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7 Things the Boss Should Know About Telecommuting 156

Posted by Zonk
from the sign-me-up dept.
Esther Schindler writes "An article on CIO.com presents input from several telecommuting IT professionals about the benefits that working from home brings to the enterprise. They suggest some processes that help remote workers interact with other team members, and discuss the irritations that twist telecommuters' shorts in a knot. In short, it's what employees truly want the boss to know about telecommuting. Two sidebars also discuss tips for telecommuters who don't want their careers to stall because they're 'out of sight, out of mind,' and the out of pocket expenses that the company and telecommuter need to divvy up."
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7 Things the Boss Should Know About Telecommuting

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  • by WrongSizeGlass (838941) on Saturday May 12, 2007 @05:46PM (#19099065)
    ... about me when I telecommute:

    7. I have "Take This Job And Shove It" looping in iTunes.
    6. Sometimes I follow links in Google that don't show up at the office when my "Safe Filer" is "On".
    5. I work so hard at home that I need a break every hour.
    4. Comedy Central replays the same stuff all day long.
    3. My desk at home is very clean (in direct contrast to the pig sty in my office).
    2. My cats are excellent proofreaders.
    1. I'm naked.
  • by dsanfte (443781) on Saturday May 12, 2007 @05:57PM (#19099141) Journal
    Telecommuting has the potential to reduce pat/maternity leave, reduce the amount of time kids are left in the hands of babysitters away from their parents, and keeps parents at home during the day. This would represent significant beneficial social change. I'm surprised it's not mandatory.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Maitri (938818)
      Actually, my understanding is that most companies won't let you telecommute if your main reason for doing it is to stay home with your kids. They think that you then spend a lot of your caring for your kids instead of actually working. From past experience I can state that taking care of kids is a full time job - don't know that I could work also...
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by digitig (1056110)

        From past experience I can state that taking care of kids is a full time job - don't know that I could work also...

        It depends on the age of the kids. By the time mine were about 11 they were happier for me to stay out of their way; I just needed to be around if things went wrong. And in the 2 hours a day I saved on commuting I could actually spend some quality time with them. Of course, during term time it was mainly a matter of taking them to school in the morning or collecting them in the evening, which was a lot more practical 15 minutes from the school instead of 75 minutes.

        • by Tuoqui (1091447) on Saturday May 12, 2007 @08:04PM (#19099975) Journal
          Yeah I would not recommend doing this with younger children around that is for sure.

          I'm reading the article (yeah I know) and I have to say that management is probably most resistant to telecommuting because of the fact that if they cant physically see the employee is only taking 20-25 minutes to complete a task they expect may take an hour that they cant see the employee sitting around doing nothing and pile yet more work onto them.

          I read somewhere that employees now are doing 2-3x as much work as employees had to do 10, 20, 30 years ago... Its not exactly fair since workload goes up that much but the wages do not reflect that. We could have much less unemployment if instead of hiring people in high stress situations that they actually hire 2 people to do the work of 2 people. They'd get things done faster and presumably with less errors than the 1 person trying to do the work of 2 people.

          Basically, resistance to telecommuteing is a result of not being able to unilaterally pile more work upon their employee which they could do if they were physically present in the office.
        • by mibus (26291)

          It depends on the age of the kids.


          I'll back this up from the alternate viewpoint - I have two small children (1 & 2), and even when my wife is home it's just impossible to get anything done with them around. They don't understand "Daddy's not here, he's working, even though you can see him..." very well.
      • I was only a full-time parent for a month or so, when I was on vacation and my then-wife (now ex) was out of town. I had two, aged 2 and 3. It was incredibly boring because I couldn't go do anything, but I didn't find it hard. They need to eat, be clean, be watched so they don't hurt themselves, you play with them occasionally, and so on, but it wasn't nearly as full-time as my actual job. Many days I sat outside and played chess with a neighbor all day while her kids and my kids played together in the
      • by x-caiver (458687)

        Actually, my understanding is that most companies won't let you telecommute if your main reason for doing it is to stay home with your kids.

        Microsoft, in general, is pretty good about letting people work from home. Many jobs do not require constant meetings, or in-person discussions on a daily basis.

        However, there are some teams at Microsoft that have their heads shoved pretty deep up their butts. Mandating that people be at work, regardless of if they have meetings or not, but then granting exceptions to

    • by tacocat (527354) <tallison1.twmi@rr@com> on Saturday May 12, 2007 @06:17PM (#19099279)

      Companies probably aren't primarily concerned with the social implications of work habits. To some extent, yes. But it's got to have a cost benefit attached to it or they simply cannot do it.

      I think there is something to be said for this and many people that I work with do this to some extent but only on a very informal and infrequent basis.

      I think it would be interesting to implement a rolling work schedule where you only come to work on one or two days a week and work the rest at home.

