Telecommuting: Is It for Me?
Working from home, or telecommuting, is the dream job for nearly everyone. According to the Houston Chronicle, teleworkers comprise more than 20 percent of the workforce and Deloitte and Cisco report that close to 90 percent of their employees are telecommuters. Federal employees are beginning to enter the telecommuting workforce as well.
However, not everyone has the temperament or the skill set necessary for telecommuting. For both the employer and the employee, telecommuting requires a different mindset than that required for on-site employment. Often, the privilege of telecommuting must be earned rather than obtained straightway because a supervisor wants to ensure that the teleworker has the necessary skills for the position.
Five of the top ten mandatory skills for telecommuters, according to Forbes, are in the areas of self-discipline. A teleworker must have the ability to self motivate rather than spend the day watching television or playing games. He or she must be able to deliver the project or documents timely and accurately. Not only does the supervisor need reliability from a telecommuter, he or she also needs:
- Decisiveness and good judgment
- Superior technological skills
As companies continue the trend toward downsizing and accomplishing more with fewer resources, managers must rely on employees who have initiative and are innovative. Telecommuters must have a high level of individuality in order to think creatively and plan how best to achieve their objective on schedule. Being able to cross hurdles without supervisory input and make professional and intelligent decisions are crucial to the success of the telecommuter as well as the confidence level of the supervisor.
The ability to organize the day so that priorities are met in order of their importance is another essential skill for those who work from home. Knowing that a project or report will be delivered accurately and on time can alleviate considerable stress on a manager. Organization also entails tactfully setting limits as to availability and ensuring that work is performed within those hours. A common misconception is that if the teleworker is at home, he or she is available on a 24/7 basis.
Decisiveness and Good Judgment
While it is important for the telecommuter to have superior decision-making skills, his or her manager must have confidence that if the occasion arises, the teleworker will seek supervisory input. Poor decisions can adversely affect the company, the supervisor, and the teleworker.
Since most of a teleworker's communication is through email, text messages, and the like, it is imperative that he or she have superior communication skills. This includes having a professional environment for calls, conferences, and so forth. It's easy to be unaware of what is going on in the office when the teleworker is not there, so keeping in touch with coworkers and business associates is essential for the teleworker.
Having the initiative and the technological skills to obtain pertinent data and extrapolate the contents into a cogent report or project can make the telecommuter an invaluable commodity to his or her supervisor. The advent of the cloud as well as rapidly increasing communication technology enables the telecommuter to participate materially in office activities and communication. However, these technologies require the telecommuter to keep his or her skills honed in order to stay abreast of the latest technological advancements. This may involve classes taken during the telecommuter's off hours but it is essential to the advancement of his or her career. Many times, certificates in specific programs are available and paid by the company as continuing-education type classes and do not require the commitment of an entire semester at a college.
Telecommuting involves much more of a team concept than American workers are used to. Although common to the Japanese, Americans are more used to a competitive environment in the workforce. The team concept requires considerably more compromise when it comes to conflict resolution than does the competitive spirit but the team concept provides a more productive office environment.
The autonomy provided to the telecommuter and its resultant reduction in stressors can prove significantly advantageous both to the employer and to the telecommuter. Productivity increases, management costs are reduced, and employee morale increases; telecommuting can be a win-win for all.
Small business and marketing specialist with years of experience in the industry. He has watched as the world of online business has grown and adapted to new technologies.