least from home I'm not trying to shout over all the fans while either freezing or burning. - HEX
    • Same here. About the only time I have to set foot into a data center is for failed drive replacement, physical reconfiguration, or upgrades.

      • by Jonah Hex (651948)
        That phase is good, but complete removal is the best. Last few of my contracts have been for data centers with dedicated teams, and even the onsite dev data center I did have access to I never needed to enter thanks to VMware. Pretty much same thing at home, split between desktop powerhouse and basement servers. - HEX
  • I love it! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by djbckr (673156) on Monday March 05, 2012 @08:30PM (#39255927)
    I got lucky and found a job where I can telecommute from Seattle to San Francisco. I go to SF about once a quarter just to get some face time, but I spend my working time here at home. I put very few miles on my car now and I feel great about that. I don't take up office space there in SF and I feel good about that. I'm productive and my bosses are happy about that.

    I fully realize this can't work for everybody, but it sure works for me. My superviser and I communicate through Skype and GotoMeeting at least a couple times a day, once for SCRUM and every so often to get some information across to each other. It would be a boost to the economy, I would think, if more places would do this.
    • Re:I love it! (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 05, 2012 @08:42PM (#39256045)

      Call your auto insurance and see if you can get a discount for not having a "daily commute car". We did... both of our cars (wife doesn't work) are considered "secondary". Saved a couple hundred bucks.

      • ...It would be a boost to the economy, I would think, if more places would do this.

        Call your auto insurance and see if you can get a discount for not having a "daily commute car". We did... both of our cars (wife doesn't work) are considered "secondary". Saved a couple hundred bucks.

        It will reduce energy demands (good for the economy as long as we are making energy from non-renewable resources), but it will also reduce long term demand for new cars, auto service, road construction, medical services for car accidents, and any number of other industries that benefit when you drive - those are mostly domestic industries that are suffering.

        Fancy new computers, monitors, tele-presence camera/microphones, and most of the trappings of new telecommuters are all imported. Guess how many elect

        • Re:I love it! (Score:4, Informative)

          by Grishnakh (216268) on Monday March 05, 2012 @10:59PM (#39256897)

          Go read about the "Broken Window Fallacy". Our country is failing because of wars for oil, having to import oil, etc. Not to mention all the good citizens it loses to auto accidents. You want people to be killed and maimed just so that the medical industries can do better? This country needs to do anything it can to reduce oil usage; telecommuting is a good first step. Personal rapid transit like SkyTran [skytran.net] is a good second step.

    • Re:I love it! (Score:4, Informative)

      by Necroman (61604) on Monday March 05, 2012 @09:24PM (#39256429)

      I couldn't agree more. When I'm working on a difficult problem, I can buckle down and disable all distractions with ease. Turn off IM, close email, and just work. No co-workers coming up behind me and bothering me.

      My company also uses Skype and GotoMeeting to get everyone together, and it works pretty well. It takes some discipline from the office people to make sure to include remote employees, but it seems to be working out well. I know I couldn't be happier.

      • No co-workers coming up behind me and bothering me.

        In my experience telecommuting, I traded that for people who live with me coming up behind me and bothering me, forgetting that I'm on the clock.

  • ..you must be lolling about, eating bon-bons and playing Angry Birds.

    No, they think your posting to slashdot.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 05, 2012 @08:39PM (#39256003)

      ..you must be lolling about, eating bon-bons and playing Angry Birds.

      No, they think your posting to slashdot.

      Classical case of false metrics. For practical business purposes, you should be measured on what you're actually getting done, not on what you might be doing alongside of it. I mean people do that kind of stuff in the office, too, you know. At the end of the day, the question is, did the job get done?

      • I worked on a project about 6 years ago where we actually tracked work for the staff across days. The whole "middle of the bell curve" part of our team did significantly less work on their Friday "work at home days". Less email, fewer source code commits, fewer tickets closed. Someone is going to claim it was because they were more "heads down" but I don't buy it given the size repeatability of the differences.
        • How big a sample size was this?
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Sneeka2 (782894)

          Hold on, hold on, you're saying people don't actually work at 100% theoretical capacity 100% of their official work time? That they, like, ramp up on Mondays and wind down on Fridays? That they, like, cannot go from 0 to 100 instantly when coming into work and back down to 0 instantly when leaving? That they're, like, humans, not robots?