      I personally find that when I do work from home my productivity is rather insane in comparison. I might only work 4 hours on some days, but I'll finish an entire week of work in that time and then spend the remaining 4 hours of the work-day observing the work in action (reading logs) while I watch a movie. A heck of a lot better than it might be at work.

      • Companies probably aren't primarily concerned with the social implications of work habits. To some extent, yes. But it's got to have a cost benefit attached to it or they simply cannot do it.

        This may be true for middle-to-small corporations, but I find that the really gigantic corporations I've worked for don't need a positive cost-benefit for everything. They give to charities, encourage employees to take company time on occasion for volunteer work, and the one I'm contracting to now even owns one of the w

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Great point, and one that doesn't appear in the article, nor even in Susan Landau's piece cited therein.

      Another point that didn't seem to come up anywhere is the cost of commuting. Perhaps it's so obvious that people assume it doesn't bear mentioning, but I think it represents a significant, and understated, part of the cost/benefit equation.

      The evolution of technological complexity that makes it hard to match up a sophisticated enterprise with talented workers has produced a culture in which people tr

      • by pipingguy (566974) *
        a culture in which people transport their bodies substantial distances away from their homes

        I always thought that this was done to avoid suspicion.
    • by Belial6 (794905) on Saturday May 12, 2007 @07:28PM (#19099705)
      It's not just social benefits, but the environmental benefits of massive telecommuting would be huge! I telecommute 4 days a week. I can tell you that I drive about 1/4 as much as I used to. That has to be better for the environment. I still think if our (California's) governor wants to hit a home run, he could appeal to individual residents, family groups, environmentalists, AND big business if he would get a tax break for businesses that have over a certain percentage of telecommuters. Family groups would love the extra time that parents get to spend with their kids. Individual residents would spend a smaller part of their day dedicated to work, as they wouldn't be commuting. Environmentalists would love to have the number of miles cars in the state drive cut in half, as well as not needing to expand roads, since having few cars on the road means our current roads would be big enough. And what business doesn't like to have a nice big tax break. This would also lead to expansion of our telecom business, as telecommuters would need, and be willing to pay for better internet access.

      The only problems I see are those interests that want us consuming as much fuel as possible. Obviously oil companies wouldn't want a state like California to cut it's fuel consumption in half. That would be a huge revenue hit. The state might also dislike the reduced revenue from fuel taxes as well. I would think that the reduced cost of road infrastructure would off set that though.
      • by houghi (78078)
        A study in Belgium revealed that telecomuters still drove as much as others. They just drove for different reasons. Bringing the children to school was a major one.
      • Maybe something other than the bottom line is perpetuating the on-site job culture. I think a lot of people want to get out of the house, away from the spouse and kids, etc. Office politics, despicable as they are, fulfill emotional needs for conflict, schmoozing, alliance-building, backbiting, and so on. A work environment where people were judged solely on the quality of their work would be a lot less invigorating to many people.

        Plus, many managers like in-person management because they like being in

        • by pipingguy (566974) *
          I work in engineering (major projects) which sometimes offers the opportunity to work many overtime hours. I often get the feeling that many people who choose to do a lot of overtime hours do so in order to avoid home life (although they'll claim that they're doing it for the money). After 25+ years in the business I've noticed that productivity drastically declines after about 45 hours/week and most of the OT hours are spent socializing or just waiting out the clock.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by owlnation (858981)

      Telecommuting has the potential to reduce pat/maternity leave, reduce the amount of time kids are left in the hands of babysitters away from their parents, and keeps parents at home during the day. This would represent significant beneficial social change. I'm surprised it's not mandatory.

      Couldn't possibly agree with you more. Note that there are also considerable environmental benefits too. The morning and evening rush hours are the dumbest things on the Planet. The technology now exists working at home

      • It's not just work, why not also study? Why on Earth, with the technology available, does anyone need to go to a building and sit with 100 other students in a cold lecture hall for an hour or too. There's no reason why that can be video streamed and questions handled by chat or email. Then you can fit in the lecture when you brain is most receptive, and take breaks when you wish, or replay parts you didn't get. In fact for many subjects, the lectures need only be recorded once for use over many years. Trans

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by ishobo (160209)
      You are sadly mistaken if you think a full time caregiver has any time to do professional work. I was a stay at home father for the first three years of my daughter's life. I thought I could work around 20 hours a week. If you combine the hands-on time with my daughter, and the laundry, cleaning, cooking, and other housework, I was exhausted and had little time for anything else. My extra hours in the day were spent doing things for me, not my employer.
    • I've spent more hours than I want to think about in Silicon Valley traffic (some things work best in meatspace) reflecting that the great majority of people around me have home computers comparable to what they use at the office and network connections. . . so why are they around me driving at 5 miles per hour belching fumes, contributing to air pollution and global warming when they could be at home online actually getting something done? Why am I paying as a taxpayer for multilane freeways that enable peo
    • Telecommuting has the potential to reduce pat/maternity leave, reduce the amount of time kids are left in the hands of babysitters away from their parents, and keeps parents at home during the day. This would represent significant beneficial social change. I'm surprised it's not mandatory.

