The American Telecommuting Association

1220 L Street, NW, Suite 100

Washington, DC 20005

1-800-ATA-4-YOU

What's So Good About Telecommuting?

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What Is Telecommuting?

Is there anyone alive who hasn't heard of the concept of "telecommuting"? This convenient way of working was originally conceived and practiced by iconoclasts and steadfastly practical professionals who insisted on the right to avoid that long commute into the office on days when they had a great deal to do -- and do alone. Today, telecommuting is second only to "casual days" as the fastest-growing shift in traditional working patterns, and it's far more helpful than wearing sneakers and tee-shirts for accomplishing more work in less time.

As you can imagine, telecommuting is broadly defined, and includes any method for working productively while away from the traditional office. Telecommuters include everyone from computer programmers in Denver reporting to an employer in Australia, to an executive who stays at home one morning to study a complex contract, to a data-entry clerk who works on a desktop in her spare bedroom, to a sales person who rarely leaves the territory in which he lives and works.

Already many large firms have their phones answered in Kansas or Bangladesh. They can just as easily have their graphics, advertising, market planning and analysis, and other information-intensive activities done by telecommuting workers equipped with advanced technology and supported by the "information highway."

Many people confuse telecommuting with telecomputing, or believe that telecommuting requires an awful lot of computer gear. Actually, you can telecommute with only a paper, pencil, and telephone. And you can even leave out the telephone if all you're doing is reading and thinking.

But if computers and other equipment can help you be more productive in the office, then that same type of equipment can probably help you be more productive when telecommuting. Even better, the power of computers to send and receive all kinds of information can allow a telecommuter to remain very closely connected with those working in the office -- an important advantage for many of today's information-intensive and group-oriented jobs.

In fact, with more and more computer and communications devices becoming so portable and inexpensive, telecommuting has become cost-effective and viable enough to attract the attention of both large and small organizations.

Advantages

One of the most pleasant surprises about telecommuting is that it's a win-win-win situation for the individual telecommuter, the employer, and society as a whole.

 

  1. The individual benefits from telecommuting because he or she immediately eliminates the time, trouble, and expense of physically commuting to work. This gives the average person an extra hour per day, right off the top, to use for the thinking, the writing, the telephoning, the planning, and the reporting work which helps keep the business organization moving forward.
  2. The benefits of telecommuting also translate directly and immediately into more discretionary time, more time with the family, less stress, and general health improvements.
  3. In addition, because you're working at home (or very close to it), you have more control over your time, more flexibility to take a short break and change a diaper or drive a child to a friend's house, more freedom to cook your family a nice meal, and less pressure to cram every spare minute with useful activities.
  4. Commuting costs are much lower for telecommuters, too, who tend to feel more in control of their lives than employees who travel five days a week to a distant location to do their work.
  5. The family generally likes having Mommy or Daddy around for that extra hour each telecommuting work day, and presumably benefits from not getting dumped on by the physical commuter's unspent frustration that so easily and often accumulates during the trip home.
  6. The employer benefits from telecommuting because of the extra productivity that results -- consistently clocked at 10-15% in nearly every such study during the past two decades.
  7. The employer also saves on expenses. For example, by having just half its work force telecommute as little as one day a week, an employer cuts down by 10% on its need for offices, desks and chairs, bathrooms, copy machines, parking spaces, heating and lighting, and all the rest.
  8. In addition, telecommuting helps the best employees remain longer with the same employer, saving on recruiting and training costs. Telecommuting also makes it practical for the organization to reach out another 10, 20, or 30 miles (or more) when finding qualified people to fill important posts.
  9. Society benefits from telecommuting because it immediately cuts down on air pollution, use of non-renewable energy sources, and traffic congestion.

Practically the only losers in the world of telecommuting are those companies who haven't yet shifted to it, and those co-workers who feel jealous because they're not yet allowed to work this easier, better way.

 

Millions of people in the United States and around the world have discovered the power, the pleasure, and the productivity improvement that comes with Telecommuting to work. This is your invitation to join us and help to share these benefits with others.

A simple $10 donation gives you proud membership in the American Telecommuting Association, and gives us the power to continue distributing information and know-how about telecommuting to the thousands of people who inquire every month. If you're enjoying the benefits of telecommuting, or if you'd like to, won't you please make a donation to help the ATA continue its mission of enlightenment and empowerment?


 

How To Telecommute

The basic idea of telecommuting is to replace or supplement physical travel to the office by using modern telecommunications equipment to bring office resources and information out to the person.

Rather than do all their work at a central office, telecommuters work at least part of the time at home, at shared offices or at dedicated centers for telecommuting, in their cars, from clients' offices, and/or in hotel rooms and coffee shops. By using portable computers to link into company data networks, fax machines to send and receive documents, and telephones to conduct meetings and to interact with colleagues and support staff, telecommuters can accomplish at a distance everything -- or nearly everything -- they can accomplish in the conventional office.

By carrying cell phones and frequently dialing into the organization's voice mail system, telecommuters can remain in close, frequent contact not only with co-workers, but with clients or customers who expect rapid call-backs at a moment's notice.

Meanwhile, a "core" group of employees at the central office provides secretarial, administrative, and support services during normal business hours for those who are in the office that day, as well as those who are telecommuting.

A few people still think of telecommuting as a fringe activity not fit for mainstream organizations. They argue that people who escape direct observation by front-line supervisors will not be productive enough to justify their employment. But years of experience have demonstrated that telecommuting, properly planned and administrated, is actually a very efficient alternative to traditional office-centered activity.

Employers in telecommunications, insurance, pharmaceuticals, computer hardware and software, sales,  manufacturing, utilities, and other industries, as well as government agencies are noting major productivity gains directly from telecommuting.

