Gas prices fuel telecommuting
(Page 2 of 2)
Nobody pretends that telecommuting is a panacea for everyone.Skip to next paragraph
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"There clearly are some jobs that would not be suitable for telecommuting or remote work," Mr. Houghton says. And some employers express concerns about possible isolation and the loss of community.
As vice president of a public relations firm in Seattle, William Brent knows the value of "water-cooler moments" in the office. But as a telecommuter himself one day a week, he also understands the advantages of flexibility.
These days, he hears colleagues talk about trying to work at home more or share rides. "As long as you get your work done, it doesn't matter too much where you do it," Mr. Brent says. Junior staffers, who might need more guidance, typically spend more time in the office.
When Brent moved to Seattle three years ago, he planned his work and living arrangements "to avoid exactly what is happening with oil prices." He walks from home to a ferry, takes a half-hour ferry ride to Seattle, then walks to his office.
Kehs, who telecommutes occasionally at her current job in Washington, D.C., thinks most people know their skills well enough to judge where they work best. "Some say, 'I wouldn't want to telecommute, because I'd be distracted.' Obviously you have to work with a high level of independence, initiative, and structure."
Gas prices are only one factor making a case for telecommuting, says Gil Gordon, a telecommuting consultant in Monmouth Junction, N.J. He notes that some commuters affected by a transit strike in Denver last month and by long-term construction on the Dan Ryan Expressway in Chicago could also benefit from it.
Challenger cites another catalyst that could spur the growth of a "telecommuter nation" - the threat of a pandemic. He thinks businesses could find many employees unwilling to report to work.
Even without that threat, Challenger offers this advice: "Companies should be addressing the issue [of telecommuting] now, before they lose people. People are concerned that it's too expensive to come to work. Companies need to come up with alternative solutions to make life easier."
Workplace experts offer the following suggestions for employees who wish to consider telecommuting one or more days a week:
• Ask yourself: Do I have the self-discipline necessary to work at home with minimal supervision? Am I well organized? Does my job lend itself to telecommuting?
• If the answers are yes, prepare a written proposal for your manager. Outline specifically how the plan will work and how it will benefit the company.
• Indicate that it is often possible to be more productive at home, where there may be fewer interruptions than in the office.
• Assure your manager that you will be available for conference calls and meetings by phone.
• Suggest a trial period. If it doesn't work out, the arrangement will end.
• Be sure you have adequate technology at home, as well as appropriate work space. The kitchen table won't do.
Managers, too, can weigh the pros and cons of telecommuting by asking:
• Does this employee have the right temperament to work alone?
• Am I willing to be open-minded and give the arrangement a chance to succeed?
• How will I keep in touch with telecommuters?