      You're likely to have lots of time to spend with your kids, since any job you can do at home can just as easily be done by someone in Bangalore, India. I suppose whether that represents significant beneficial social change
  • Personal Benefits (Score:5, Interesting)

    by KermodeBear (738243) on Saturday May 12, 2007 @05:57PM (#19099143) Homepage
    I am able to telecommute two days a week right now. I enjoy this for several reasons:

    1. I don't have someone stopping by my cube every 30 minutes interrupting my concentration for casual conversation. That is very annoying. At home I don't have this distraction and I'm able to get more work done.

    2. Since I started working from home two days a week, I have save myself 2 hours of driving time a week. Less gas, less wear and tear on the car, and a lot less frustration dealing with traffic! That means a happier employee.

    3. I can curse and scream as loudly as I please when somebody does something stupid. It's a great stress reliever. In the office, well. The HR department would have issues if they heard what I wanted to say half the time!

    4. Comfort! Cube farms suck. If I'm comfortable you know I'll be more productive. I can sit out on my porch in the warm weather and enjoy FRESH AIR AND SUNLIGHT while I work with my laptop. It is a huge, HUGE plus over florescent lights and stale office air.

    5. I save money on laundry. (o:

    Overall, I'm a lot happier and more productive when I'm at home working.

    On the flip side, it is useful to be in the office once in a while too. Meetings in face to face can be more productive and it can be easier to get things done. Other than meetings though, I really don't see the point. Offices are just too depressing and distracting.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by SocratesJedi (986460)

      Meetings in face to face can be more productive and it can be easier to get things done.

      You really think so? I find that face-to-face meetings are a much more difficult medium to exchange ideas in rather than than e-mail or, when rapid response is required, using IMs or video conferencing software. When discussing in person ideas are often broken before being fully expressed or parties can be subtly influenced by social and conversational constraints. I know that I'm at least much more likely to express disagreement in written form rather than in conversation. Usually, also, I find ideas

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by jbengt (874751)
        Face to face interaction is cery helpful. It's easier to pick up meaning that you'd miss in written correspondence, or even phone conversation. You're more likely to ask a good question and the back and forth nature of conversation makes it more likely that ambiguities will be cleared up. There's an upside to e-mails, though - they automatically leave a written record, which can help a lot a couple of months later.

        Face to face meetings are necessary, but productive? They can be productive, especially on
        • Meetings, for good or ill, are indeed necessary. Managers like meetings. I suppose it gives them a sense of purpose. (o;

          Seriously though, meetings can be helpful if there is an agenda and people stick to it. "We are meeting to discuss X and Y." So talk about X and Y. Keep the extra chatter out. I really don't want to waste my time hearing about what happened on The Simpsons this week. I also don't want to watch someone change a diaper (yes, that actually happened, it was gross and it really pissed me off).
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Doctor Memory (6336)

          It's easier to pick up meaning that you'd miss in written correspondence, or even phone conversation. You're more likely to ask a good question and the back and forth nature of conversation makes it more likely that ambiguities will be cleared up.

          Amen! It's very handy to be able to note when someone in sales/management/marketing's eyes start to glaze over when you're explaining some technical detail. Then you can backtrack and re-explain so everyone understands, w/o having to respond to somebody's "I didn't understand your comment about X" message two or three days (or weeks!) later. It's also handy when your bogometer goes off and you can glance over at someone else on your team and see if they're likewise wary. I also find they're much quicke

      • by digitig (1056110)

        I would be a bit curious, actually, to know whether /.'ers think that meetings can be productive. Perhaps my own experience or preferences are not the norm (or perhaps they are?).

        A lot of meetings are a complete waste of time, especially ones that are regularly scheduled. But if there are problems then getting around a table to find a way forward is the best way I have found. I've seen political deadlocks that have been bouncing around for months by email be resolved within 30 minutes face-to-face. And a face-to-face project brief at the start of a project is pretty handy, too. So it all depends on the meeting -- don't write them all off, just because most are rubbish.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by ydrol (626558)
          A lot of meetings are a complete waste of time, especially ones that are regularly scheduled.

          I would agree with this, except for one occasion I remember we were on a very tight schedule for the final delivery of a project. The project manager introduced something we called 'Daily Prayers'. Every morning we had a meeting *strictly time limited to 15 minutes MAX* to raise any issues and track progress. Often it just required confirmation that you are indeed still working on the bit you said you would be. It

          • A lot of meetings are a complete waste of time, especially ones that are regularly scheduled.

