Telecommuting is an option that is proving attractive to employees
Paul R. Huard
Creators News Service
The alarm goes off, you roll out of bed, have a quick cup of coffee and the work day begins -- at home.
For as many as 20 million Americans, that is the way their day at the office begins. Telecommuting, which uses telecommunications technology with to enable workers to connect with employers and clients from a distance, was once seen as a white-collar luxury. However, it is now seriously considered an option that has environmental benefits as well -- as long as you are the right kind of employee.
"There is no doubt that if you can work from home, you are reducing the amount of air pollution created," said Kevin Green, executive director of the Clean Air Campaign. "Fortunately, many employers are seeing both the business sense and environmental sense telecommuting creates."
According to a recent survey by CareerBuilder.com, 60 percent of employers report they currently offer flexible schedules to employees and 39 percent plan to provide more flexible work arrangements. Thirty-three percent of the employers surveyed said telecommuting would be an option.
Mike Erwin, senior career advisor for CareerBuilder.com, said factors such as a desire to spend more time with their families, reduced commute times and flexible schedules currently are the driving force behind employee requests to work at home. In many industries where retaining a qualified workforce is an important issue, telecommuting becomes one more incentive that convinces workers to accept a job offer or keeps existing employees from going to another company that provides the benefit.
Sometimes telecommuting is part of a package of options that help the environment, which also includes carpools or four-day work weeks.
Technological developments during the last 15 years make it possible for people employed in office-oriented work and some professions to have full "offices" at home or on the road -- if they have a laptop computer and cell phone.
Working from home is also an attractive option for people who are facing $100 fill-ups any time they buy a full tank of gasoline: The cost has doubled in the past two years.
"I don't always think that employers are always looking to create an environmental benefit," he said. "I think employees are making employers hear about telecommuting more because they want the benefits."
However, Erwin says many employees and employers recognize the environmental as well as economic advantages telecommuting provides.
"Everybody benefits when they are allowed to work from home," he said. "People can be just as productive in the home as out of it."
Telecommuting fits the schedules and duties of a particular kind of worker. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, successful telecommuters have jobs suited to performance at a remote location, require little or no supervision, have managers that support the decision and work for companies that are pleased with the productivity of the at-home worker.
Many of the jobs that are ideally suited for telecommuting are professions in the "information" or "creative class" world of positions. These jobs range from accountants and analysts to software engineers and writers.
Connecticut is one of the states leading an effort to expand telecommuting options by convincing employers that they can make the option available and remain profitable.
Jean T. Stimolo, executive director of Telecommute Connecticut!, an agency of the Connecticut Department of Transportation, said that a 2006 survey indicated about 158,000 people in the Constitution State work from home.
"Many companies are surprised by the increase in productivity a successful telecommuting program can bring," Stimolo said.
Potential telecommuters should have a good work history that includes reliable and responsible job performance. They should also be the kind of worker who is self-directed, motivated, and can finish a task in a timely manner without constantly checking in with the boss.
"They need to work well without constant supervision," she said.
However, don't expect your company to pay for the installation of new equipment so you can have a home office. Stimolo said she see no trends indicating that employers are shelling out the capital need to create voice and data connectivity between telecommuters and the home office.