          Woah, woah, stop the presses, this is a mayor breakthrough!

        • by dudpixel (1429789)

          We collect stats here too.
          Recently an employee left to go overseas and his manager thought it might be interesting to read out some of his stats.

          Turns out that most of his commits were on mondays and wednesdays, the 2 days we work from home.

          Make of that what you will, but no one here would deny the benefits of working from home.

          I would argue, that even if the only benefit was happier workers, the company still wins.

        • Less email, fewer source code commits, fewer tickets closed.

          If what you say is accurate, then simple: identify those whose productivity does not decrease when remote and give them more remote. Take remote away from any who demonstrate insufficient maturity to manage it.

        • It's a Friday, productivity is going to take a hit no matter which location you are working from.

      • by mooingyak (720677) on Monday March 05, 2012 @11:37PM (#39257157)

        ..you must be lolling about, eating bon-bons and playing Angry Birds.

        No, they think your posting to slashdot.

        Classical case of false metrics. For practical business purposes, you should be measured on what you're actually getting done, not on what you might be doing alongside of it. I mean people do that kind of stuff in the office, too, you know. At the end of the day, the question is, did the job get done?

        ^^THIS

        Most weeks I telecommute two days and go to the office the other three. We have a strong "get the job done, the rest is window dressing" philosophy. One of the things I tell my new hires early on goes something like this:

        "I don't need to walk past your desk and see you working non-stop for 8 hours. I don't expect it to happen. If I walk past you and you're checking some news site or playing minesweeper or freecell or whatever it is you do to pass time, I don't care. At the end of the week, I know if you're getting the job done. I know if you've completed all your assignments or have good reasons for not having finished. I know which projects you've asked for more details or clarification about, and that tells me all I need to know. I don't care how or when you're getting it done, so long as you're getting it done."

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 05, 2012 @08:31PM (#39255939)

    Being in a 6 by 6 foot cube surrounded by co-workers who have annoying habits or have extended conversations.

    • by Daniel Phillips (238627) on Monday March 05, 2012 @08:46PM (#39256081)

      At Google, that included ducking the three way nerf gun crossfire between the SRE, sysop and intern cube farms.

    • by rinoid (451982)

      I pity the fool who modded you down.

      A lot of people need peace when working. It's called environmental sensitivity or at least awareness.

    • by s73v3r (963317)

      I'm just sick of being stuck in a cube, and not doing anything at work.

      If I'm not going to have anything to do, I can waste time much more effectively at home.

    • I feel the pain. Which is why I was one of the few people to elect to not telecommute when it was offered. Now I get to go to the office and enjoy the peace and quiet and actually get some stuff done without having to get in at 3am. Strangely all the annoying people chose to "work" from home...
  • Infographic (Score:4, Informative)

    by cosm (1072588) <thecosm3NO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday March 05, 2012 @08:31PM (#39255941)

    and an accompanying infographic

    When this word plateaus [google.com], I will bring back synergy.

  • OK, I AM the boss, and the problem is not that my telecommuting people aren't being productive, but rather that when you need them to do something or provide information that they uniquely possess, you can't get it from them on short notice, thus preventing other people from getting their jobs done.

    The fact that we are all on the road a lot (spread overy 4 continents) doesn't help either.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by cavtroop (859432)

      You're not using the tools available to you then. Phone. IM, chat rooms, teleconferences available at a moments notice. We have a number of people in our group that work remotely (and the rest of us work from home once or twice a week). We keep a chatroom going with the lot of us (8 of us) in there at all times - mostly it's used for the usual office-type banter, but its great for collaboration etc. We also have loose rules, that if you want to telecommute, you HAVE to make yourself available at a moments n

    • Re:Poppycock (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) on Monday March 05, 2012 @08:43PM (#39256053) Homepage Journal

      Implicit in the idea of "telecommuting" is the idea of "at a distance," a.k.a. "tele" -- the same root as "telecommunications" and "telephone." If you need to get in touch with your employees quickly, is there a reason you can't just make a phone call? Obviously, if your business is of a kind where employees need to be able to do things hands-on, then probably it's not a good candidate for telecommuting and TFS doesn't really apply to you. Otherwise, I'm not sure I see what the problem is.