            I would agree with this, except for one occasion I remember we were on a very tight schedule for the final delivery of a project. The project manager introduced something we called 'Daily Prayers'.

            Yep. When I was in the Navy, every day in port the division (all seven of us) met for about ten minutes to go over the days schedules for the division, department, and ship - and those were absolutely invaluable in get

          • by metlin (258108)
            Oh my boss does this, too. We have a 10-15 minutes meeting every morning, which are extremely useful and lets us all touch base and get an idea of what's happening.

            We also we all have these cards with tasks assigned. So, as and when you are done with something, you can pick a new card (or trade a card with someone), which usually happens during these meetings.

            A great way to touch base and keep track.

            We call it agile development, even though there usually is no real "development" involved (most tasks are thi
            • by jafiwam (310805)
              I was going to mod you funny but realized it was accidental.

              You just described (without the color and competing pirates) a game called "Ninja Burger" almost exactly.

              It's a fun game if you are into that stuff and like ninjas.
      • by partenon (749418) *
        Meetings are toxic. [37signals.com]
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by GlacierDragon (820368)
        I actually find meetings where everyone calls in from in front of their own computer to be more productive. Part of that is because my team is in 2 different cities so someone will always be on the phone and it's just easier to hear and participate with everyone on the phone. I also find it more productive, though, because you have all your stuff right there and can email each other documents as they come up in conversation or quickly look up any stats (or whatever) that you need. No hunting for a meetin
      • by sjames (1099)

        Meetings CAN actually be helpful but often aren't. The more formal the meeting, the less likely it is to be productive.

        Ideally, meeting participants should feel free to break into sub-meetings if that is what is called for. For example, in projsct planning, once the overview is determined and people have naturally gravitated to a subset of the project, those groups should discuss their part in more detail amongst themselves.

        People should feel free to excuse themselves from a meeting in progress. Sometim

      • It depends on the type of meeting:

        "Stand ups" where everybody gives a status update is best done in "virtual" sense (con-call, email ,etc). These are the big time suckers where you wait 5 minutes for half of the folks to just show up.

        On the flip side, design meetings, especially when dealing with physical layout issues, can be a different issue. For example, this past week I had a 20 minute meeting with our network team to discuss rack layout, positioning and the other fun issues that arise when you are low
      • by x-caiver (458687)
        Some meetings can be productive. It really depends on what the topic is, and who is attending. I know several people who simply can't comprehend discussions in email. It is very frusterating when I end up having to go to a meeting with them where I say the same very simply thing that I had typed several times, and suddenly they 'get it'. "Wow, great meeting, really glad we had this!" is what they say, while I'm thinking about strangling them. Is that a productive meeting? Yes and no. It is not productive b
  • by DaMattster (977781) on Saturday May 12, 2007 @05:57PM (#19099145)
    But it really only works for programmers. On the infrastructure side, you really have to be on site for a lot of things (correct me if I am wrong.) I work in a small company where I wear many hats so sometimes I need to interrupt a maintenance task or project to fix someone's PC. I'd love a telecommuting position but that would mean a radical change. I'd really like to find a telecommuting help desk analyst position. It would be worth even a small pay cut for having such flexibility
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by TheRealFixer (552803)
      True... in a small company where you're doing everything, it can be almost impossible to telecommute. It really depends on your job, though. I'm a sysadmin/engineer, and I can count on one hand the number of times I've had to go into the data center to fix something over the past 6 months. Remote systems management capabilities like HP's iLO, moving to a SAN instead of individual hard disks... about the only thing I have to go into the data center for anymore is to rack a new server. Once it's physicall
    • by zappepcs (820751) on Saturday May 12, 2007 @06:21PM (#19099297) Journal
      Let me just correct you... to some degree. I agree with all the benefits of working from home, and I do work on infrastructure. Some days you just can't avoid needing face time with the on/off button or CD tray, but other days (maybe 2-3 per week) you can happily set at home and do stuff that you would do in your cube. The trick is scheduling your work so that it can work out that way. I spend a lot of time making sure that I can do most things remotely. Most days that remoteness means doing it from my cube rather than in front of the machine. This also means that many days I can work from home as effectively, if not more so, as if I'm in my cube. Redirecting the work phone to my home phone is useful also. When you manage to do >50% of your work from your cube, you can do all of that from home.

      If you work on infrastructure, you know that meetings are generally a waste, and conf. calls can be done from home. What you are left with is balancing the amount of work you do at your desk and what can't be done at your desk. If you work to ensure that >50% can be done at your desk, you have validation for working from home 2-3 days per week.

