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Build Your Career Home Office

Is Telecommuting Right For You?

Susan Steinbrecher, CEO and President of Steinbrecher And Associates, contributed this article to BusinessNewsDaily's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.

The office tower work model has begun to take its toll on our environment, as well as our personal lives. Day in and day out we commute from the suburbs, often adding more than two or three hours of travel time to our busy days — a fact that wreaks havoc on an employee's productivity and their quality of life.

In my book "Kensho A Modern Awakening," in the chapter "Towers in the Sky" I address the need for — and the challenges of telecommuting. In order for a telecommuting relationship to work, there must be a relationship built on trust. If this is lacking, the relationship between the employee and employer will surely break down.

Telecommuting employees should keep in mind that while work-life balance is important, it's crucial to be open and honest about the situation at home. For example, if working from home, are you able to arrange for sufficient childcare assistance? Here are some other considerations:

From the employer's perspective:

  • Does the work that you are asking the employee to perform absolutely have to be performed in your office setting?
  • Can you trust this employee to perform the task without a great deal of supervision?
  • How social is this employee? If they are extremely extroverted, working alone may be very difficult.
  • Can you provide some mechanism to allow for the team of employees to gather in person at least once in a while? This is important for alignment and relationship building.
  • Do you have technological resources to support long distance connection? For example Skype, email access and possibly a dedicated phone line?
  • How often does the employee's work require a "just in time" in person gathering? If it is a lot of the time, can it still occur with technology?

From the employee's perspective:

  • Do you have the space in the home to set up a home office that is effective and efficient in nature? For example, a room big enough, with a door to close, that is also quiet enough to minimize outside distractions etc.?
  • Are you good at working alone with minimal supervision and contact with others?
  • Do you have good time management skills to help you with setting priorities? It is often very tempting to run a load of laundry and do chores around the house as you are moving in and out of the home office. This can all be distracting and create a lack of productivity.
  • Do you have the family support to work in the home? Occasionally, family members see you at home and therefore assume that you are not in "work mode." You must be able to set boundaries with significant others in the household.
  • Are you more introverted or extroverted? Extroverts in particular struggle with telecommuting, as they are suited to talk things out with co-workers and brainstorm with others. You can do some of this over the phone, but it's not as effective with "high extroverts."

Employers must screen carefully when selecting employees for this type of work. Finding the right person who can really manage this well, taking into account their personal style, preferences and integrity is essential.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher.

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