      • by AuMatar (183847)

        There's no business where this isn't true. If I can take 2 hours and figure out something for myself, or ask someone and get an immediate answer, I'm asking. It's the right thing for me and the business. And the same thing in reverse (they come ask me all the time). This is especially true in a senior or lead position- if I was not to show up at the office on a given day, I'd probably cost my team half a day of productivity (even assuming I get a full day of work in). You can phone, but it isn't as ef

        • by chrismcb (983081)

          If I can take 2 hours and figure out something for myself, or ask someone and get an immediate answer, I'm asking. It's the right thing for me and the business.

          Not necessarily. Will you learn something in those 2 hours? Will you need to figure it out again? If you do it now, and it takes you 2 hours, will you have an immediate answer next time? If I ran off to someone for the answer every time I had a question, I would never learn anything, and I'd piss off a lot of other people. Keep in mind, that asking that other person may save you 2 hours, but how much does it cost that other person? One advantage of something like IM or email, instead of in person... If I ha

    • by suutar (1860506)
      They don't answer the phone?
    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      I can see a bit of that. I like walking to people's cubes to talk. If not there then often I'll just go do something else, and only after a few times of being missed then I'll try email. But email is too often a black hole (and it applies both ways I admit). And I never do IM, I just hate that as the worst way to communicate. So it is nice pragmatically just to talk to people.

      There's also the advantage of having someone in the office in being able to just chat. Ie, "what are you working on?" or "how's

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        I understand what you're saying, but do you realize that you're contributing to someone else's need to get away from distractions? By showing up in someone's office to ask just one question, you're interrupting her -- which she might not appreciate. Peopleware made the point a generation ago that it takes 20 minutes to get back into a warm creative fog after you've had your elbow joggled.

        Instead, as a full-time telecommuter (who does like to see colleagues in-person once every three months or so) I live on

        • by AuMatar (183847)

          In my experience, people expect an instant response to IMs and get extremely upset if there isn't one. At least with email they expect a lag of 15 minutes to several hours. IMs are the worst possible way to communicate- there's an expectation of fast response combined with the lack of non-written communication methods. Plus the annoying notifications themselves which annoy me more than being asked if I'm busy.

          Plus 20 minutes is an exaggeration. There's a cost, but it's more on the order of 5-10 minutes

        • by Darinbob (1142669)

          It probably depends on the people. You get to know who will be willing to discuss stuff and who hates it. If I'm twiddling my thumbs for an hour waiting for someone to tell me where a header file is, that's a big waste. And to be honest, it's been a long time since I could focus just on one think and nothing else for more than a couple of hours. There are always interruptions.

          Email helps but often I write a detailed description with backstory, possible solutions, and ask for advice from the team and end

      • by tepples (727027)

        There's also the advantage of having someone in the office in being able to just chat. Ie, "what are you working on?"

        I've found that to be one of the hardest questions to answer without the cop-out of answering a question with a question: "At what level of detail?"

        • by Darinbob (1142669)

          That works too. Eventually people will learn not to ask you questions.

          But it's a useful question. For instance if you need to interface to a particular feature it is much easier to get going on that if you actually know the person who works on that feature the most. Or it's time to pick some poor soul to do your code review and you need to know what people work on who might be most familiar with that piece of code.

          Otherwise it may become too easy to categorize people at work into you, your boss, and amor

          • ["What are you working on?" is] a useful question.

            It's still a complex question: What sub-step of what step are you on of adding what feature to what module, and to which bullet points promised by marketing does it contribute? There are five wh's in that, and answering all of them at once is like giving a stack trace [teddziuba.com].

            For instance if you need to interface to a particular feature it is much easier to get going on that if you actually know the person who works on that feature the most.

            Then the question becomes "What modules do you maintain?" or "Do you know who maintains this form or that report?"

            Or it's time to pick some poor soul to do your code review and you need to know what people work on who might be most familiar with that piece of code.