      How's that?
    • Telecommuting works outside of the IT department too, you know. In pretty much any corporation, Middle Managers could spend at least a day a week working from home, often much more. For example, I know a project manager for an organization of several thousand employees. She works from home an average of 4 days a week.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 12, 2007 @06:52PM (#19099511)
      Telecommuting does not work for programmers in any sort of team environment, which either is or should be most jobs.

      Development is not a solo effort, you need to talk to the users, the analysts, the other coders, the testers, there's a whole design process.

      While you can do all this remotely via phone and video conferencing, it's nowhere near as effective as face to face, and raising the effort needed to communicate cuts out on a large amount of communication.

      On top of just the job at hand, there's a whole lot of personal growth and exposure to new/different ideas/points of view that you just don't get when working from home or working solo.

      My last job shut down their Sydney office and let everyone either work from home or from a serviced office. Within a month all the people I regarded as clued in had found other work, and the remainder reduced their quality to the point where I made a point of asking not to be put in teams with them.

      getting back towards the topic, I think telecommuting very occasionally, like maybe one or two days a month is ok, it's like a bit of an extra holiday and can give people a bit of space when they feel their job has become a little stale.

      Once you're doing it every week though you should really look at the reasons you don't like going to your work place and try to fix those problems rather than running away from them
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by bberens (965711)

        Telecommuting does not work for programmers in any sort of team environment, which either is or should be most jobs.

        Development is not a solo effort, you need to talk to the users, the analysts, the other coders, the testers, there's a whole design process.

        getting back towards the topic, I think telecommuting very occasionally, like maybe one or two days a month is ok, it's like a bit of an extra holiday and can give people a bit of space when they feel their job has become a little stale.

        Once you're doing it every week though you should really look at the reasons you don't like going to your work place and try to fix those problems rather than running away from them

        I think you vastly over-estimate the level of involvement required in most development jobs. Sure when the application is being designed and developed there needs to be a lot of face to face interaction. However, once the application is in maintenance mode there's little to no need for face time. I can read a bug out of bugzilla, look at the screenshots and fix the bug just as well from home as I do in the office. Secondly I can add another screen that looks similar to all the other screens and uses th

      • by bfields (66644) on Saturday May 12, 2007 @08:42PM (#19100163) Homepage

        Telecommuting does not work for programmers in any sort of team environment, which either is or should be most jobs.

        Any number of open source projects would serve as excellent counterexamples of highly productive projects involving teams that collaborate closely across large distances. Most of my day job is Linux kernel development, and while I'm fortunate to have great kernel hackers in my office and in the neighborhood who I can go hang out with and ask questions, the nature of the project dictates that most of the people I work with are people I've never, or only occasionally, met face-to-face.

        It certainly takes some getting used to. It's been a real test of my reading and writing skills--you need to be able to understand and explain complex technical ideas, and keep discussions going despite personality conflicts. And it'll help to have good local computer resources, a fast network connection, and a mail client that helps you handle massive mailing list traffic efficiently....

      • by cpuh0g (839926)

        Telecommuting does not work for programmers in any sort of team environment, which either is or should be most jobs.

        Speak for yourself. I work for a BIG company that writes ALOT of open (and closed) source code and have been doing so for 7+ years. I am highly productive, I get top reviews every year, I make a nice 6-figure salary, and I get to work on tons of interesting projects developing operating system code both as a developer and a technical lead. The fact that it doesn't work for you means that

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by rs79 (71822)
        "elecommuting does not work for programmers in any sort of team environment"

        That's ok, programming doesn't work in a team environment either.

      • Once you're doing it every week though you should really look at the reasons you don't like going to your work place and try to fix those problems rather than running away from them

        If you like your office more than your home, I'd worry more about that says.

      • by Asic Eng (193332)
        Development is not a solo effort, you need to talk to the users, the analysts, the other coders, the testers, there's a whole design process.

        I have similar experiences showing that face to face is a lot more efficient than conference calls (though lousy conferencing equipment is one of the contributors to that). On the other hand, programming is a job which requires concentration, constant interruptions are a big problem. I have experience with that, too - when I'm in the office very late or very early I

      • Were I work, we almost all use MacBook Pros, which have built in cameras and support 4-way video conferencing. Need to talk to someone? You've got phone, email, IM, and video conference to choose from.
      • by x-caiver (458687)

        Telecommuting does not work for programmers in any sort of team environment, which either is or should be most jobs.

        That is a pretty sweeping generalization. Just because you are on a team does not mean that you need to be in constant communication with the other people on the team.

        Development is not a solo effort,

        I agree with that statement, but...

        you need to talk to the users,

        Developers do not need to talk to users every day. Actually no one on a development team (testers, program managers, etc) ne

    • by IdleTime (561841)
      I'm not a programmer but I have worked from for the past 4 years and so does my whole team. My company, a HUGE software giant (no, not MS or IBM), have had very good experience with work at home and support it 100%. After doing it for 4 years, there is no way I'd go back to working in an office. Nothing beats sitting out by the pool with my wireless laptop and something cold to drink and yes, I live in Florida so I can do it most of the year.
    • I'll add another response which accords with the first two.

