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Summary:

Late last year, I moved from my outside office and into my home office full-time. After almost twenty years, I went from taking a twenty-minute commute to a big, fancy building to walking down the stairs and into my well-appointed back room office.

Late last year, I moved from my outside office and into my home office full-time. After almost 20 years, I went from taking a 20-minute commute to a big, fancy building to walking down the stairs and into my well-appointed back room office. Sometimes I even take that walk while in my bathrobe.

While the rising cost of gas is making it more expensive for commuters to get to work, the shrinking cost of wireless technologies is making it easier to get work done from a desk in the bedroom, rather than a table in the boardroom.

One new national poll shows that telecommuting is becoming more commonplace. For example, nearly half (44 percent) of chief information officers (CIOs) surveyed said their companies’ IT workforce is telecommuting at a rate that is the same or higher than five years ago.

Improved retention and morale, increased productivity and better work-life balance are the biggest benefits cited by workers and companies. If you think working from the comfort of your home might be for you, make a compelling case to convince your boss with the following:

  • Evaluate your job. Do you spend a good portion of your day emailing colleagues and customers? Talking on the phone to vendors? Working on the computer? If so, you may be a great candidate for telecommuting.
  • Present your boss with a plan — in writing. Let your boss know exactly what hours you plan on working from home, what the cost savings will be, what monetary investments (if any) would be required and the benefits to both the company and your boss of your telecommuting. If you need some juicy statistics to beef up your case, check out more about how to work from home at The Telework Coalition.
  • Promise results. Your boss’s biggest concern is likely to be that instead of writing that web design proposal, you will sit around in your pajamas (or underwear) drinking beer all day long. You can help erase that image from his or her mind by agreeing to commit to measurable, weekly or daily work-from-home goals. The trust your boss has in you to work from home will grow exponentially with every deadline you meet, promise you keep and commitment you follow through on.
  • Recommend a test run. If after doing all the above, you boss is still skeptical, suggest trying telecommuting out for a few weeks or a month.

Once your dream of working from home (part-time, at least) has become a reality, the next challenge is to manage yourself working from home. A few things to keep in mind are:

  • Create a real home office. A desk stuck in a small corner of TV room does not make for a great working space. If you are going to work at home, you need a private place that is set up as a home office, even if it’s small in scale. It’s also important that the room or space you use as your home office is not a free for all.  The items in that space and the activities that take place within it should all be work-related. Dawn provided some great tips for setting up your home office here.
  • Don’t get caught in non-work tasks during the day. You may be tempted to pick up the cleaning, meet the plumber or power-wash the patio during the work day — don’t. Drawing a boundary around when you work is essential to making working from home successful. Get more advice in “10 Secrets to Being a Successful Corporate Web Worker.”

In the end, telecommuting can offer you the best of both worlds. It can give you the freedom you need to work on your timeline, rather than a company’s, and it can keep you in the game by remaining part of a larger organization. Just be sure to find a way to stay in the office loop, even when you’re not there all the time, as out of sight can mean out of mind. You don’t want to lose touch with your boss or co-workers because they see less of you. Scheduling regular check-ins, as well as making drop-in appointments, will help keep you part of the working team.

Are you ready to telecommute?

Photo courtesy Flickr user heidielliott, licensed under CC

Related GigaOM Pro content (sub. req.): Enabling the Web Work Revolution

By Karen Leland

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  1. Good advice, and as a full-time telecommuter, I can vouch for most of it. But a minor point: plumbers and other fixers do their fixing during the day — if you needed to run home to let them in when you worked in an office building, you’ll need to let them in when you’re telecommuting, too, during the work day.

    Self-discipline is definitely necessary: my personal triumph is not at all being tempted by the radio or TV anymore. But if telecommuting makes you more available to your employer in more hours of the day (like close to 24 sometimes), it also needs to let you get some non-work things done when they need to be done, and I’ve found it more than balances out. Quite simply, my employer gets much more work out of me than when I commuted to an office location.

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  2. I agree, one has to evaluate their job ot see if working from home is a good fit for them. I occassionally will work from home [my startup allows me to do that] and the biggest thing going for me is that I have the focus to stay on the job while working from home, I treat my home office as my away office and with the right disclipine it’s a perfect fit but th ekey is to stay focussed and not get distracted. The only draw back I find is not being able to interact with your work friends face to face, I miss this part the most

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  3. We’ve just completed an analysis of the potential of telecommuting based on the latest census data. There’s something in it for everyone. In total, half time telecommuting by those who hold compatible jobs could save the nation over a half a billion dollars a year, reduce Persian Gulf imports by 37%, add over $400 billion to corporate bottom lines, put up to $7,000 in the pockets of every telecommuter, and increase family time by over two weeks a year. And that’s not all.
    Telecommuting Would Improve Work-Life Balance and Save over $650 Billion a Year

    Half time telecommuting by those who hold compatible jobs could save employees 2-3 weeks of free time each year, reduce Persian Gulf imports by 37%, add over $400 billion to corporate bottom lines, put up to $7,000 in the pockets of every telecommuter, and reduce greenhouse gases by 27% of the President’s 2020 goal. And that’s not all.