            I'd start by looking at who has made the last few commits to the module.

  • by Osgeld (1900440) on Monday March 05, 2012 @08:40PM (#39256021)

    to say "hey bob" rather than text him and hope I can get a response in a reasonable amount of time. We "telecommute" when people have to be on the road, like today where one of the engineers sent me an email at 1P.M., though I had zero reason to even be near my computer until I left at 6 ...yea, that was efficient

    • by kwerle (39371)

      Telecommuting (in my experience) works very well when everyone knows when everyone else is working. I put in standard 8-5 hours. If someone wants to get ahold of me, they do (except a smaller than 1 hour lunch window that starts somewhere from 12-1). I am more predictably available than most folks in an office are at their desk.

      An awful lot depends on the person (as you would expect). But predictability is key.

      • by CaptBubba (696284)

        Yes, keeping a regular schedule or at the very least a core set of hours is key. Some flexibility to allow people such as night owls to start a bit later and such is nice, but not really required because they save on commuting time.

        I telecommute and keep a very regular schedule of 8AM until... whenever, but at least 5PM with an hour lunch. I just finished up for the day a few minutes ago actually, something I certainly wouldn't do if I had to stay in the office.

    • Where I work, no one telecommutes but it is a large facility physically. It is reiterated to everyone constantly that if something is important, you pick up the phone. Many employees have work cell phones and all Managers have cell phones capable of receiving email. In your example, if something could wait 5 hours it seems it wasn't that urgent anyway. While 'hey bob' is easier, sometimes it is too easy. I have worked for bosses that 'hey'd' me so much I could hardly focus on anything.
    • by Necroman (61604)

      If you can't get ahold of a co-worker via IM, how will being in an office be any better? I started telecommuting for a company just over a year ago and people that are unavailable via IM/Skype, tend to be in meetings and can't be bothered by people in the office either.

      As others have said, telecommuting requires a few things:
      1) keeping regular hours (which is important no-matter if you are in-office or not).
      2) Everyone staying available. This means checking emails and IMs regular. While this helps teleco

      • by Osgeld (1900440)

        "2) Everyone staying available. This means checking emails and IMs regular."

        see not everyone works a desk job, so checking emails and IM's regular means I am running back n fourth all day not getting my job done, heck, I really didnt know that much time had passed, I was having too much fun rigging up a 9000 rpm vibration table inside a thermal shock chamber.

  • by jonhorvath (934037) on Monday March 05, 2012 @08:41PM (#39256029)

    I did part time telecommuting for a few years. It saved my an hour a day in commute time and reduce my gas purchases by half. There is one downside to telecommuting that wasn't mention in the article. At times, it can be difficult to separate work and personal time. If the work is engaging, it is easy to lose track of time and work many more hours. When working on tasks that are boring and monotonous, it can become impossible to focus. It is much easier to get into work mode when the environment changes.

    • by sconeu (64226)

      Mod parent up.

      I telecommute two days a week to take care of my wife. I find it much easier to focus when I'm in the office.

      • Mod parent up.

        I telecommute two days a week to take care of my wife. I find it much easier to focus when I'm in the office.

        And, I have 2 young boys who get home from school at 2pm, they're a little distracting too.

    • I did part time telecommuting for a few years. It saved my an hour a day in commute time and reduce my gas purchases by half. There is one downside to telecommuting that wasn't mention in the article. At times, it can be difficult to separate work and personal time. If the work is engaging, it is easy to lose track of time and work many more hours. When working on tasks that are boring and monotonous, it can become impossible to focus. It is much easier to get into work mode when the environment changes.

      Different people are different; I don't think one size fits all. For me, I found it much easier to balance work and home life while telecommuting, because of the flexibility it gave me -- not to mention the hours saved in commute time. I telecommuted nearly full time for 10 years, and then a year ago got a new job that requires me to be in the office most of the time, and it's been hard adjusting. I appreciated the ability to easily leave "work" for an hour or two to go to a kid's school production, or to go out for a run, or whatever. I shifted some of my "work" time late into the evening when my family was in bed. All in all, I really preferred it. I love my new job, but I'd love it even more if I could work from home.

