Telecommuting – Is It A Fit For You?
Regardless of what you’re wearing; bunny slippers, pajamas, or nothing at all, are you working if no one can see you? Yes, this is sort of like the question, “if a tree falls in the woods and no one is around, does it make a sound?”.
The reality is that more and more employers are looking at reducing overhead, increasing productivity, and transitioning part of their work force to a home office or telecommuting environment. At some point in your career you may be faced with this consideration.
Trends-How Many People Are Really Doing This?
According to globalworkplaceanalytics.com (October 2012) 3.1 million americans work from home. This does not include self-employed workers. If you’re curious, this represents 2.5% of the workforce. This represents a 74% increase over 2005. And, it is estimated that over the next couple of years telecommuting will increase to 4.9 million and most of that growth will be in major metropolitan locations.
Which Side Do You Reside On?
I have been an official “telecommuter” for 12 years now and over that time, it has been an enjoyable debate and conversation to hear perspectives on whether it has been a good fit or whether it was a challenging attempt that failed. Whether you’re on the pro or con side of the argument or simply have an elevated spirit of curiosity, here are a few of the comments I have collected over the years.
Yes – It Works For Me
-Instead of commuting, I spend more time working or balancing work and personal life
-By cutting out the “water cooler talk”, long lunches, and on the fly interruptions, I have increased productivity
-I have been able to save money (gas, tolls, meals, Starbuck’s breaks, etc)
-I am more energetic and creative, because I work when I have energy and my office can be a variety of places now (kitchen table, hammock, desk, or local coffee shop). It allows me to adjust my attitude and perspective.
-Less distractions by other departments, because “out of site out of mind” means I get to focus on my job and my goals
-I am healthier, because I take more frequent breaks to exercise and I don’t worry about needing to take a shower and get back into a suit. I can just power myself back up in my work out clothes.
No – It Does Not Work For Me
-I couldn’t access all of the files I needed
-It’s easier for me to talk with people when I can just walk over to their office.
-Talking to my cat just wasn’t enough socializing for me, I felt disconnected and irrelevant. I don’t want to be forgotten.
-It was too easy for me to do anything but work (too many distractions)
-It’s hard when you have a computer breakdown, printer on the fritz, or need to pick up office supplies…you have to become a do-it-yourselfer
-My company infrastructure and goal setting process wasn’t ready to truly measure my productivity and support telecommuters
5 Steps To Home Office Success
No matter which side of the fence you reside on, if you are going to be successful at working from your home office, it is important that you consider a few factors before agreeing to this option.
1. Company Support – Does your company have enough experience with this to ensure that you have full access to all of the files, reports, and applications that you would if you were working in an office building. Do they give you resources to support you when one of these systems is not operating correctly. Think about webinars, client meetings, expense report processing, etc. The great news is that today more than ever there are so many creative ways to still work effectively while being a telecommuter. If you need any ideas please free to ask and check out some of my favorites:
For teleconferencing set up your own line at Speek (you can share files with one another and it’s a free service)
For professional meeting locations check out new concepts like Serendipity Labs or Corporate Alliance which allow for you to collaborate with others and offer professional places to meet or work for a variation or if you’re traveling.
For sharing documents, check out Drop Box
2. Your Atmosphere – Do your living conditions work for a remote office? Are your ceilings so tall that your conversations echo? Do you have pets or children that will distract you (they are not a bad distraction and are great for taking breaks, but will they cause continual disturbances which hamper your productivity)? Does your cell phone work from your home or do you need a LAN line? Is there ample space to dedicate to your office and what will it take to make it an inspiring place for you to want to be? Can you receive shipments/deliveries?
For more tips on creating your perfect atmosphere check out the WorkShifting website.
3. Taxes – This is an area that may require the help of an accountant, however, with a little research on turbotax or by reading IRS websites (wow, if any of you enjoy doing this, then I’m not sure that I’m the blogger for you). Whatever resource you use, it is important to understand what you will need to do to take care when doing your taxes and financial planning. Many people do not even realize the items that are now tax deductible, but you have to have good record keeping and a dedicated square footage to your office. You also can not have both a home office and a corporate office to take advantage of these tax savings.
Just a few items that I was delighted to learn about: safety/security – alarm systems, fence installation, locks, etc, landscaping – house/office cleaning, utilities, pest control, etc. Yes it is a percentage of the total bill, but it is still a cost savings for you.
Again, I’m not an accountant, so take the time to look into this from a professional and be prepared ahead of time to start tracking your finances accurately.
Get a clear statement/policy in writing from your employer as to what they will reimburse you for (office supplies, mileage, telephone line, etc) versus what you’ll be responsible for on your own.
4. Communication – It becomes more important than ever before that you clearly design your own communication strategy. The dynamics of officing remotely will require you to think about 3 aspects in your communication plan that may or may not differ from when you were in an office.
1. Time (what time zones will you be working across and how will this impact your work environment or home life)
2. Space (will you have collaborative work environments needed in your home office, at a remote location, or will htravel be necessary)
3. Culture (if you are now going to work remotely where before you were always face-to-face, how does it change the cultural dynamics in play? For instance, if it was hard for you to understand someone unless you were looking right at them will you need to employ the use of video conferencing services like skype or facetime to still remain effective with that individual OR if your team is very cliquish and for you to remain relevant you know you’ll have to make an extra effort then do you schedule a once a month meet up for coffee or appetizers to keep that connectivity and culture strong)
5. Goal Measurement – This is by far the most important factor to consider in deciding whether working remotely is best for you. If your company is not in the habit of measuring your performance based on very specific goals already then you will be set up to fail and/or at least be at risk for needing to demonstrate your work ethic in an antiquated way. Think about it this way in the words of a fellow tele-commuter:
“We have never made the transition from manual labor to knowledge-based working. It is very easy to see when a farmer or a factory-worker, construction worker, etc. is working because they are expending physical energy on visible tasks. In fact, it could be argued that the harder one is working, the more they sweat. This doesn’t translate well to white-collar work. So we have created a complex system of visual cues to signify that someone is working.”
You do not want to be the person who as guilt every time you take a break to exercise, eat, or walk your dog. To avoid the anxiety of “proving yourself” to your boss by sending emails at early and late hours or by overworking to compensate for this anxiety, simply be sure you have measurable goals in place and that you and your boss agree on the outcomes required.
At first if this is new to you, it may be important to talk daily about the outcomes of the day, or weekly, but eventually if you have annual goals, you will be able to accomplish this without as much conversation about it. Typically after a few months a mutual trust has been established that is healthy for both parties.
If you are not well on your way to a successful decision about remote work and you’d like to discuss it further or for workshops that can help transition your teams successfully, please contact me at email@example.com