Working from home: An experiment in telecommuting

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 24% of employed Americans (almost as many men as women) report working from home at least some hours each week, and the federal government is hoping to divert up to 60% of its workforce to home offices within the next few years. With Yahoo ordering telecommuters back to the more collaborative office setting to boost innovation – a smart move according to labor analysts who study such things – other studies continue to prove that productivity peaks when telecommuting. So home is where I’m now going to be writing for IB on Mondays.

To the surprise of many an HR director, many telecommuters lament that it is often more difficult to complete their jobs in 40 hours a week from home, given the discipline needed to offset home interruptions, attend the necessary meetings with work colleagues and clients, and overcome file-sharing obstacles. I well understand that last point; I had reference materials for two business blogs saved on our work network. I didn’t think to bring home my work laptop, which has file-sharing abilities, so … back to the office over the weekend for a couple of hours.

Once I sat down at my desk to retrieve a file on Saturday, well, heck, I decided I might as well check email again, and while I was at it, do our payroll distributions, and well … you know how that goes. Two hours later, my husband called to see if we were still going out to dinner together – a typical call made whenever I go to the office “for a minute.”

The keenest pushback to telecommuting usually comes from managers, who (talking with peers) worry that some workers are shirkers or that they (managers) will lose control of the workflow. At IB, to apply for work-from-home privileges for part or all of a week, your supervisor first has to agree that the job or activity logically can be done from home as well as from the office. You have to have been employed by IB for a year, minimum, so that we have a good grasp of your work ethic, and you can’t be under a performance-improvement plan. We consider it on a case-by-case basis.

We now have five other people telecommuting a day or more per week, though no one spends the entire week out of the office. It’s worked out well enough for them that I’ve decided to try it myself, ideally for the specific purpose of completing a week’s worth of writing assignments in a day, as I write business blogs for outside corporations, providing contracted content from IB. Then I’ll spend the rest of the workweek in more collaborative activities in office.

How’s it going? Well, I got up an hour earlier than usual so as not to establish a routine of sleeping in, and I made myself dress like on any other workday. I had previously scheduled a client meeting for 8:30, but she agreed to meet in a nearby coffee shop, so I killed two birds with one stone, getting my mandatory morning cuppa joe without making a special trip.

Back home, I’m actively creating a new Monday routine for my dogs. I thought the three pooches lie around and watch television or sleep all day (I leave the TV on to mask neighborhood noises to reduce barking). Alas, not when I’m home. Although I know they can and do go for eight hours between “outside” urges when I’m at work, they now bark at the patio door to be let outside about every 10 minutes to frolic or explore, even in the rain. Gene assumed sentry duty and barks every time someone walks past our corner house with a dog. These are behaviors the Momma Alpha Dog is actively squashing. (Continued)


The downstairs television being on doesn’t work for me either, as I can listen to instrumental music, but words compete with writing. When I turned off the television, the dogs migrated upstairs to lie at my feet, and when they aren’t barking at the door, there is the occasional nudge for a belly rub. But I can deal with that.

Snacking could be a problem, since usually we keep sweets around for grandkids. Lucky for me today, since I caught myself foraging twice between blogs, nobody has gone grocery shopping lately, so I’m limited to teriyaki beef jerky, canned hominy, or instant oatmeal. I’ll have to buy only fruit for the kids or I know I’ll add a few extra “Monday pounds,” and I don’t need them.

That’s it from Home Central. There’s a pie to bake and the attic to clean (just pulling your leg, Bill). Actually, there are 102 emails still to check, and more stories lined up. Catch up with you Thursday, when you can read the “Open for Biz” blog that I also wrote today – actually ahead of schedule! So far, so good.

Are you telecommuting? If not, why not, and if so, how so? I’d love to know your experiences and best practices.

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