      I found that it is useful to maintain some separation, though, even when working from home, mainly so that your family can distinguish between your work and non-work time. I did it by designating my home office as my workspace. My kids knew that when Dad was in his office, he was working and not to be disturbed if possible. Though my wife never did grasp the concept, somehow...

      That doesn't mean I only worked in my office. Geek that I am, I packed my laptop everywhere, and I didn't see anything wrong with answering a few e-mails while watching a movie with the kids or something. On the other hand, I also didn't see anything wrong with ignoring the e-mail when it wasn't convenient.

      Company culture (this was at IBM) had quickly developed some rules of etiquette that really helped. For example, one rule is that you don't call anyone on the phone without first instant messaging them to ask if you can call. So when people aren't working, they shut off their IM client, and that's a signal to everyone else that they aren't to be bothered. Some other rules were that e-mail was not used when quick replies were expected and that background noise (kids, dogs, whatever) was normal and not unprofessional during conference calls.

      One thing that really makes a huge difference in your ability to successfully telecommute is the number of your colleagues who telecommute. At IBM it quickly became everyone, so it worked very well. At Google, where I am now, most everyone is in the office and while we have great tools for remote communication (Google+ Hangouts, basically, integrated into calendaring and with high-end audio/video equipment in the conference rooms), if you're not around for the water cooler conversation you miss a lot, and it would be hard to be productive.

    • by ajlisows (768780)

      I've been doing half time telecommuting for a few years now and I actually love (most of the time) how personal and work time change a bit. I can shift my working time around to fit my schedule. Wife is off today and wants to go to lunch? Cool, I'll take a long lunch and just work a bit later in the day. Friends called and they want to slam a few back? I'll work from home that next day and start late. Sometimes I'll have to take a call while I am doing something else once in awhile, but the gains are

  • a lot of bosses still believe that if they don't see you, you must be lolling about, eating bon-bons and playing Angry Birds.

    Of course they're wrong if they think those are the only things I'm doing to avoid work.

    I salute anyone who figured out [youtube.com] how to stay productive while working from home.

  • Wrong title (Score:4, Funny)

    by rinoid (451982) on Monday March 05, 2012 @08:44PM (#39256067)

    Angry Birds?!

    Try Battlefield 3 man...

  • Works Best When... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lord of the Fries (132154) on Monday March 05, 2012 @08:54PM (#39256159) Homepage

    ...you enjoy your job and what you're currently doing. I've telecommuted with a team of 18+ other software engineers for the last 5+ years, and did a stint a while back. When you're engaged in what your doing, and believe in it, working at home is awesome. You focus, you maximize your efficiency by finding the optimal interlacing with the rest of your life. But when the company is jerking you around, or dumps crap work on you, working at home is really hard.

    So my word to employers is if you believe in your product and your people, then this really is the best arrangement for you. Otherwise, get our the whips and put 'em in them thar cubies.

  • I telecommute sometimes. They can tell I'm working by whether or not I meet my milestones. This is not difficult.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    After reading all the relevant sources from the article, there is on peer reviewed research that shows improved productivity when telecommuting.

    In fact there is no research at all.

    There are opinions from people, but no actual evidence. And most of the opinions could be considered bias because the source is from those already pro-telecommuting.

    I think that lack of evidence is telling.

  • by netsavior (627338) on Monday March 05, 2012 @09:24PM (#39256425)
    I work for a megacorporation. I can go to any nearby office and get a desk for the day (or a conference room for my team), but I can mostly work from home. I tend to go in and meet my team about once a month for collaboration and socialization. My company was able to close 10 pretty large office buildings in my region, at pretty substantial savings. I am pretty sure they get tax breaks for "green" business practices.

    It's a pretty big company and we have a 20% telecommute goal, but it is mostly IT who are eligible, so nearly all of us in software telecommute now.

    Everyone I know complains that "you never really leave work" when telecommuting, and most of the people I work with don't even stop for lunch any more. I try to have boundaries, but honestly as a developer you never really leave work anyway... but I can take a shower and eat dinner at home, which is great.