      In a very small organization, you end up with your hands on the hardware a lot, but this condition dilutes in larger organization due to economies of scale. For example, the person in charge of infrastructure is not doing desktop system installs. A more junior person can do that at less cost. Even then, a knowledgeable person doing desktop installation and maintenance has figured out the value of doing that centrally as well. There comes a poi

    • But it really only works for programmers.

      Yup - and that's one factor that keeps companies from implementing telecommuting, there are too many jobs you simple can't do remotely. If only a few get to do it, the rest feel disenfranshised and morale can plummet.

      Anecdote time: My wife is an accountant - at one job all she did was review reports for completeness and correctness, and either forward them to the client or kick them back to the staff. (Essentially QA work.) Since the reports were already

    • by x-caiver (458687)

      On the infrastructure side, you really have to be on site for a lot of things (correct me if I am wrong.)

      It depends. As you say, in your role you sometimes have to go fix someones desktop, but that isn't always the case. We've got several decently sized computer labs, and depending on which person on the 'infrastructure team' you are talking about would change if they can work at home or not. Planning a big install (figuring out what parts to buy, figuring out how to space them out, figuring out how much

    • But it really only works for programmers. On the infrastructure side, you really have to be on site for a lot of things (correct me if I am wrong.) I work in a small company where I wear many hats so sometimes I need to interrupt a maintenance task or project to fix someone's PC. I'd love a telecommuting position but that would mean a radical change. I'd really like to find a telecommuting help desk analyst position. It would be worth even a small pay cut for having such flexibility

      I wear the sysadmin ha
  • Most important: (Score:5, Insightful)

    by r_jensen11 (598210) on Saturday May 12, 2007 @06:05PM (#19099191)
    Telecommuting supplements working at the office, not replaces it. People still want/need that face-to-face contact. There have been plenty of stories posted about how telecommuting can really put you on the slow-track for promotions and also reduces the opportunities when you accedentally come across a gold-mine of an idea thru means of mis-communication.
    • Re:Most important: (Score:5, Interesting)

      by technomom (444378) on Saturday May 12, 2007 @06:44PM (#19099457)
      The slow-track only happens if the people you work with and your bosses aren't telecommuting.

      Here in IBM, 40% of the workforce is classified as "mobile" or "at home". The difference in classification is really just the percentage of time that you travel or work at customer sites. My boss and his boss telecommute. My department consists of people scattered around the globe, some telecommuting, some not. So, there's no real hit to the career for to anyone for telecommuting. In fact, you have to justify having an office these days.

      The important thing to remember is not to cut yourself off. Keep an IM session (in IBM it's Sametime) alive while you're around, keep your cell phone on if you're at a customer site, get a good speakerphone, and get the best broadband you can get (for me it's FiOS). Have weekly teleconferences with team members (or more often if needed). Set clear agendas for meetings so they don't drag on and for pity's sake, learn to use the mute button, especially if you are a mouth breather or have kids/dogs in the room.

      Telecommuting can work very well if there's a culture for it.
    • by metlin (258108)
      Exactly.

      For instance, I do telecom R&D and there are at least 5 times during the day when my boss walks in to brainstorm some idea or vice-versa (or do so with someone else I work with). It is wonderful to exchange ideas back and forth, and you can get a surprising amount of new ideas this way.

      Also, there is something to be said about having a whiteboard to hash ideas out with your team - that's not something you can do when you telecommute - at least not easily.

      I do work with a couple of people who tel
  • One day a week (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 12, 2007 @06:08PM (#19099211)
    Currently I can swing one day a week from home, in the near future I am hoping to work exclusively from home.

    The hardest thing about working from home is trying to explain to family and friends that you are trying to work. When they know you are at home, then tend to treat is as if your on vacation, and its ok to call and small talk or pop-in.
    • by Neumann (240442)
      The hardest thing about working from home is trying to explain to family and friends that you are trying to work. When they know you are at home, then tend to treat is as if your on vacation, and its ok to call and small talk or pop-in.

      And this is different from your co-workers popping by your cubicle how exactly?
  • by Average_Joe_Sixpack (534373) on Saturday May 12, 2007 @06:15PM (#19099257)
    My tips

    1. Background noise - Parents, shut your children up! Nothing sounds more unprofessional than hearing kids yelling in the background. This goes for barking dogs, parakeets, laundry room, the kitchen and taking a conference call from the local pub.

    2. Get a dedicated phone line for office work with a vmail that has a professional greeting. No "Hi, Jim and Linda are unable to answer the phone right now..."

