View Full Version : Telecommuting? (kind of long - sorry...)

2-29-12, 10:13pm
My company has instituted a goal of getting a fair amount of staff to telecommute. For my office the goal is getting rid of 25% of our office space by getting people who realistically can to work from home 2-3 days/week. My dept is slated to be pushed in this direction sometime within the next year. However, people who want to start now are being actively encouraged to discuss it with their bosses and begin sooner.

I'd never really thought about telecommuting since I live in the city, have a fairly easy and cheap commute, and enjoy work, my coworkers, etc. But after thinking about it Iím considering the possibility. I've been looking at how I work and the things I do that need interaction vs. those that don't, etc.

I've also tried to come up with lists of pluses and minuses of working from home 2 days/week.

-save over 1 hour per day commuting
-no interruptions at home. work that involves reviewing complex stuff, and work that is just electronic filing type work could be done more efficiently at home
-the 'vibe' (or energy or whatever you want to call it) at home is better then the office. My home den is a cozy space, I could put on music without bothering cube neighbors, etc
-wouldn't need to dress for work. we're already biz casual, but for me that just means not putting on a tie. I still wear slacks/suit pants every day, which cost money to dry clean. Working at home I'd probably just wear jeans and a t-shirt.

The first two are probably the biggest. People stopping by my cube are not a huge annoyance, but I counted 10 interruptions one day and 7 the other day on the two days that I was tracking how I work.

-I regularly interact with boss regarding my work. Both just to get his opinion about things and also because I don't have authorization to make certain decisions and need his official approval. This can be done over the phone/online, but in general I find that it's easier/faster to just go to his office and have a conversation.
-Even though we're 'paperless' I still print out my submissions and work on them in paper form. (I'm a commercial insurance underwriter. I review applications for insurance from businesses). I routinely make notes on my printouts, etc. I could still do this from home but I will have to carry my 'current' account files back and forth.
-I like going to the office. I work in a busy central business district and like going outside at lunch and experiencing the hubbub of people milling around doing stuff
-I like the social aspect of being in the office. For instance my dept's assistant is a great guy. We chat over our cube wall often and sometimes go to lunch together, etc.
-I live on the foggy side of town and the office is in the sunny part of town. Often during the summer I leave home in the fog, come out of the train station at work to sunshine all day, then get on the train home and pull out of the tunnel near home to yet more fog. I like sun, and the idea of having yet another couple days/week of no sun might be a problem.

-work would provide me with a Wyse dummy terminal, 2 monitors and a phone. The only purchase Iíd need to make is a new desk. (we already have cable internet, so no cost there) Currently my home computer is in a non-computer armoire. Fine for surfing the Ďnet. Not fine for actually working. I already have a good desk chair.

So I guess my bottom line is that I certainly could work from home. And I likely will be expected to in the relatively near future. My question: Should I actively pursue starting now? My biggest plus is that I could do certain parts of my job more efficiently. My biggest minus is the useful interaction with my boss, but if Iím still in the office 3 days/week thatís not really a huge issue.

Iím curious what other peopleís experience has been working from home, and transitioning from working in the office to telecommuting.

2-29-12, 10:37pm
I'm in a very similar position to what you are describing. I also work in insurance so there is some interaction with other staff, but minimal with outside clients in my role and that is phone/fax/email/mail only. I'd been asking them about working from home for a long time, and in September the new boss decided to give it a go. I'm kind of an experiment. We have sales agents working at home in other parts of the country, but no one in a role similar to mine. Now I'm desk sharing with another employee. We each only have to come to the office 2 days a week. Otherwise we work whatever hours we want at home.

I really like the arrangement. I think full time at home would be a bit too much, though I would consider it if my commute was longer and I was given the opportunity. But I had more pluses and less minuses than you.

I'm pretty introverted and while I like some interaction it's not really an essential part of my day. The majority of interoffice stuff is already electronic. We don't go over to each other's desks that much. Generally when this happens it's more distracting for everyone in the area.

I go outside during the daylight more when I'm working from home as I give myself a walking chore pretty often. Even in the summer I just wasn't going outside at lunch that much. In the winter, it's dark going to work and coming home, so when I'm at home at least I see some sunlight.

One of the main reasons I wanted to work from home is that I am ALWAYS cold at work. Partly it's the building but mostly it's just me not being comfortable under 24C. I was tired of wearing long underwear all winter and most of the summer once the AC was turned on. And the air quality isn't great either.

As far as documents, how does your paperless system work? Ours allows us to make as many notes as possible on the electronic version, use sticky-notes, attach a word document or spreadsheet or whatever. It took a little getting used-to (we were all paper claims when I started) but now I love it. Mostly because my handwriting is so atrocious and I can type much quicker.

So overall, for me it's great. If there's a meeting or a particular reason to be in the office I sometimes go in instead of working from home. And if I'm sick I can work more hours than if I had to be in the office in order to work. For you, it probably won't be as great, but 2 days at home isn't that bad. I don't know if I'd volunteer in your case, but would definitely think of ways to make it better, since it sounds inevitable.

2-29-12, 10:55pm
I am the ED of a small, national non-profit, which I run from my garaoffice. Been doing this for 8 months. As an extrovert, I get lonesome. It's putatively a half time gig, though in reality is more... But mostly, I like working from home. I do spend a huge number of hours on my iphone in conference calls. I would love an office to go into periodically.

2-29-12, 11:33pm
I would LOOOOOVE an arrangement like that. I would actually prefer to work at home full time, but that isn't going to happen in my current organization. 2-3 days at home would be perfect -- I could concentrate and get big projects done on those days, and do the meetings/more administrative and collaborative bits on the days in the office.

