Telecommuting, or working from home or another place other than the regular office, is becoming more prevalent these days.
A study by the Consumer Electronics Association has found that 37 percent of employed adults in the U.S. work from home at least one day a month, and that a large number of them are planning to spend a good chunk of change on technology products to make it easier to telecommute.
The progress of technology has helped accommodate the telework option. Wireless devices, web applications and collaboration tools such as online meeting software make it much easier to interact with managers and colleagues even when you're not in the office.
There are a number of reasons people would prefer to work from home rather than in an office:
- They can focus better on their tasks with fewer disruptions.
- They can avoid a long commute, at least part of the time, which is more environmentally friendly and saves valuable personal time.
- They can save on fuel or transit costs.
Companies may also offer telecommuting options for the following reasons:
- To promote work/life balance.
- To save on real estate costs.
- To encourage productivity and reduce costs associated with lost time due to disruptions.
- To foster a "green" workplace culture.
Drawbacks of Telecommuting
On the other hand, some employers are reluctant to allow telecommuting because:
- The employee has less face-time with managers and peers, which can be a major communication roadblock.
- The employee is out of sight and can't be monitored over the course of the day, which leads to fears of lost productivity.
When Telework is Not Ideal
There are some cases in which it would not make sense to have IT staff working from home. It really depends on the individual's role and the other company departments that he or she interacts with the most.
For example, an IT staffer who has to work with the hardware installed onsite, or who regularly troubleshoots issues at users' desks, may have no choice but to come to the office every day.
Security issues and compliance with regulatory requirements may also mean a tech worker may not be able to access or develop certain software, such as financial applications, from a remote location.
When Telecommuting Works
On the other hand, if you have an IT job where you work independently most of the time, working from home may be a reasonable option.
A software developer, for example, may be a good candidate for a telework arrangement. If you're in a phone tech support role with no requirement to go to the user's desk, telecommuting may be an option for you too.
How to Make Telecommuting Work for You
If you do get the go-ahead to work from home, here are a few ways you can optimize your arrangement:
- Make sure you still come into the office once in a while: Even if you work from home full-time, it's a good idea to interact with colleagues in person to keep the communication going. Attend regular face-to-face meetings.
- Discuss expectations with your employer: Know when you're expected to be onsite, and make sure you're familiar with the company's telework policy.
- Establish communication protocols: Make sure people know how to reach you during work hours, no matter where you are.
- Establish a schedule for tracking progress: This will help both you and your employer gauge how productive you are when working from home.