    Less than 2% of U.S. employees work from home the majority of the time (not including the self-employed), but 40% hold jobs that are compatible with telecommuting. If those employees who wanted to worked at home just half of the time (roughly the national average for those who do), as a nation we would:

    -save 289 million barrels of oil (37% of Persian Gulf oil imports) valued at over $23 billion (based on $80/barrel).
    -save consumers $15 billion at the pumps (based on $2.60/gallon).
    -reduce greenhouse gases by 53 million tons—the equivalent of taking almost 10 million cars off the road for a year.
    -reduce wear and tear on our highways by almost 115 billion miles a year saving communities almost $2 billion in highway maintenance.
    -save almost 100,000 people from traffic-related injury or death. Accident-related costs would be reduced by almost $12 billion a year.
    -increase national productivity by 5.5 million man-years or $235 billion worth of work.
    -provide employment opportunities for the disabled, rural residents, military families, part-timers, and retirees.
    -save businesses over a $200 billion in real estate, electricity, absenteeism, and turnover—together with the value of the increased productivity, that’s more than $10,000 per employee—almost three times the average first-year cost per teleworker. Additional savings would result from reductions in other utilities, janitorial service, security, maintenance, paper goods, coffee and water service, leased parking spaces, ADA compliance, equipment, furniture, and office supplies.
    -save enough in office electricity to power almost a million homes for a year.
    -enable employees to gain back the equivalent of more than 2 weeks worth of vacation time per year—time they’d have otherwise spent commuting.
    -save employees between $2,000 and $7,000 in transportation and work-related costs. In addition, many would also be able to cut daycare and eldercare costs. Some would also qualify for home office tax breaks.

    [Note: The above numbers are net of the effect of: errands on telecommuting days; the increased costs associated with working from home; the fact that not everyone would want to work from home.]

    In total, that’s an economic impact of almost $650 billion a year!

    We’ve synthesized over 250 case studies, scholarly reviews, research papers, books, and other documents on telecommuting and related topics. And we’ve interviewed the nation’s largest and smallest virtual employers and their employees, corporate executives, telework advocates and naysayers, top researchers, legislators, legal representatives, leaders of successful telework advocacy programs in both the public and private sector, and venture capitalists who have invested in the remote work model.

    Using the latest Census data, and assumptions from dozens of government and private sector sources, we’ve developed a model to quantify the economic, environmental, and societal potential on telecommuting for every, city, county, Congressional District, and state in the nation. It’s been used by company and community leaders throughout the U.S. and Canada to quantify the extent to which telecommuting can reduce greenhouse gases and petroleum usage, save money, improve work-life balance, increase employee loyalty and turnover, reduce absenteeism, increase productivity, and reduce highway congestion and traffic accidents. It’s available free on the web at http://teleworkreserachnetwork.com/research/telework-savings-calculator/ along with a model that allows companies and communities to quantify their own potential telework savings based on dozens customizable parameters such as real estate costs, turnover, absenteeism, participation rate, frequency, labor costs, etc.

    Our research has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review, Washington Post, and dozens of other publications.

    Telecommuting—specifically, home based work, offers a relatively simple, inexpensive solution to some of the world’s most vexing problems:

    • Environmentalists applaud telecommuting because it significantly reduces greenhouse gases and energy usage.
    • Astute company owners support telecommuting because of the cost savings and increased productivity.
    • Work-life experts endorse telecommuting because it addresses the needs of families, parents, and senior caregivers.
    • Workforce planners see telecommuting as away to avoid the ‘brain drain’ effect of retiring boomers.
    • Human resource professionals see telecommuting as a way to recruit and retain the best people.
    • Employees see telecommuting as a way to save time and money, and improve the quality of their lives.
    • Baby Boomers find telecommuting offers a flexible alternative to full retirement.
    • Gen Y’ers see telecommuting as a way to work on their own terms.
    • Disabled workers, rural residents, and military families find home-based work an answer to their special needs.
    • Urban planners realize telecommuting can reduce traffic and revitalize cities.
    • Governments see telecommuting as a way to reduce highway wear and tear and alleviate the strain on our crumbling transportation infrastructure.
    • Organizations rely on telecommuting to ensure continuity of operations in the event of a disaster or pandemic–all federal workers are required to telecommute to the maximum extent possible for just this reason.

    More details about the telecommuting workforce are available at Telecommuting Pros and Cons, How Many People Telecommute, and Other Telecommuting Statistics.

    “It’s time we made the road less traveled the way to work.”

    Virtually Yours,

    Kate Lister
    Kate@TeleworkResearchNetwork.com
    TeleworkResearchNetwork.com

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  4. I would suggest any trial basis be at least 90 days. One month is not nearly long enough to become adjusted (not just you, but any colleagues with whom you work directly) measure benefits, or determine if any minor changes to specific processes or routines might work better for you and/or your team. A slightly longer trial period allows you to settle into the change in work environment and evaluate what works best before making the judgment that the new system is or is not working.

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  5. Poster Child for Telecommuting Friday, April 30, 2010

    I am the poster child for telecommuting. I have been doing it part time since 1999 and full time since 2005, all the while for the same Fortune 20 company. There is now backlash against telecommuting in my firm because two employees were caught moonlighting – they launched their own consulting company while they were supposed to be telecommuting. Now the company is bringing everyone in – but meanwhile, some of us have moved out of state, with the blessing of the company, and are finding it impossible to sell our homes and move back due to the economy. In short, we are being screwed out of our jobs. So, a caveat to all those contemplating a telecommute agreement – the company giveth and the company taketh away. If you are in a state where employment is at will, then you’d best not make any sudden moves while telecommuting because the company can take it back at any time and you have no recourse.

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  6. Telecommuting is a great option for many. Thank you for sharing practical ways to think through this issue.

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  7. Interesting article, very helpful – thanks.
    I’ve been doing telecommuting for these last 2 years.

    Have you heard about JobsFor10? Seems like a new concept. I’ve joined it recently and they’re pretty cool. Has anyone had any experience with them?

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