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April 22, 2011


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My company has 4 employees who live in 3 states. Technology allows us to live apart *and* not travel a lot to meet our clients (nationwide). Our main way of communicating is Everyone can gather, talk, view someone's computer screen, and even take over keyboard & mouse control of someone's computer. This service has significantly changed our work situation - all we need is a computer and a good internet connection.

My company basically allows employees to request for being a telecommute worker. However, it would not approve if you just want to save time and gas to drive an hour to work. Usually it is a state-to-state request. Approval is granted by the manager and the director. Of course, if you have a good proposal and a good performance will help your chance, but you can already apply just because your spouse gets a job somewhere else and you need to move with him/her.

We have offices in almost every state and usually close to main city, so the telecommute means you can work in those offices (not at home), rather than in the main headquarter. The company will fly you back to the headquarter at least once a year for the yearly performance review.

From the company's perspective, it really doesn't cost it a lot extra money to have an employee to work, for example, in Texas, instead of Illinois, because both properties are company owned, all equipments and furniture are setup already. With today's technology, meeting with everyone in the world is not a problem at all.

I inadvertently made the move to telecommuting about 8 weeks ago when I injured my back on the job lifting some servers. Pain in my left leg left me unable to work the clutch on my vehicle to drive to work, and it would have been inadvisable, anyway, due to the amount of narcotics the doctor prescribed, so I began working from home via laptop and teleconferences. It's worked out very well, and the only time I've missed has been this week when I went in for surgery. Should be able to return to "light duty" telecommuting on Monday. So, when the time comes that I want to move to a more congenial climate and telecommute, it ought to be a really easy sell.

I have worked from home for well over a year and really enjoy it. I save an hour a day in driving time and about two gallons of gas per day. Occassionally I have to go into the office for training but more and more of those are being done over the computer/phone via WebEx. When work-at-home became a talking point about 2 years ago, I put my name in the hat. They at first said it would be a six month rotation but after six months they dropped the rotation bit and I am now indefiently work-from-home. I don't have to commute, I don't have to be in a cube, I don't get exposed to other peoples sicknesses. The only negative is that I do learn somethings when I am around other people doing the same work. On another subject, my pay has flattened out and if I am going to ever see an increase, it will likely have to be with another company who may not allow for telecommuting. But since I have done this successfully maybe other places would see that I have the responsibility level needed to do it again.

I started telecommuting 2 days a week 16 years ago. I was the first one to try it, so I felt a lot of pressure to make it work so that the door would be open for others. A couple years later, I proposed working exclusively from home, and they agreed.

Now, my circumstances were a little different. I had a skill set that was hard to find, so it was an easy sell. (The economy was different then, and they knew that they had to try and retain the employees they had.) Plus, I had been a good performer for many years and had a great relationship with my manager.

My advice is similar to Steve's: be a great employee who is very flexible first and foremost. Maybe offer to ease into it to prove it can be done effectively. Then, make sure you are always available when telecommuting. You never want your fellow employees to think you might actually be at the gym or something instead of working.

Another possible benefit to the employer is that they could potentially save on office space. Sometimes thats a sunk cost and one less employee may not make a direct cost savings. But they could use your office for something else or if they get more people telecommuting then maybe they can downsize the office space and cut their building lease costs. If nothing else they save a little $ by not having you in the building cause you're not using their electricity, water, etc. Won't be a big difference, but won't hurt to mention cause it will offset any costs to set you up remote.

Your company has to be open to the idea for it to work and most bigger companies already have policies that are usually pretty well defined.

when i was working, i was able to negotiate Fridays off initially, and later thu and fri, and later the full week every other week, and then all week with travel on an as needed basis. it is possible in my experience, and the points above are essentially to "hit" to be successfully able to be to execute on it.

I know a couple of people (albeit for different employers) who've done this but it's a real career dead end in my line of work - you really can't manage people properly or work in a team that meets regularly or do anything client facing if you're sitting in your kitchen miles away. The people I know who've done it successfully have been doing low level support work on a contract basis - overflow stuff when the main office is swamped - and have only telecommuted for a while, when kids are young or whatever. My own employer would never hear of it. But that's just my field.

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