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Telecommuting: How to Make it Work for You


12/13/2011 3:49:53 PM

By Vickie Elmer, Glassdoor.com

If the surprise October snowstorm on the East Coast convinced you that you need to work from home more this winter, think through the advantages telecommuting may provide – to your boss and colleagues.

Then think of at least three ways working from home will improve your already stellar productivity and performance.

Make sure you can answer the question: “What’s in it for your boss, your employer and customers?” said Gil Gordon, an experienced telecommuting consultant in Monmouth Junction, N.J. who helps employers establish successful work-at-home programs. Once you come up with some compelling reasons it works for the company, it will be far easier to sell your stay-at-home and work-in-your-sweats ideas to the brass.

Here’s one tidbit to include: Staffers who work from kitchen tables are more likely to recommend their employer, and they give their immediate boss higher marks for managing staff and providing feedback than those who work at the headquarters or office cube, according to a 2007 survey by Kenexa, which provides software to HR departments and employee research.

Consider, too, your answer – and your boss’s – to the questions: “Would you trust yourself to work away from the office? What’s your dependability like, and deadline performance?”

Then when you’re fully prepared, present your request “as a proposal, not as a plea,” Gordon said. Go in and offer what clearly looks like a business proposal with the details outlined, the advantages highlighted, and potential disadvantages addressed.

If you’re not sure telecommuting will work for you or for your department, here’s three areas to consider:

Consider your personality. Some people “need the structure of the office. Working at home requires a healthy dose of self-discipline,” said Gordon. In a blog post, Sylvie Fortin, an entrepreneur and author of “You Can Work in Your PJs,” suggests successful telecommuters must be self-motivated, optimistic, compulsive about finishing work and a perfectionist who will find and fix her own mistakes.

Consider your entire job. “Look at the entirety of your work. What parts can be done as well or better away from the office?” Those tasks that require a few hours of high concentration – think writing a report, detailed financial analysis, or other dig deep with no interruptions tasks – may be completed more quickly at home.

Consider your home environment. If your partner already works from home every day, that may be an impediment – or a motivator. A child and nanny at home may also distract you from work, especially if your home is small. If you live very close to a quaint downtown and would be tempted to spend hours browsing the shops or sipping latte, that could cool your plans.

It may make sense to start with a trial telecommute project. Suggest you work from home two days a week for two months and then you and your boss can both evaluate its effectiveness.

The biggest hurdles Gordon sees are managers’ fears that everyone will want to leave for home and a loss of control over the worker. Assure your boss that your results will be as strong as ever and ask if there are key measures of your productivity you could develop to demonstrate this.

Plus, he suggests that you remind your boss that for every huge snow storm or major event that prevents people from driving into work, “the telecommuters are the only ones working.”

Have you used mobile technology in researching, applying, or interviewing for a job? How did you like it? Let us know.

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