Home' LAPTOP Magazine : November 2010 Contents director with the American Psychological Association,
believes that the telecommuters who excel tend to
work very well independently. "In general, those
employees for whom telecommuting is a good fit
are extremely happy with their work arrangements,"
Ballard said. "Employees often cite the autonomy
and flexibility that telecommuting allows as two of
the most valuable aspects of the job."
Jenny Benevento, taxonomist and user experience
architect for Sears Holdings Corporation, works from
the company's downtown Chicago office. "I think
Sears would like to have people who currently work
in the office working at home because it can trust
those people to deliver," said Benevento. "And then
Sears can use the cubes for the new people."
To help businesses plan their strategies, there are
numerous examples of telecommuting and remote
working policies available on the web, including
Telework.gov and Lister's TeleworkResearchNetwork.
com. A good policy lays out ground rules, such as
working hours, responsibility for expenses, methods
of communication, how IT support will be handled,
child care, and liability issues.
In most cases, your business will not have to fork
over money for remote workstations. Dr. Eileen Gal-
lagher, program chair for the education department at
American Intercontinental University, also works from
home full time. She says that all of her professors,
as well as the students, are responsible for having a
computer with Internet access on which to conduct
classes. "The main campus is the online program.
The teachers have to provide their own equipment,
but the school provides all of the software."
Lister concurred, telling us, "the majority of com-
panies do not pay for home office technology."
Beyond saving money on gas and achieving a better
work-life balance, both Dr. Gallagher and Benevento
cited the ability to exert more control over their daily
schedules and to prioritize independently as key
benefits of remote working. "When non-important
issues come up, like when an e-mail pops up and
someone wants something but it's really not a priority,
I can put it off," Dr. Gallagher said. "In a face-to-face
environment, when someone walks in and they want
something, they're going to wait there until you give
it to them, regardless of how inconsequential it is."
Because Dr. Gallagher has a 24- to 48-hour window
to answer e-mails, and she can turn off instant mes-
saging if she's really swamped, she can prioritize
much better in the online environment than she
ever could at the office.
Benevento believes that she's also more efficient
as a telecommuter than as a traditional office worker,
because she "definitely schedules things more than
before." While she was once at the whim of those
who scheduled a meeting with her, Benevento now
has more control over her calendar, which has made
her more productive. "That's sort of a responsibility
that you get," Benevento said. "You're expected
to get things done or at least be more present. If
anything, I think it makes me communicate more
often with my boss."
Trust That's Earned
Most of the experts we spoke with agreed that the
success or failure of a telecommuting program
depends on both the employee and the employer.
And the two most important ingredients are trust
and results-based management.
Trudy Spence-Parker, vice president of human
resources for New Jersey American Water, says that
based on her 20 years of human resources experi-
ence, the success of telecommuting is defined by
a few key factors. "It depends on the technological
environment; it depends on innovation requirements;
it depends on whether the organization or the busi-
ness is focused on managing by objectives."
According to Lister, trust is fundamental, as is
instituting a system in which you manage by results.
"It doesn't matter where people work or how or
when they work. The
point is do they get
the job done? And the
only way you're going
to know that is if you're
managing by results."
Lister argues that
regardless of whether
employees are labeled
as telecommuters, the majority of today's workforce
is mobile. And since many employees are away from
their desks at least some of the time, businesses
that employ results-based management will be more
a Human Touch
Telecommuters and remote workers who are away
from the office the majority of the time may have to
work hard to make sure that their voices are heard.
There are also concerns that remote workers may
start to feel isolated. For employees that rarely visit
the office, there are meet-up groups of remote workers
that could help keep them engaged. One such group
is Jelly (WorkatJelly.com), which organizes workday
get-togethers in more than 100 cities worldwide.
Remote workers or freelancers bring their laptops
to a communal space and work all day around other
people with whom they can share both ideas and a
casual work environment.
Ballard argues that regular communication
with telecommuters is crucial. "If remote workers
become isolated, team cohesion can suffer." As
a result, he says that it's important for organiza-
tions to use existing technology---such as network
access, shared workspaces, telephone and video
conferencing, instant messaging, and project
management software---to keep remote workers
connected to the team's day-to-day functioning.
Ballard added that those in the office "should be
trained in the skills required to effectively manage
Working remotely has side benefits as well. Benevento
says that if people know she's not going to be in
the office, they'll send her a really direct e-mail in
which they sum everything up. In other words, her
telecommuting forces those back at the office to
be more focused.
The bottom line is that implementing a telecom-
muting/remote work policy has benefits that reach
far beyond your employees' happiness. It reduces
absenteeism, increases employee retention, and
saves on real estate costs. Plus, being open to remote
workers expands your business' talent pool, allowing
you to find the absolute best person for a position,
instead of just the most capable local candidate.
Dr. Ballard sums it up best. "The use of flexible
work arrangements isn'tjust an employee benefit---
it's a competitive business strategy."
Get More Online
REMOTE WORKER'S TOOL CHEST
What you need to stay connected from your
home of ce or the local coffee shop.
See p. 6 for more info on how to use this code with your cell phone.
LAPTOP | November 2010
to get things done.
If anything, it
makes me commu-
nicate more often
with my boss."
—Jenny Benevento, taxonomist,
Sears Holding Corporation
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