I guess the only risk is that you try it and DON'T like it, and then can't go back to being in the office full time since the company really wants to reduce space. But I'm guessing they will shift to letting those who want to do it full time do so, and those who want to be in the office be in the office. Otherwise you have to share desk/office space and people get really cranky about that.

Good luck and let us know how it goes!


3-1-12, 1:10am
I'm retired - thank God! - but one of my biggest gripes when I was a corporate slave was commuting.

It's easy to keep in touch with your boss and coworkers by email, so don't be concerned about the boss not knowing what you're doing. If you are skilled with computers, you may impress the boss even more than you already have.

Go for it!!!!

3-1-12, 5:17am
I telecommuted for my job. It was absolutely awesome! In your case, you will have the best of both worlds. Since you like being in the office you will be there part of the time and still be home sans interruptions. I say GO FOR IT!

3-1-12, 6:35am
Working at home full time was hard for me, due to the lack of social interaction (I'm introverted, but social) , but 2 or 3 days in the office would be a nice balance. One of the other nice benefits of regular work at home time is the ability to be there for repair people and the like without having to take time off. Or the ability to throw in a load of laundry and the like in between conference calls.

3-1-12, 7:02am
Based on what people are saying, t's clear that this this choice should be driven by the amount of human interaction you think you need. I worked in Corporate for years and years, and for the past four have worked out of my home office in self-employment, and while I liked mingling with coworkers, I LOVE LOVE LOVE working from home. Maybe I'd feel differently and more isolated if DH didn't work from home also.

I have to admit that you do give up casual conversation, which not only can be a detriment from a social point of view, but a lot of times you start out casually with your coworkers and then talk about stuff that winds up generating good ideas for work.

The other thing to think about when you work from home is self-discipline. I've found I have to rein in tendencies to clean out a closet when report is due, just as a way to procrastinate.

On the plus side, it's great to have more access to just getting fresh air whenever you want. I can (and do) take my dog for short walks during work breaks--I just take my phone with me if I"m afraid I'll miss a phone call or email.

Seems like working from home a couple of days and going to the office a couple of days would be the best of both worlds. I think I would find it hard to completely give up the fun of working in a vibrant city.

3-1-12, 11:24am
I think the mix of working from home/in office time would be a great balance. I am an introvert, but actually enjoy (most of) my coworkers and aside from DH work is a good part of my socialization - if I worked entirely from home I would probably be a hermit, and for me that's not a good thing. Its one of the big things that stopped me from taking my ebay business to the next level. I would really have to work hard to seek out human interaction.

DH has the option to work from home one day a week and when he does it he finds he gets soooooo much more done because he is not distracted by people stopping by his office for help or questions or to chat, etc. Maybe you could ask your manager to start off at one day a week and see how it goes? I always think it would be great to throw in a load of laundry and get some small stuff done during the day. DH does that occasionally, but likes to use the time to focus on work. I have procrastination tendencies like Catherine, so I imagine that could be a problem...oh I'll just do housework or walk the dogs "really quickly" instead of doing this really important work thing.

I have a friend who began working entirely from home this year. His office was trying to reduce real estate costs (in DC, $$$) big time and told everyone they could telecommute exclusively. All the work they do is through email and phone anyway (patent attorney). This fall, he moved back to his hometown (where I live) and lived here very inexpensively with a roommate until this week...he was here to see the fam but mainly for college football! This week he is moving to north FL, to an affordable rental near the beach until next fall. College football isn't my thing, but what a great setup! He did have trouble being self motivated at first...its easy in a college town (in football season no less) to go out too often and then not be in prime shape to do a days work. I think he's in a groove now and enjoying the setup. He has met a lot of people but is having trouble meeting women our age (late 20s) but I think its more an issue of location rather than the work at home thing.

3-1-12, 12:49pm
I have worked at home for the past 12 years, the whole time I have been self-employed. To be honest, I left a somewhat dysfunctional office prior to going freelance, so I didn't miss people for the first few years. Plus my kids were small, and they were around a lot w/ DH. Now everyone is at work/school, and it takes some doing to feel sociable enough during the day (I'm not an introvert). I keep up with clients and friends through the computer and have recently again joined a group that meets once a month. Sometimes I get to work on group projects, so that helps. I also run errands during the day. But, yeah, if you're a social person it can feel isolating at times. That said, I appreciate my freedom to set my schedule more than I miss office politics!

3-3-12, 4:06pm
Thank you everyone for your comments. After reading them I've come to the realization that many of my minuses are really pretty minor if I'm only going to be home a couple of days per week. Five days a week and they'd matter a lot more. I have my annual review at some point in the next couple of weeks. I'm planning to take that opportunity to re-open this discussion with Boss and get started.

3-17-12, 11:59am
Tim Ferriss' (sp?) "The Four Hour Work Week" has some useful techniques for those shifting to full or partial telecommuting work. You might be able to find the suggestions for free on his blog, or check out his book from the library. He suggests specific communication apps to help you schedule meetings, keep on top of communications during projects, how to construct "if-then" memos, and how to schedule your day to be just as productive (if not more) when working at home. He also gives techniques on how to CYA while people THINK you are working "at home," but in actual fact are working in your "other" home...e.g. hotel room, beach, cafe in Buenos Aires, etc. Fun reading!

3-17-12, 3:03pm
I find that doing office work from home is more comfortable and efficient.

But the work that I do otherwise is in need of people (clients), so I have to go out of my home for that (unless I had a large enough studio space in my home, and many people do. :)