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Considering telecommuters for your business?

Today’s guest post talks about changes in the workplace surrounding remote workers.

One of the reasons I started Granite Bear back in the 90s was because of a conflict (yeah, that’s glossing it over) over working remotely.

This post discusses the changes in thought processes involved in starting a telework program. Unlike many posts, this one talks at a higher level than most discussions about telework (also called telecommuting), and addresses issues that management has to have under control before going head first into using remote workers.

4 replies on “Considering telecommuters for your business?”

It can take a bit extra care to manage telework but mainly it is just regular management. I know I am more effective programming at home. And I can also get some things done more effectively at work. In general though the bias favoring working in the office excessive. People tend to notice every problem that is related to telecommuting and act as though it is a big deal while ignoring problems at work (way to many wasteful meetings, distractions…). Plus for some, like me, telecommuting is a huge competitive advantage for the company (limiting my commuting time and several days a week to concentrate away from the distractions of the office is worth a great deal).


I agree, for the most part, it’s a good, productive thing for certain kinds of jobs.

BUT – I’ve lived both sides of this and I can tell you that it very much depends on the people involved on both ends. It takes the right kind of worker and the right kind of management to make it a big win.

I agree that it takes the right kind of worker and the right kind of manager. The fear is that workers aren’t going to be productive at home, but I’ve found as both a worker and manager that the office can be the biggest productivity killer. The biggest time killer is commuting. 1 hour each way is common in Los Angeles, so that’s 10 hours per week of lost time. Non work related conversations, useless meetings, etc. eat another 10 hours per week easy. The dirty secret about telework is that workers actually work longer hours because they’re always at “the office.” The hidden benefit to telework is widening the pool of qualified applicants beyond a 1 hour drive from the office.

I agree, it depends completely on the person. However I have experienced a number of disadvantages with telecommuting which are not often discussed.

The most critical I think is Out of sight, Out of mind. The employee does their job, but only their job. There’s no way for them to show leadership ability, no way to help junior staff, no way to contribute to the office moral, in other words no way to really “grow” as an employee.

For example, a programmer works well in a quiet, uninterrupted environment. And they can become an excellent programmer in this environment. But they do not learn, or demonstrate, any inter-personal skills. They may be brilliant managers, be fantastic with customers, or have a bent for marketing. But without interacting with other people in the office it’s hard for these skills to be noticed.

There are many times when the team is bigger than the parts. While each individual’s productivity can suffer from over-exposure to social interaction, they can also suffer from not enough exposure. Spending days fixing a bug (which someone else can do in minutes), or planning a new sales campaign, or bouncing a new feature off the others before implementing it, can all be major time wasters. Yes the programmer is productive, but oftentimes that productivity gets lost between his desk and the customer.

A partial approach is then suggested, with a trip to the office at regular intervals. But still, the day-to-day immediacy of things are lost. Perhaps we now need to wait till Friday for that get-together to bounce an idea or two around.

If you’ve come to the end of your career path, and your job requires little, or no interaction with others, then telecommuting makes sense. For those that want to grow, discover, learn and so on, it can be a fatal flaw to remove yourself from the herd.

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