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Introduction Overview Telecommuting Jobs Benefits and Drawbacks Telecommuting and Information Technology Conclusion
Telecommuting is working from a remote location (often ones home workstation) using computers, telephones, facsimile machines, and other remote capabilities, rather than commuting via automobile or other mode of transportation to and from an employer's work site to perform equivalent work. There are many benefits to telecommuting, not the least of which are: Conserving Energy Preserving the Environment Improving Worker and Public Safety, and Enhancing Family Values Although the capacity to telecommute has existed for many years, it has only been in the last 15 years that an increasingly large number of people have turned to telecommuting in order to realize the benefits that have become more important to our society. The benefits of telecommuting are numerous and the time for demonstrating the effectiveness of telecommuting has past. Now, many organizations are working to implement it into their work option policies in order to reap the rewards that it has to offer, while enhancing their ability to recruit and retain high quality employees. Telecommuting, also known as teleworking, is the act of working from a remote location, usually one's home. This is made simple with the use of various telecommunications technologies such as a telephone, fax machine and the internet. Many telecommuters are also set up with web conferencing capabilities allowing them to sit in on office meetings via modem and web cam, or at the very least, a conference call. In most cases, telecommuting equipment is provided by the company, though it's up to the teleworker to provide an office space free of distraction. For the telecommuter, the benefits abound. Most enjoy the flexibility of working their own hours, at their own pace, as long as all deadlines are met. There's also the ability to work in one's pajamas or take breaks as needed at attend to personal family matters. Money is saved on expenses such as commuting, lunch or snacks, clothing and daycare. The flip side to this is the lack of camaraderie; telecommuting can be rather lonely. By missing out on the office gossip and small company meetings, one can also miss out on vital pieces of information. Even though most telecommuters enjoy working without a micromanaging supervisor looking over their shoulders, they also admit it's difficult for them to get a proper review when their employers can't see them on a day-to-day basis. It's difficult to stand out in an organization or be a team player when you're not there everyday.
Telecommuting not only enables an employee the convenience of working at home, it also allows the employer to save money on certain overhead expenses such as utilities. In addition, since telecommuters are happier, they're often more productive; they may spend more time working than their office working counterparts who tend to spend more time on lunch breaks or chit-chatting around the coffee maker. Absenteeism is down among telecommuters because sick workers still work at home and they put in longer hours because they never leave their office. If you're easily distracted or like to procrastinate, telecommuting may not be a good choice for you. If you're self-motivated and don't need constant supervision, it can provide an excellent opportunity. If you have a proven record with your organization, you're a good candidate for telecommuting. If you have a reputation for slacking off, however, it would probably be unwise to approach your employer about working from home. There's usually no harm in approaching your employer about a telecommuting opportunity. Research the pros and cons and be prepared to sell yourself. Just leave out the part about working in your pajamas. But like anything else in this world that sounds good, how much of that should be taken with a pinch of salt? Everything has a cost, so let’s take a look at the pros and cons, from a freelance writer’s perspective, of telecommuting.
“The look and feel of office space as we know it today is dying. At least that’s the view of a number of architects, developers, office furniture designers and analysts who are thinking about the way office suites will be arranged in the next decade. No longer will a typical office include a sea of cubicles and one big conference room. It will be designed to create a variety of spaces that inspire collaboration among employees, who won’t be chained to their desks. When they’re not huddling with others on a team project, they’re likely to be working at home or in the field, using laptops and cell phones as their connection to the main office, which may contain a limited number of cubicles because those stations will be occupied only when an employee stops by for a few days a month.”
Who are Telecommuters?
