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Telecommuting’s Time has Come!

Dear Reader,

[DISCLAIMER: I work at one of the greatest companies in the tech industry. They let me telecommute. They get it…most of the time. They rock.]

The Problem

Because I telecommute and of late travel a lot, I don’t often fill up my car with gas. It’s not an exaggeration to say that I fill my little Miata up with gas once a month. SO you can imagine my surprise when I went to the pumps recently and discovered how much gas costs these day! (I know, old news) This got me to thinking. Usually, companies hand out telecommuting privileges to employees as a perk. “You can work from home one day a week.”, crap like that. These days though, with gas prices high, pollution worries (no I’m not a global warming alarmist but I think we should take care of the Earth when we can) and the price that people are beginning to put on their time, I think companies should have to justify to the employee when they want them to work from the office instead of home.

The value of time

1 hour a day spent sitting alone, behind the wheel of a car, even listing to great podcasts, is still 1 hour a day of your life wasted. All because your employer either doesn’t trust you to do your work or can’t figure out how to do his work without you standing next to him. Quality of life is important to me and I’m sure it’s important to a lot of you. I know many people who would rather cut out their commute and spend that time with their family or just sleeping later.

The Solution

The solution I’m proposing should be obvious by now. The technology exists to allow almost all office workers to work remotely. Before they were purchased by Sun, MySQL had 70% of it’s workforce distributed around the world, working at their own locations. Telecommuting is no longer a perk to be negotiated for; it should be common sense. It’s not a right but it is a clue for smart workers looking to switch jobs. Companies that do not immediately tout their telecommute policy are companies mired in the 70’s and 80’s.

I’ve said it before and I know I will say it again, if a manager doesn’t feel that they can get their job done with a distributed team, that is a failing of the manager. If you are in charge of a manager who won’t let employees telecommute because they feel they will lose control, fire the manager, get someone in who can actually do the job.

Conversely, if you have employees that you can’t trust to telecommute, fire them now. If you can’t trust them to work on their own then having them in a cube near you won’t solve the problem.

All of this was sparked because someone I know was pinged today about a job he wanted but had been previously turned down for. Now that he’s telecommuting, he’s really torn because while he still wants the job, he does not want to give up an hour a day of his time just to have it. So I’m calling on all employers. If you manage office bound staff, take some serious time and consider, do you really need your employees in the office each and every day? Can they do their jobs using the technologies available without having to be in the office? Will it improve morale if you offer them a perk that costs you nothing and gives them freedom? Take a step in the right direction, setup a telecommuting plan and let people discover for themselves if they can do the job.

Until next time,