|TELECOMMUTING: DREAM COME TRUE?|
November 14, 1997
in this forum:
What is the best way to convince employers to try telecommuting? What are the risks involved with telecommuting? Are other countries implementing successful telecommuting systems? Are there any tax deductions that encourage telecommuting? What is the accountability process for telecommuter work? Additional questions and comments.
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Have you ever wondered what it would be like to work from home? Forget about getting up early, worrying about what to wear, traffic jams and bad weather-- just flick the computer switch, and you're at work.
Every day more than 11.1 million people work from home. Many companies are looking to increase that number to save money on real estate and heating. At AT&T, where more than a half of the white collar workforce work from home at least twice a week, the company estimates that it saves $3,000 a year per telecommuting employee.
Telecommuting began in the 1980's as part of the environment movement. Proponents sought to decrease transportation costs and pollution. But it was not until the technological developments of the 1990's emerged, that telecommuting became a practical option. As the prices of cellular phones, fax machines, modems and computers fell, home offices became more affordable. The phone became a more useful tool as telephone companies began offering call-waiting and caller-ID.
But the home-work continuum is not for everyone. Many people decide not to work from home because, for instance, the dog won't let them alone. Many workers want to be with their children, but then fall prey to the "pester factor" from children who don't understand the concept of "work-time."
Oftentimes, people think privacy will help them concentrate, but after several months, begin to feel isolated. Productivity is another issue. Workers say their productivity goes up when they work from home. But how do you measure productivity? By the deadlines met? The amount of paper produced... or not produced? And at what cost? Many telecommuters report that they are blurring the lines between work and home-life to the point where they are actually never "away" from work.
Obviously, telecommuting is not as simple as buying a computer and installing a second phone line. As more and more people opt for the flexibility of working from home, companies have refined their approach. Consultants now meet with managers to figure out systems and strategies to make a smooth transition from office to home.
Would telecommuting work for you? How important are those chance encounters in the cafeteria or at the copy machine? Is face-to-face human interaction an integral part of doing business, or a ghost of offices past?
Our forum guests have dealt with these issues for decades. Jack Nilles has run a telecommuting consulting company for over 25 years. He coined the phrase "telecommuting" and has worked to convince companies to embrace the spirit of telecommuting. Our second guest, Dr. Michelle Weil, co-author of Technostress: Coping with Technology @HOME, @WORK, @PLAY, warns that telecommuters run a high risk of technology-overload.
Questions answered in this forum:
What is the best way to convince employers to try telecommuting? What are the risks involved with telecommuting? Does the U.S. lead the way, or are other countries implementing successful telecommuting systems? Are there any tax deductions that encourage telecommuting? What is the accountability process for telecommutiers to show their work? Additional questions and comments.