    Mostly what they got from me though is loyalty. I have worked there for 8 years, only 2 of them telecommute, and no bonus, raise, or corporate title bought them the loyalty that telecommuting bought them. With this sweet setup, I will never quit... It would have to get pretty bad for me to want to... I am hoping that by the time I have to move on Telecommute will be the norm.
  • The office has a better desk and chair than I have at home, a bigger monitor, etc. Work has faster internet access and better backups. People who will solder boards for me and people to get equipment from. Then the office has a nicely stocked refrigerator unlike my empty one at home, free lunch, and a much better cleaning staff. There are people there to have lunch with, some who will willingly talk to you even if they don't have to. Fewer distractions at work too.

    Seriously, I was letting my mind wande

    • by s73v3r (963317)

      If any of that is true, you have a much, much better job than I do.

      • by Darinbob (1142669)

        it's true. Well the free lunch may be more than most companies. But I don't have a chair as nice as the office one, because the office is willing to spend more money than I am (I'm cheap and I don't throw away things that still work). The monitor is definitely bigger than the one at home but that's to be expected also since it's their money and not mine. They have better snacks because I don't go to the store a lot and when I do I eat it all quickly (thus it's best for me not to go to the store a lot).

  • Often telecommuters work for a manager who still works in an office. When this occurs, the #1 thing all involved can do? Make the manager work from home for two weeks straight!

    I've seen managers do all sorts of dumb things with telecommuters, from making them do things that made no sense to ignoring their requests for simple changes that make working from home much easier. 80-90% of these were simple ignorance. I had one manager who totally blew off my requests for video conferencing for some of our gro

  • by holophrastic (221104) on Monday March 05, 2012 @09:52PM (#39256583)

    It's always been about employer risk. Certainly, many telecommuters do good work and do work well. That's not the point. For every ten good ones, there's at least one bad one. That bad one is really bad. And the problem is that it takes a long time, and a lot of effort and money to discover and deal with that one bad one. It's just not worth the risk.

    I, as an employer, far prefer the costs associated with the office setup to have ten office employees who are each at 50%, than to have ten telecommuters, save the office expenses, have 9 at 100% and 1 at 20%. That one guys can take down my entire business. I've worked far too hard and risked far too much to let that happen.

    And the article is correct. It takes longer to train a telecommuter -- who may not stick around longer enough to matter.

    Telecommuting is for already-proven and trusted employees, who want a break and a better life. It's something to be earned.

    • by laffer1 (701823)

      I've got a coworker that knits at work. Just because they're there doesn't mean they're actually working. I don't think your math makes sense.

      You train them in the office before you let them telecommute. You have to know they're actually going to perform. I did it for ten months and it was the happiest I've been working. I actually got a lot more done than when I had to start coming into the office. I eventually managed a team for that company and it ended up that we got less done than I did alone at h

      • I am the boss, and those meetings you speak of are what make the company run well. my employee's productivity isn't my concern. the company's reliability and consistency are. when the guy in the office knits, I can fire him on the spot, and I don't need to answer to anyone. But when I suspect an employee of knitting at home, I can't just fire him, I need to prove it. that's a waste of my time.

        I don't care how fast the business is running, as long as it's profitable, I can go from there. I can about th

    • Don't you assign your guys work, and then expect them to finish it in a reasonable amount of time? If not, how do you know your guys in the office are actually doing good work? Can't you use the same method for the people who work from home?

      Also, it's somewhat concerning that one non-working employee can take down your entire business. You might want to look into increasing your profit margins or something.
      • if any programmers could self-manage themselves well enough to estimate how long a task will take, and how many problems will come up along the way, that'd be swell. but it's software, and beyound their lack of skill in management, technical shit happens. any given task, no matter how easy, can come up against a nightmare wall to be resolved. my margins take all that into account as flux. it's not a problem. but it means that any telecommuter can hide their lack of effort in a few dozen delays.

        my profi

        • if any programmers could self-manage themselves well enough to estimate how long a task will take,

          A decent manager SHOULD be able to do that. A good manager will teach his programmers to do that (one technique is to have them estimate at the beginning of each project, preferably shorter projects, and then measure how close they were at the end. Make sure they feel comfortable estimating a reasonable amount of time otherwise they will always estimate too short. Do this repeatedly and they will improve).

          but it means that any telecommuter can hide their lack of effort in a few dozen delays.