The following lists telecommuting variations: Typical Home Telecommuter: Employee regularly stays at home and works, usually no more than 2 days per week. Full-time Home Telecommuter: Employee routinely works from an at-home office or workstation within the same metro area as the normal office and travels only once per week or less frequently to the normal office. Telecenter/Branch Telecommuter: Employee works for reasons of convenience and travel saving at a different facility provided by the employer but retains a desk in the normal office. Telecenter/Branch Worker: People who are reassigned to working regularly and routinely from a remote Telecenter or branch office somewhere else in the metro area, their normal office being eliminated, downsized or shared. Virtual Office Worker: Employees who are provided at home or portable office equipment and have their normal office taken away because they spend the vast majority (typically 80% or more of their work time in the field. Long Distance Telecommuters: People who would have a company office with the rest of their work group if they lived nearby but instead are allowed to work from a distant residential location because their employer wishes to retain
them. They may report to a more convenient branch office, work from home office, or do both. Mobile Professionals: People who usually have a normal office to which they officially report to work but who are able to work continuously with location independence because of extensive travel requirements inherent in job responsibilities. Includes traveling sales people, field auditing trainers, and maintenance technicians. Independent Home Workers: Self-employed people or business owners who could have an office outside of the home but who choose not to and instead work routinely from an office at home. A Sampling of Telecommuters: A Vice President at a major telecommunications company telecommutes full-time from his home outside Pennsylvania, overseeing an operation with over 200 locations worldwide. He keeps in touch via email, daily teleconferencing and a videoconference link installed in his basement. A CFO of a toy company telecommutes, mostly as a road warrior, toting his laptop with him around the world. A health care manager saves 20 hours a week that she used to spend on clogged LA freeways. Instead, she drives to telework center just minutes from her home. The Telecenter provides phone lines, workstations, and office support service – all the comforts of the main office. A police sergeant telecommutes twice a week, performing casework and report writing at home. A group of nuclear engineers telecommute to a nuclear generating station in Arizona form distances of 60-80 miles one way. The engineers can get to the plant more quickly electronically than they can be car.
BENEFITS AND DRAWBACKS
Anywhere, Anytime: Look at the word closely, and immediately you will begin to see what it has going for it. Tele – commute: the ability to “commute” anywhere in the world, without actually leaving the comfort of your own home. In other words, the world truly is your oyster. Effectively, it means that there are no longer any barriers to who can work for whom, and thanks to e-mail, communication between the employer and the employee is faster than it has ever been. Recruitment Tool: Desirable employees may be attracted to the telecommuting option. Expanded Labor Pool: The physically challenged, parent with young children, people with aging parents, and families with dual-careers would be attracted to the telecommuting programs. This benefit gives the employer a broader range of applicants. Reduced Sick Leave: Instead of calling in sick with a cold or the flu, telecommuters can stay at home and still be productive. In fact, telecommuters work longer hours and more workdays than the average commuter. Increased Productivity: Telecommuters and their managers report that workers get more done when out of the office. In an AT&T sponsored survey of Fortune 1000 managers, 58% reported increased worker productivity. The State of California’s Telecommuting Pilot Program experienced productivity increases of 10 to 30%. Reduced Stress: Time is rare in the stressed society we live in today. Stress is among the top 10 reasons for missing work. Sitting in rush hour traffic on a daily basis and worrying about making it to work on time puts a tremendous amount of stress on the typical commuter. Disaster Preparedness: Companies with telecommuters can keep going when disaster strikes – weather related or otherwise. Thousands of displaced workers in the Washington, DC and New York metropolitan areas are telecommuting in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11.
Travel and the Environment
Not owning a car – for whatever reason - is no longer a barrier to being able to earn money. As a telecommuter, the only thing you need to get started is a PC, an Internet connection, a desk, a chair, and the motivation. If you are a believer in environmental causes, then telecommuting can allow you to earn while doing your bit for the environment. Global warming is a benefactor of telecommuting! Facility Cost Savings: There is less floor space needed if telecommuting employees shared offices on alternate days. The following information highlights some of the benefits of the employer, employee and the community: EMPLOYER EMPLOYEE COMMUNITY Increased Productivity Reduced Turnover Decreased Overhead for Office and Parking Spaces Improved Recruitment and Retention Decreased Commute Time, Costs and Frustration Increased Flexibility and Control Over Work Environment More quality time with loved ones. Increased Neighborliness Reduced Air Pollution Decreased Traffic Congestion Enhanced Economic Competitiveness
DRAWBACKS OF TELECOMMUTING
Telecommuting does not work for everybody. Certain issues like; isolation, procrastination, even boredom, get to some. Employees that are workaholics tend to not be able to cut off their day because they can use their laptop almost anywhere. Distractions at home like neighbors, household chores and family can easily take away from work. Family Turf Problems: Telecommuting can cause family stress. Some telecommuters report that their spouses resent leaving for work now that one partner is able to stay at home. Children can get confused too. Water Cooler Withdrawal: Social interaction obtained by working in an office can be missed. They may feel they are not being kept up-to-date in office politics. Telecommuter Track: Not being in the office everyday could cause a sense of being left out-of-the-loop. The loss of future promotions is a great fear of telecommuters. Some telecommuters were worried that their companies might think they were less committed to hard work. Alienation: Telecommuting means working from home can be as flexible as the telecommuter desires, but it also means the more jobs he gets from overseas, the more he can feel alienated on a much grander scale. When you are telecommuting on a global scale, the feeling that your home office is a small place to work is magnified to a much greater extent. It is therefore vital for all telecommuters to make sure they get plenty of vacation time and contact with the outside world. Sanity is a treasured commodity. Communication: Dealing with clients in a telecommuting situation, also puts the telecommuter at risk of severe frustration if they are required to work with other telecommuters especially if they are also spread around the world. For example, while you could read your brief in the wrong way and submit the wrong article, it also means your client may take something you say in entirely the wrong way, and end up being offended. Neither scenario is good if a long-term working relationship is at stake. Exchange Rates: A freelance writer telecommuting for an overseas company that pays in a currency weaker than their home country, can be prone to feeling that money is being lost.