    3. Don't milk the expenses. In fact you'd be better off not charging any expenses as it is a factor when it comes time for layoffs. Software licenses are a different matter, but you may want to consider your own license if you develop on the side.

    4. Be available/no sneaking out.

    5. There are no set hours. It's not 9 to 5, and being flexible for your customers across timezones puts you at an advantage over cube jockeys with a commute.

    6. Avoid day trading.

    7. Don't become a hermit. Meet up with the local coworkers for lunch at least once month.
    • by jbn-o (555068)

      5. There are no set hours. It's not 9 to 5, and being flexible for your customers across timezones puts you at an advantage over cube jockeys with a commute.

      In the interest of clarity: Are you describing what some call "flex time" where workers get credit for working whenever they work and are in the clear with management so long as they fulfill their weekly work hours? Or are you saying that telecommuting ought to be a message to one's boss that one is willing to work whenever management says to wor

      • Are you describing what some call "flex time" where workers get credit for working whenever they work and are in the clear with management so long as they fulfill their weekly work hours? Or are you saying that telecommuting ought to be a message to one's boss that one is willing to work whenever management says to work?

        Depends on the compensation, position, situation and ambition of the individual. In my experience, those in the latter tend to thrive professionally ... that includes being tracked down o
    • by Sparr0 (451780)

      2. Get a dedicated phone line for office work with a vmail that has a professional greeting. No "Hi, Jim and Linda are unable to answer the phone right now..."
      Why on earth would you have your own line and vmail at home? You don't have your office number forwarded to your computer at home?
    • by x-caiver (458687)
      Those are all excellent tips that I wish more telecommuters would follow. A couple comments... 2) Dedicated phone line This is good for more than just the 'professional' voicemail message. It allows you to seperate your work and personal lives more effectively. If people are calling your home phone all the time for work, the line gets blurred. The only people at work who know my home phone number are the HR people since it is listed as one of my emergency numbers. My coworkers have my cell phone number as
  • How To Hired? (Score:1, Offtopic)

    by toonerh (518351) *
    I been a programmer for many years. I am disabled (problems using my hands and arms) and can't drive at present. I live the SF Bay Area. Think I can contribute to many companies, but does anyone have any ideas about getting hired? This is the barrier I've encountered.
    • rentacoder.com
    • by pikine (771084)
      Since you can submit post on Slashdot, I assume you can input text to a computer. As long as you maintain a portfolio of your coding that demonstrates your programming skill, I think any company that worths its salt should be more than happy to hire you. You may want to specifically look for positions that require you to produce less number lines of code but demand the code to be of higher quality.

      Small companies are usually focused on growth, and they want to push for more lines of code, so they're less id
  • I'm a level three support (phone jockey) for a pretty large ISP. Customers ask all the time if I'm working from home. Drives me nuts; I'd love to, but i'm in a cube farm on floor two.
  • by autophile (640621) on Saturday May 12, 2007 @06:52PM (#19099509)

    If your company deals in IT spread all over the globe, then the company's IT workers are already telecommuting. They're just living in your office space 8 hours a day. NOW do the math!

    --Rob

    • ...if they're all in different parts of the world. Then you are forced to use online tools to get people coordinated. What usually happens is that on a team you have several people colocated in the same location, which needs to communicate with indvidual workers or teams in a different location. What happens is that information is explicitly or implicitly shared with the people on-site, but never put into the tools so the telecommuting workers are completely blindsided. That is also a big problem with offsh
  • O.U.T.S.O.U.R.C.E. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Tablizer (95088) on Saturday May 12, 2007 @07:51PM (#19099873) Homepage Journal
    I don't want to telecommute because one's boss may start to figure that if you can work from home, then so can someone in Asia or Russia for one-fifth the cost.
  • Unless you work for youself, as a contractor, whatever - telecommuting is career suicide. There are exceptions, but that's the rule, IMHO.
    • by mabinogi (74033)
      You did say it was just your opininion, but if you want anyone to give your opinion any weight, you're going to need to give a little more than just the opinion itself.

      Why should it be "career suicide?" In fact, how do you define "Career suicide" in the first place?
      • by xtal (49134)
        I'm basing it on 15 years experience in the industry. The only telecommuters I've seen make large metric volumes of cash, or achieve any metric of advancement - defined as senior management - in a company are ones who run their own companies, or are independant contractors.

        You best be immersing yourself in the culture of a company up to the eyeballs if you want to go that route, and telecommuting is not the way to do that. I'm not saying it's optimal; I'm not saying it's right, either - but I am saying that
        • by mabinogi (74033) on Saturday May 12, 2007 @10:04PM (#19100629) Homepage
          Ahh - you see, my definition of "career suicide" is - you lose your job and any chance of getting a similar one.
          Yours is "you probably won't get into management".

