Sitters Unlimited Telecommuting
The Telecommuting Alternative

Copyright © 2000 by Elena Fawkner

Written by: Elena Fawkner

Web Site:  
A Home-Based Business Online

Date Submitted: 10/20/2000

So, here you are, Sunday night again, and your thoughts turn to the working week ahead. Pretty soon your mind turns to the Monday morning commute. And the drive home again. What you wouldn't give to be able to work from home instead of downtown, you think to yourself for the umpteenth time this year. How much more you could accomplish if you could use the time you spend sitting in traffic doing something that's actually productive! After all, there's no reason why you MUST work in a corporate office. Not all the time anyway. Well, what are you going to do about it? Maybe the time has come to bite the bullet and make a proposal to your boss that you both give telecommuting a try.

Before you launch into such a discussion though, a word to the wise. Many employers are leery about employees working from home. Not that they would come right out and say they don't trust you to do what you're paid to do, but, well, how would it WORK exactly? So take some time to plan your proposal and anticipate the kinds of objections and concerns you might expect to encounter.

In this article, we take a look at the pros and cons of telecommuting and some of the issues that can arise. By taking the time to work through these issues, you will be well placed to make a considered, balanced and, most importantly, accepted proposal.


Improved Productivity

By far the greatest advantage of telecommuting is increased productivity. Telecommuters invariably say that the time they save not having to commute, coupled with fewer interruptions, means that they get more done in their workday than ever before.

Not only that, studies have shown that telecommuters are more likely to spend a spare hour in the evening or a few on the weekends on work since it is there to be done. While
this may be good news for employers of salaried employees, some employers will be concerned not to infringe overtime rules though, so be mindful of this potential pothole.

Retention of Valued Personnel

The availability of telecommuting as an option means that the employer may well retain valued personnel under circumstances when the employee may otherwise be forced to resign due to changing life circumstances. Obvious examples include pregnancy and relocation to accompany a transferred spouse.

Reduction in Office Overheads

If the business has a number of personnel who telecommute, there are cost savings to be made in office overheads. Smaller office space can be negotiated as well as fewer paid carparks.

Attract Quality Recruits

If the business has a telecommuting policy, this will be attractive to many prospective employees, allowing the employer to better attract more quality recruits.

Reduce Absenteeism

The flexibility inherent in working from home translates to reduced absenteeism. No longer does the working parent have to take a "sick" day to care for a sick child.

Broadens Labor Pool

Telecommuting allows the employer to recruit from a broader labor pool than would otherwise be the case if the employee had to travel to the employer's office each day.
Geographical boundaries become less significant for one thing, but special needs personnel, such as those with physical disabilities who prefer not to work in a traditional
office environment, or with chronic illnesses, can still participate in the workforce. This allows the employer to recruit from the broadest talent pool possible.


The disadvantages of telecommuting largely fall on the employee rather than the employer, and include:


One of the reasons you will be more productive working from home is that you will have fewer interruptions. That, of course, is a double edged sword. You may find yourself missing those drop in visits and gatherings at the water cooler that you think of now as interruptions.

Out of the Loop

You will also be out of the loop with what is going on at the office. This makes it difficult to participate in the office politics that can be so crucial to the wellbeing of your career.

Propensity to Overwork

The fact that you are living and working in the same space makes it less easy to turn work off at the end of the day. Say what you like about your evening commute, it at least signals the end of the workday. You may find yourself working at 10:00 at night just because you can. This can quickly lead to a lack of balance between your personal and business lives, the very thing you were perhaps hoping to redress by making the move to working from home.

Invisibility Factor

You should be alert to the fact that not being in the office could lead to something of an "out of sight, out of mind" situation. You need to be certain that your work is visible, even if you are not.


Now that you have a grip on the pros and cons of telecommuting you are in a position to begin making your pitch. While you can certainly use the pros in support of your argument in favor of telecommuting, be ready to discuss the cons too. After all, the decision to telecommute must be one that works for you AND your employer. Your employer will feel more comfortable with the idea if you demonstrate that you are alert to the downside. This shows that your proposal is considered and well thought-through.

In addition to the pros and cons discussed above, be prepared to address the following issues which your employer is likely to raise.

Why Do You Want to Telecommute?

Even if the primary reason is because you want to spend more time with your young children, answer this question with a secondary, mutually-beneficial answer, such as improved
productivity. You know that being home for your children when they return from school won't undermine your work performance (in fact, you plan to work for a few hours after
they're in bed which will more than compensate), but don't expect your boss to believe you. Focus instead on a win-win reason such as improved productivity as a result of fewer
interruptions and being able to work when you would otherwise be commuting.

What Happens When I Need You Here For Client Meetings?

One thing you may want to consider, at least in the beginning, is easing into telecommuting by working from home, say, two days a week, and in the office for three, gradually moving to more time at home and less in the office over time. Under this type of arrangement, it's easy to schedule client meetings for those days when you are working. Sometimes, of course, that won't be convenient for the client. At these times, you need to be flexible. You may have to come into the office for a morning or an afternoon on a day when you would normally be working from home.

Many Clients Will Not Be Comfortable Dealing With Someone
Who Works From Home

There is no need for a client to even know you work out of your house if you don't want them to. All that is required is a diversion of calls made to your office phone to your home office phone. It goes without saying, of course, that professionalism demands that you have a completely separate communciations system in your home office from your home. You need a dedicated phone line for your work and family members should be under STRICT instructions that that line is to be answered by no-one but you. If your boss calls your home
office number and your five year old answers, expect problems. Rightly so, too. Same goes for your spouse. That's what voicemail is for.

What Will Take Priority: Your Work or Taking Care of Your

Do not believe for a minute that telecommuting means the end of daycare. If your kids are in daycare now, they will probably still need to be in daycare if you work from home. You simply cannot attend to a five year old and work effectively at the same time. So, do not think of telecommuting as an alternative to day care. It is not. At best, telecommuting will give you an additional couple of hours a day with your kids; the time you would normally have spent commuting to and from the office.

What Will It Cost the Company?

A recent study by Forrester Research showed that the average initial investment by the employer on equipping an employee to work from home was $4,000. Annual maintenance costs were around $2,500. If you think this is likely to be a major obstacle, consider using your personal resources to meet at least some of this cost. After all, you will be saving money in terms of commuting costs, lunches and work clothes. If you already have a personal computer at home, perhaps you should offer to use that for your work, at least until both parties have given this telecommuting business a try and are happy to continue on with it.

As with any negotiation, the best outcome is one with a win-win solution.Telecommuting has many advantages for employer and employee alike. But it is not for everyone. If you are not self-disciplined, if you need supervision to keep you on track, then it's not for you. It's probably not best suited for projects that require you to work as part of a team if that means you need to be sitting around a table together for much of the time.

But most importantly, telecommuting requires a relationship of trust and goodwill between employer and employee. If your employer doesn't trust you, then you will have an uphill
battle getting this thing to fly. But then again, if your employer doesn't trust you, you have an uphill battle period and it may be that you should be looking elsewhere in any event.
Fortunately, however, there are many more enlightened employers who understand that employees treated with trust and respect will return the favor.


Elena Fawkner is editor of the award-winning A Home-Based Business Online ... practical home business ideas, resources and strategies for the work-from-home entrepreneur.

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