Is It Time For You to Telecommute?

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

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