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Telecommuting: How to make it a reality

No more commute!

Think avoiding a few of those rush-hour rides will get you more organized? Maybe there's a way to work part of your job from home. Amy Siroky shows you how.

Telecommuting woman

Lessen your commute

Ever dread getting up and at 'em just to sit in traffic? More jobs than you think can be done from the comfort of your home -- and some companies may even be willing to help you establish a work-from-home situation.

Here are some tips to help you lessen your commute from down the highway to down the hall.

1Establish yourself as a reliable employee

Unless you're getting set up as a telecommuter from the start, most employers will look to see that you have a performance history with them that makes you reliable. With an indisputable track record, your employer is much more likely to consider your request. Nancy Ellis, a partner in an architectural firm with offices in the San Francisco Bay Area and San Diego, says "Telecommuting would work perfect for my senior staff members. They have projects that could easily be worked on at home, and they've proven themselves so I know they can be productive in an isolated environment."

Your employer might defend the need to have you in the office by saying "I can't see you're working unless I can see you working." While this outdated but nevertheless prevalent attitude is akin to Big Brother, you can easily overcome it by agreeing on deadlines and deliverables for tasks and projects to demonstrate your productivity at home.

2Start small

Help your employer gain confidence in you by requesting just a day or two at home each week to start. One less day to drive in to work might be a life-saver for you; you could actually make the boys' soccer game and dinner on the same night! And your work at home for that day might be all the administrative paperwork that is required for the week and usually gets delayed, or in some cases, never done, because of office interruptions -- which would be a win for the office flow!

 

3Tell your employer about the benefits -- to them!

There are many ways that employers benefit by having workers telecommute. First off, since you start to feel that you have a better balance between your work and home life, you become a happier employee. Statistics prove that employees who are more satisfied in their jobs stay at their jobs longer. The cost to recruit, hire and train new employees is significant (about 1/3 of an annual salary), and the opportunity to reduce this expense whenever possible is overwhelmingly attractive to organizations.

 

Telecommuting can help solve some real-life office space problems that can translate to reduced real estate costs for companies in the long term. Companies can have employees who telecommute alternating days share the same office, thus reducing the need for two offices down to one.

Many employers are afraid telecommuting offers employees too many distractions, like hanging out at the fridge instead of the water cooler or watching Oprah instead of a safety video. The reality is quite to the contrary. Performaworks, an industrial-psychology and software firm, completed a study that demonstrated telecommuters are more productive than their colleagues who remain in the office, and actually put in more work hours than their colleagues who are office bound. This should be incentive to any organization that wants to get the most out of their employee dollar!

For larger organizations, telecommuting can help a company meet their diversity goals as they can hire a more diversified workforce, and they can more easily comply with clean air standards by reducing the number of employees who commute. In addition, both you and your company are helping reduce the use of our natural resources by minimizing the number of times per week you hit the road and the gas station.

4But I need a home office...

With perseverance, any part of your home can act as a home office -- a room fully devoted to a home office isn't always realistic nor is it always practical. You may start out using the kitchen table with your laptop on it, or you may want to devote just a desk in the corner of a particular room as your "home office."

 

If you don't have everything necessary to work from home, your company may be willing to cover the cost of some of the items for you. Karen Smith, a program manager for a nurse staffing company, says "My company was willing to provide me with a phone line for a business number and internet hookup so I could work at home two days a week. They know from my emails and phone calls into the office that I'm working steadily, and my productivity is usually even better from home."

5But they won't let me telecommute -- I HAVE to be in the office!

Think there's no way you can telecommute, that everything you do has to be done in the office? Think again, and get creative. Almost all jobs could have at least a portion of the work completed at home. Find the parts of your job that most easily transfer to telecommuting and focus on that in your pitch to your boss. It may be the weekly report writing, appointment setting, project research, or sales calling. In addition, many meetings can be participated in via conferencing.

 

Most likely, if you're interested in doing this you already have an idea about what you can work on from home. Remember, YOU are the biggest resource for your job, and your desk, office, phone and computer are just extensions of you that make it happen. Employers are becoming more savvy and telecommuting, where once totally dismissed, is now being considered more often. Starting out as a telecommuter If you're in the market for a job and want to try out Telecommuting, there are resources galore on the web and elsewhere to help you find a job. Several of the larger job search engines (Monster, Hot Jobs, Career Builder) use a keyword method for job searching -- insert "Telecommute" and you're off and working! A few of the sites that you will want to look at include: www.homeworkers.org, telecommuting jobs at www.tjobs.com, and the American Telecommuters Association.

So if you've become as familiar with car makes and models as the 15-year-old boy next door, and want to use the time you are shifting gears to shift your priorities, consider taking the steps above to becoming a telecommuter. Your family, your mental health, and your work will thank you!

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