          I don't _want_ to get in to management. I've already advanced as far as I possibly can within my company - a senior R&D programmer (having advanced litterly from the bottom - doing casual handline envelope stuffing jobs). I don't see getting into senior management as "advancing my career", I define it as "Starting an entirely different career, and one I'm not suited to, telecomuting or no telecomuting".
          But in anycase, I don't believe the telecomuting would necesarily stop that - I'm pretty heavily immersed in the culture of the company - I've been here ten years, and believe I have earnt the sort of level of respect and recognition required for a move into management if that were my goal (and if I had any actual talent for it).

          Maybe five day a week telecomuting might put the breaks on advancement a little (I personally do two to three), but it's more about personality than face time. You just have to be the sort of person that people notice - and ensure that when they do notice you, that there's good things to see.
        • I don't wanna be a manager. So this is great news for me.

  • My previous boss viewed telecommuting as a supplement rather than a substitute. See, we had flex time. You could stay up as late working as necessary, so long as you were in by 8am. Telecommuting was viewed as "overtime lite". He wanted us to report telecommute time separately from time spent at the office.
  • by Rogerborg (306625) on Saturday May 12, 2007 @08:12PM (#19100025) Homepage
    If you can do the job from home, so can a guy in Bangalore who charges 1/5 of your salary.
    • If you can do the job from home, so can a guy in Bangalore who charges 1/5 of your salary.

      And on a different timezone with a lovely inability to speak to customers in decent English!!!!

      I telecommute. Cell phone is always attached and I return calls within 10 minutes unless on a conference call. E-mail is turned around as quickly as possible. I love telecommuting, I know that it will get old eventually, but they keep sending me checks!
    • And what I'm from Bangalore myself? Insensitive clod.
    • Nah. The guy in Bangalore will NOT be able to come down the office twice a week for a meeting. Doing stuff is easy. Knowing what to do is the tough part.
    • by aralin (107264)
      No, he cannot. Our company has problem to get people in Bangalore to do much less demanding jobs than mine. And if we ever get someone they don't stick for long enough to learn my job. I am feeling so utterly safe that I will gladly go to Bangalore anytime and train any number of people they hire to do my job, knowing I am still going to have it 2 years from now. Besides, going there and doing that is a nice stress free vacation in India. Can you say "personal chauffeur" and not smile? Oh, and I love other
  • Office phone (VoIP)
    Most/all of the broadband data
    Allotment for office equip: Printer, Router, etc. up to a fixed dollar amount
    Monthly office supplies, paper, ink, etc.
    Use a corporate credit card and submit expenses monthly

    I do this and the only noise I get is about the high price of printer ink. But it's from their preferred retailers so screw them.
  • Yea but... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Duncan3 (10537) on Saturday May 12, 2007 @10:06PM (#19100649) Homepage
    Thats all great, really.

    But the number one thing they will realize, is that if you working at home works, someone working in India for 1/6 the wage will work just as well.

    Don't be stupid people, if your boss is letting you telecommute, they are just beta testing offshoring.

    .
    • Ah but if he does that, HIS Boss may realize that he can cut costs further by hiring a manager in India that reports to him for that low low price. So if your boss is smart, he won't look at it that way. However, I have seen many bosses, and they barely plan forward enough to unzip when they are in the restroom. Realizing that something they do could cost them their own job, impossible.
    • by swillden (191260) *

      Don't be stupid people, if your boss is letting you telecommute, they are just beta testing offshoring.

      And what if your boss, and his boss, and his boss, and her boss are also all telecommuting? In some companies telecommuting is simply the normal way of doing business.

  • According to the article, two of the things your boss should know are:

      - it takes a particular kind of worker to be a successful telecommuter
    and
      - if telecommuting is an option for one employee, it should be available to all

    This sounds like it would be a problem.
  • Any company that even considers outsourcing should first consider telecommuting. Telecommuting DOES reduce an employee's overhead, both in time and money. In many places, an employee would much rather work for an extra hour rather than waste it in traffic. In return, they don't have to buy so much $3.00/gal. gas. As TFA pointed out, it's much easier to find good people when they don't have to move to accept the job, and if they can choose to live where they want, they don't have to demand a king's ransom fo

  • 7 years ago the posts on these stories were 100% in favor of telecommuting. Now they're probably 50% against it. What happened? It seems the jobs which allowed telecommuting went to Mongolia and the remaining jobs involve a capability that is only available in the office. Maybe it's some kind of network, test environment, or prototype hardware that only exists in the office.

    As predicted, the jobs which don't require being in the location are gone and the posts confirm the truth.

  • It occurs to me that the type of IT job that can be easily done from home is the type of job that could easily be done from India.

How much net work could a network work, if a network could net work?

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