For example, a freelance writer in the U.K. who earns $200 USD for a commissioned article will receive around £100 at the current exchange rate. It is therefore important to ensure you feel you are being paid fairly for the work you are required to submit. Technology: Telecommuting means there is a heavy reliance placed on technology for all manners of things. Suffer a PC crash or lose your interconnection, and you may as well be sitting on a raft in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. It is therefore vital that every telecommuter serious about their business, takes all precautions necessary to keep their PC and peripherals fully protected.
TELECOMMUTING AND INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY
“Technology, of course, is the major reason more people can do their jobs away from the office.” Today’s telecommuter could be one day working from home, the next day traveling on the road or airplane, the third day from a customer’s location and be back at the office by the fourth day. This is made possible by technology. This technology allows the telecommuter to take their office with them. Now the telecommuter can work anywhere that best suits him or her. Because of this worksite flexibility, the criteria that best suit the telecommuter are expanded. Companies usually realize after they set up telecommuting options for their employees that there are hidden costs in the form of computer support. There are more things that can go wrong at home than in an office environment. Telecommunication systems are not nearly as resilient in homes as they are in commercial properties. Storms can cause power surges that cause home computers to go down. Using the same computer at home for work and play can directly affect the heath of the computer. This only adds to the computer support costs that quickly eat away any salary savings created by the telecommuting program. In order for the telecommuter to be productive there are some technical issues to be resolved. The technical issues are computing equipment,
telecommunications facilities, access to corporate networks and software licenses. Over the past few years, computing needs for the telecommuter have changed drastically. Not long ago, all that was needed was modem and an alphanumeric display. A powerful personal computer with sufficient secondary and backup storage, a printer and high-speed communications are needed in today’s telecommuting environment. The maintenance and system administration needed for these systems are very much similar to that needed at the main office According to Uniform.org, “updates for system software and common applications must be obtained and installed, and repairs occasionally are needed. While major systems vendors provide rapid turnaround for hardware repairs, telecommuters may be drastically less productive while their system is being repaired. Access to e-mail, the Internet and the organization’s intranet limits the telecommuter’s access to timely information. Thus, organizational support for telecommuters should include the rapid delivery of loaner hardware.” Although some employers will provide all the necessary equipment, most telecommuting jobs will require that you have your own equipment. The type of hardware and/or software necessary to do a telecommuting job mainly depends on the type of job the telecommuter does. The following is a list of the standard tools needed for any telecommuting position: Internet-compatible PC with modem Internet Access E-mail service and e-mail address One or two telephone lines Fax machine or fax software Suitable work area that allows you to remain productive, professional and organized. Access to mail and other deliveries. FTP Access Scanners Special telephone lines or equipment Mobile phone Telephone Headsets Ability to place callers on hold
Long distance on the phone lines, high-speed Internet access and/or a minimum of two phone lines for their telecommuting associates may be required by some employers. Most employers require a licensed copy of the software used to do the job. The most common programs are listed below:
General Administrative Word Excel Access PowerPoint Graphic Design / Web Design Quark Xpress Adobe Photoshop Adobe Illustrator PageMaker A good HTML Editor Internet Communication Internet Explorer Netscape Other Compatible Browsers Many employers have their own internet-based applications for communicating with their telecommuting professional associates and private networks to optimize communication with special software to help you perform your duties. This is why high-speed Internet access is sometimes very important and many employers prefer computer savvy telecommuters so they can learn the software and do their internet-based telecommuting job well without training.
Telecommuting is on a growing trend. With more and more traffic congestion, single and working parents, improved Information Technology, and with more and more companies using it, telecommuting will continue to grow. The benefits seem to far outweigh the drawbacks. The question asked at the beginning of this report is, does Telecommuting work? According to the most recent studies, it appears telecommuting is a viable option in the work force today. The decision to work in a telecommuting capacity can open doors to the most varied and exciting work a telecommuter can possibly imagine. He can try it out; if he doesn’t like it, it costs nothing to stop – possibly the final pro of telecommuting.
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