          This is true, but I'm not sure why you think it's any different than hiding their lack of effort while

          • wow, take individual sentences out of paragraphs of context, and it sounds as though you didn't read anything at all.

            like I said, any given task in software programming can hit unpredictable walls.

            like I said, it's not about their lack of effort, it's about my being able to easily prove it.

            read harder. and stop quoting partial points.

  • by PPH (736903)

    Just tell the boss that you spend all day lolling about, eating bon-bons and playing Angry Birds at the office, so you might as well work from home.

    I'll bet he'll send you home in no time.

  • The best way to build a case for telecommuting is to find a boss who likes the idea.

    Then when they ask you why be truthful and tell them you wanted to telecommute and when you were turned down you decided to look for other opportunities.

    Nothing beats negotiating like 2 weeks notice.

    And never take the counter-offer.

  • Where I work, we've got a reactionary CIO who still believes that gas is $0.92 a gallon. (He also throws "cloud computing" under the bus, among other things.)

    Really though, I had been graded top of my class for two years running. June 3rd, 2011 came as quite a surprise when many others, including myself, were told they had to either commute or leave the company. At first, they offered severance. Then this option was taken away. (More complicated, but I'll keep this short.)

    Now we've got folks upside down

  • ROFL (Score:5, Funny)

    by lightknight (213164) on Tuesday March 06, 2012 @01:51AM (#39258101) Homepage

    I think the telecommuting debate can be easily answered by asking a single question-> which location offers the least amount of distractions?

    If you have Office Space-style bosses, dropping by every 15 minutes, to see "how you're coming along with that project" then working at home is a godsend. You'll be more productive, and your code will show it.

    If you have bosses who know to leave you alone while you're working on something (but they are known themselves for being generally available for when you have questions (you go to them) -> "What does the client want here?" or "Teach me how to Git" or "When you worked at Inuit, how did you guys solve this problem?"), and family life is filled with distractions (the GF is PMSing that week, the kids like to play loud music, the husband is in Marketing and has entered his mid-life crisis) than working at work would potentially be better. Hell, some of the most productive workers in human history are people who stay late at the office because they hate their family life.

    And of course, if both home and work are filled with equal levels of annoyance, then you're kind of screwed. You can try working at a Starbucks or a Barnes and Noble, but it's still fairly rough. On the plus side, you do get the social interaction that you miss at both places, the coffee is usually hot, and there are lots of books on various subjects you might need to learn nearby (boss says learn Ruby, wander over to aisle with O'Reilly Ruby book in it).

    If I had a choice in life, I'd have two offices -> one to meet with people in, and one to be productive in. The one to meet with people in would have conference chairs, a large Mahogany desk, and perhaps a small putting green next to the Koi pond (the palace at Versaille might be large enough). The one to be productive in would be at an undisclosed location, with a fiber connection & enough food / supplies to last me weeks (a Japanese sleeping tube might be slightly smaller than I'd potentially want here). The only people with knowledge of said undisclosed location would be the catering (for when I don't feel like cooking) and cleaning (for when I leave) staff, and they'd work for cash (no name given). I'd keep a separate email address and cellphone for said place; it's the only way to be productive. If you stumbled across the place, there'd be a pair of swords of the doorways, and a sound recording constantly being played over the outside speakers (said sound consisting of the last few moments of the life of the person who previously disturbed me while I was otherwise engaged in potentially deeper thoughts).

  • As the movie Contagion pointed out on a side note, telecommuting will skyrocket in the event of a pandemic or any kind of incident like it. It briefly shot up after 9/11 when people were afraid to fly.

  • We build a video collaboration tool (VSee) for telecommuters and distributed teams. We're 25+ people spread across the East and West Coast US, Europe and Singapore. Almost everyone works from home. Some things we've learned over the years:

    Appropriate mode of communication:
    Email, micro-blogging, IM, IRC, video - we've tried them all :) There isn't a one size fits all. The modes vary in how asynchronous they are (email: asynchronous, video/IM: synchronous), how "lightweight" they feel (video: heavy, IM: light

I'd rather just believe that it's done by little elves running around.

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