By Vishal Rao
There are many mistaken definitions of what telecommuting means. The very name gives the impression of someone answering work telephone calls from home or typing furiously away at their computers.
Traditionally, telecommuting meant that an employee was linked from home to their company's computer network. But today telecommuting is much broader than that and really includes anyone who does even a portion of his or her work at home. This can include the computer or telephone work the name implies, but it can also mean researching, working on drawings, or performing other types of information analysis. Telecommuting really is as simple as a person working from somewhere outside the office.
There is also a misconception among many of today's workers that you have to own a business to work from your home. This just isn't always the case anymore. More and more people are able to perform their jobs from home. Now more than ever the business world is realizing the variety of benefits telecommuting can have on companies and their personnel.
Exactly what are the benefits of telecommuting? Here are just a few:
1. Less time for commuting means more time with the family.
Even if a worker's commute is only 30 minutes each way, which isn't much in today's business world, not having to take this commute can add an extra 5 hours a week an employee can spend with his or her family. This is 5 hours the employee wasn't previously working or doing personal things. Just 5 hours of dead time during the week getting from one spot to another.
2. Telecommuting can also provide a person with the ability to handle personal appointments without having to take entire days off.
Employees can take an hour or two through the day to go to doctor appointments or school conferences close to their homes and simply make up the time later in the day. This can equal higher productivity for employees.
3. Less commuting can reduce an employee's costs.
For many of today's employees, the price of gas and car maintenance is on the rise. These costs associated with going to the office can be greatly reduced by telecommuting even a couple of days a week. Many workers today even say they would take a job making a little less money if they had the opportunity to telecommute. This can truly be a win-win situation for the employer and employee.
4. Less distraction equals more work.
It's no secret that often the hardest place to work is at the office. There is a world of distractions there ranging from ringing telephones to chatty co-workers. Even telecommuting part of the time can reduce these distractions and make work more efficient. And if everyone comes to the office at least one common day a week, meetings and review sessions can be held on this day and the rest of the week left for more intense work.
There are some challenges to telecommuting for both employees and their companies, but if you really want to telecommute most of these can be handled with a few simple strategies:
If your employer feels face-to-face communication is important for your business, suggest that all of the employees come to the office on at least one common day a week. Meetings can be held on these days, and you can go over what you've accomplished while on your telecommuting days.
2. Set and track goals and progress.
One of the biggest fears of employers when it comes to the idea of telecommuting is that they don't have any way to monitor what the employee is doing through the workday. It takes a lot of trust to assume an employee is hard at work when they are out of the boss's sights. Help eliminate this concern by coming up with ways to track and share your progress. This will also help you make sure you are making the most of your opportunity while still fulfilling your work responsibilities.
3. Delineate between your workspace and your personal space.
It's just good practice to have a spot designated for your work. Even if it is the kitchen table, set yourself up in the morning and pack your things back up in the evening when work time is finished. This will help you stay on track when working, and not be tempted to work when it is your personal time. It will also serve as an indicator to your family of when you are working and preferably not to be disturbed.
If you are looking for more information on telecommuting, such as how to approach your boss with the idea, you can contact The American Telecommuting Association for some more information. They sell some booklets on telecommuting topics.
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