One pattern that has emerged in successful telecommuting programs is to have employees spend at least one or two days in a centralized office. This gives everyone the chance to remain part of the office team, to reconnect with colleagues and project timetables, to attend important meetings, and to demonstrate to supervisors that they are keeping up with their responsibilities.

In this model, the "core offices" can become something like "drop in centers," with shared work spaces containing a desk, a phone, and a simple method of connecting the portable computer to the data network. There should also be secretarial support, meeting rooms, and office equipment. Unlike traditional office space, however, telecommuting means you need fewer such work spaces for a given number of employees.

It's a myth that to be a telecommuter, you have to kiss the office goodbye. In fact, the vast majority of telecommuters still work in the office three or four days per week, and telecommute only one or two. You can telecommute more often, of course, but that's not necessary in order to gain the benefits.

Certain jobs -- such as telemarketing, computer programming, writing and editing, administration, and executive decision-making -- can be handled by means of telecommuting more easily than others. But almost every office job has components -- thinking, writing, reading, planning, telephone contact, computer work, and more -- that can be done very effectively while telecommuting.

In many offices, employees now re-structure their activities to accommodate telecommuting. For example, instead of using a few paper-based files every day, people save up their work with the paper files and do it during the days they are in the central office. Then they do other parts of their job on the days they are telecommuting.

Managers, too, can adapt. It's not difficult to plan a little further ahead. In fact, it's usually more productive. But even those who like to "call a quick meeting" on the spur of the moment can learn to put distant telecommuters on a speaker-phone with those who are in the office.

Telecommuting also seems to work best when the employees selected for this mode of work are screened, evaluated, and trained. Skill in time management and goal-orientation help telecommuters deliver their results according to established deadlines so that others -- who themselves may be telecommuters -- can rely on these results when fulfilling their own responsibilities. The ATA has developed a unique Telecommuting Affinity Index that helps individuals and organizations do a quick evaluation on the likelihood of success for any person or group of people. For more information on this Telecommuting Affinity Index, click here.

The most effective telecommuters are those who develop specific goals to achieve, and who have their success measured by results rather than by hours clocked or meetings attended.

Success at telecommuting also seems linked to employees who have stronger-than-average motivation and drive to succeed. It's relatively easy for people to master today's technology: the computer, the fax, the modem, and the teleconference. What takes a little extra effort is mastering themselves.

Successful telecommuters tend to be independent enough to keep working without the eyes of the supervisor upon them. The ones who enjoy it tend to be self-sufficient enough to stay productive without the hourly feedback and support of colleagues.

Although it may be difficult to establish and maintain a good working relationship by telephone and fax, experience shows that once a telecommuter meets another person and establishes a relationship, the two can accomplish much of their work without frequent face-to-face contact.

 

Millions of people in the United States and around the world have discovered the power, the pleasure, and the productivity improvement that comes with Telecommuting to work. This is your invitation to join us and help to share these benefits with others.

A simple $10 donation gives you proud membership in the American Telecommuting Association, and gives us the power to continue distributing information and know-how about telecommuting to the thousands of people who inquire every month. If you're enjoying the benefits of telecommuting, or if you'd like to, won't you please make a donation to help the ATA continue its mission of enlightenment and empowerment?


Technology For Telecommuting

In the old days, almost everyone who considered telecommuting was afraid that the cost would be astronomical, including the need to outfit an entire "home office" and to pay for expensive office equipment. Today, those costs are relatively small, but they are still unnecessary. Every time you're away from your workplace and thinking about work, you're telecommuting. And all it really takes is your own brain.

You're telecommuting when you go over some materials while sitting in a coffee shop, or when you sit up in bed and make some notes about a project or presentation you're charged with, or when you muse about how to handle a difficult work situation while sitting in traffic or waiting in a restaurant for your dinner to be served.

But some technology can be helpful.

Personal computers are particularly common among telecommuters. In many situations, the first employees to be permitted to telecommute are people who regularly use a computer, such as programmers or graphics specialists. Using a computer at home is often one of the easiest and most effective ways to telecommute. That's why executives and other white collar employees will often save their computer work for the days they telecommute, and will use their time at the central office for meetings and other relatively low-tech activities. In fact, it's common for fledgling telecommuters to begin using a laptop computer specifically to increase their telecommuting capabilities.

Although you can telecommute and use a computer in "stand-alone" mode, you'll probably want your computer equipped with networking capabilities, so it can share information with other computers in the company. In some cases, this capability will allow you to perform at home or even on park bench all the same computer work you once did only at your desk.

In addition, if you're spending a lot of time working at home, or doing certain kinds of work, you may want additional equipment -- a fax, a copier, a printer, a second telephone line (dedicated to business calls), and perhaps even a scanner.

Modern technology makes it easy and fast to hook up a powerful desktop or laptop computer to lightweight devices that combine a fax, printer, copier, and scanner into a single small unit that costs less than $300. Suddenly, you've got a powerful, complete business system right there in a spare bedroom or a corner of your kitchen!

Millions of people in the United States and around the world have discovered the power, the pleasure, and the productivity improvement that comes with Telecommuting to work. This is your invitation to join us and help to share these benefits with others.

A simple $10 donation gives you proud membership in the American Telecommuting Association, and gives us the power to continue distributing information and know-how about telecommuting to the thousands of people who inquire every month. If you're enjoying the benefits of telecommuting, or if you'd like to, won't you please make a donation to help the ATA continue its mission of enlightenment and empowerment?

To become a Member of the ATA, call 1-800-ATA-4-YOU , e-mail to YourATA@yourata.com, or simply press the payment button below.


 

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Last Updated: August 11, 2008
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