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Summary:

We’ve looked at some of the common myths about home-based web work in the past – the ones about us all being naked, or getting lonely. But there’s another set of myths that is even more pernicious: the ones that can kill your career. But there’s […]

We’ve looked at some of the common myths about home-based web work in the past – the ones about us all being naked, or getting lonely. But there’s another set of myths that is even more pernicious: the ones that can kill your career.

But there’s no reason to put up with this state of affairs. Whether you’re already telecommuting, trying to launch a new telework program, or attempting to protect a remote worker budget for your department, there are ways to challenge these myths. Here are our counter-arguments to some of the ones we’ve heard.

Myth: People work harder in the office where they’re supervised than at home where they can slack off.
Reality: People in the office get paid for every hour they’re physically present, whether they’re working, surfing the web, or polishing their nails. People working from home only get paid for actual productive work hours.

Myth: It costs too much to set up computer equipment for teleworkers.
Reality: Teleworkers need a computer and a network connection. Office-based workers need office space (at rates per square foot that are going up all the time), furniture, office supplies, free sodas, parking spaces…

Myth: Telecommuting represents an unacceptable security risk.
Reality: This is a solved problem. Standard-issue computers, remote management, and strong authentication products can all help keep telecommuters as safe as office workers. IT may have to learn some new tricks, but that’s what you pay them for.

Myth: Teleworkers are never available when you need them.
Reality: Teleworkers have just as much stake in being connected with the rest of the team as everyone else – maybe more, in fact. Between email, phones, instant messages, VOIP, videoconferencing, and a plethora of Web 2.0 services, teleworkers these days can be as connected as the people in the cubicle down the hall.

Myth: Telecommuting is for other businesses.
Reality: Maybe so, but that’s becoming less common all the time. Sure, if your employees all run drill presses full time they’re not good candidates for telework, but if they have as little as 8 hours a week of portable desk work they can fit into a part-time program – with benefits for both employer and employee.

Myth: You’ll never see the teleworkers again.
Reality: When geography allows, many teleworkers spend the occasional day in the office, ranging from once a week to once a month. This allows attending a few meetings as well as critical social bonding time. Teleworkers want to be part of the team just as much as everyone else.

What other telework myths have you run into? Share your answers to help your peers break down the prejudices against our way of work!

  1. “IT may have to learn some new tricks, but that’s what you pay them for.”

    As someone who I semi resent that statement. Learning new tricks in IT is often a big hassle to work into daily stuff, and doesn’t usually lead to a raise, as IT operations generally go unnoticed or unappreciated by the higher ups.

    It’s not like free lance work, were new tricks can automatically be added to the list and charged for. Plus, making an IT person job harder than it is, while you reap the rewards and work at home quickly leads to you being “that” guy.

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  2. should says, “As someone who works in IT and at home, I semi resent…”

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  3. did everyone see the wsj top small workplaces article today – particularly point b solutions with an interesting semi-freelance model?

    http://www.blist.com/blog/index.php/2007/10/01/top-small-workplaces-2007/

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  4. Eric – let me apologize for the flippant tone in that point; sorry if it offended you. But I think it’s fair to say that anyone in IT ought to be taking a broad view of security these days, and that setting up reasonable security for telecommuting doesn’t have to be a huge barrier to a successful telecommuting effort. I’ve been in your shoes too, so I’m sensitive to the fact that IT are often among the unsung heroes of the organization – a piece to be written another day!

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  5. Mike -

    No, I totally agree. Just got a lot of “you just sat on the computer all day” stuff.

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  6. You need to do a similar write up for those managers in the Federal Government that are too afraid of “losing control” of their employees and think that the teleworkers will not get their job done because they’re not in the office and they can’t see them. You should send your write up as to how it will save the American tax payers money to Federal Computer Week, Government Computer News, and Government Executive magazines so they get on the desks of managers. It would be interested to see how much money the government would save by setting up “x”% of employees in a dedicated teleworking program and not just “oh, John Doe can work from home in cases of emergency but must always come to work…he’s a telecommuter” mentality that most managers have.

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  7. Myth: When multiple people in a company telework, it seems like their jobs are easier to outsource.

    Reality: I feel that it’s just the opposite. The fact that I am able to work from home on projects far more efficiently than when I’m at the office (no interruptions, less distraction to take me to grab another cup of coffee, an envrionment that I know won’t get 5S’d) proves that my skill is required to do my job. It’s not like I’m answering helpdesk calls all day (that I could do from anywhere as well) but I need the time away from the office to focus on the work that my company needs done.

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  8. For creatives there’s a lot of stigma that you won’t be able to hash out ideas in any sort of “office think tank”, though I find it much easier to have good creative ideas when I’m in the comfort of my own settings. Plus it promotes sketching which is something any good creative should know how to do, it saves time and money all around.

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  9. Mike,

    Another good one on this important issue of stopping the madness of the 5 day commute. As you know, mostly middle managers let these myths determine whether or not an organization should consider leveraging an Alternate Work Arrangement/ Distributed Work Force model.

    I recommend a book for all those EMPLOYERS out there who are hesitant or even resistant to employing a distributed work force model or a Managed Telecommute program at their company; Corporate Agility by Jim Ware and Charlie Grantham.

    We, our collective society, needs a smarter way to solve the many issues facing our current model of the 5 day commute as the norm. The impact of today’s commuter model is just too costly (Lost Productivity, Infrastructure demands on our cities and roads, Business Continuity, Work Life Balance, Employee acquisition and retention, Carbon Emissions reduction, etc….).

    I’m curious if people reading think they would support TAX incentives and or even penalties (tolls like in London), to encourage less traditional commuting? My personal belief is this is inevitable eventually but to accelerate adoption, is desperately needed.

    Productivity can be managed, workers can collaborate, culture can be deep and wide in or out of the office. Lets break down the barriers and dispel the myths…..

    Thanks for reading and thanks again for another solid posting on this issue, Mike.

    -Richard

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  10. Myth: “People working from home only get paid for actual productive work hours”
    Reality: “People working from home only get paid for the hours they bill, regardless of if they were eating bonbons all day”

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