Is it Time to Telework?

The one constant about life in Northern Virginia is traffic. Should you work from home?

Living in Northern Virginia means dealing with traffic.

The concept of "rush hour" is lost when commuters jam the roads from 5 a.m. until 7 p.m. and a single accident, broken-down car or construction zone can bring everything to a standstill at times.

So, maybe it's time to make the business case to your boss to allow you to telework?

The many benefits of telework for the employee 

  • More time! Telework means that you can do the impossible: Take back all the time that's wasted in traffic (and even some you may not have considered). Think about all that time preparing for your commute, packing your lunch, settling in upon arrival and even time spent being polite and chit-chatting your way through the office.
  • More money. The wear and tear on a car and the price of gas are significant contributors to your budget. Having a work-friendly wardrobe that requires fewer items can save you money. With a coffee pot at home and a kitchen of your own, you should be able to save money on lunches, coffees and snacks. You will also feel less pressured to join colleagues at pricey outings.
  • More flexibility. When you are in an office far away from home, having work done at your house, waiting for a delivery or getting a repair means that you have to use your leave to wait around on others. Working from home means that you can be productive and get paid while that 4-hour window given by the cable company ticks by.
  • More connectedness to your family and pets. Working from home means that you can see your child off to the bus stop or take your coffee break with your dog on a walk around the block. You won't have to fight traffic to get home in time for evening events at your kids' schools. If your mom needs to get to a doctor's appointment, you don't have to use a full day off when you are close by.

Teleworking is also good for employers

  • Happier employees are loyal. When an employer trusts you and sees the improvement to employees morale, you are more likely to repay that confidence in your ability with loyalty.
  • Teleworking employees are often more productive, according to a recent survey by the Society for Human Resource Management. Often, workers used some of their time savings from skipping the commute to their work day. The distractions of a busy office offers fewer interruptions to the work at hand.
  • Teleworking reduces sick/vacation/personal leave. When you need just an hour off during the day, teleworking allows you to be productive for the rest of the work day. Or if you are feeling ok but still might be contagious, working at home helps you to stay productive while not sharing the sickness with co-workers. The day before a vacation can be a work day if you can get laundry done between emails.
  • Telework helps the region. Less traffic, less pollution and fewer cars on the road to get into accidents helps reduce the strain on our overtaxed infrastructure. People can be better neighbors by simply being home to keep an eye on things. They have more time to participate in charitable or civic organizations and are able to spend more time with their children to help them become better citizens. In case of emergencies, fewer people needing to evacuate dense commercial areas makes it easier on those who do need to be on the roads. And when weather makes it hard to drive, teleworkers can keep the wheels of government and business running.

Not all of us can telework

Some workers need to be there either because of the nature of the job (nurses, retail, trades, etc.) or the nature of the facilities. You also may not have the required tools to do the job. Your home may not have a fast and reliable internet connection. There may not be a place in your home that would serve as an adequate office with proper room, lighting, or freedom from distractions. You might be a supervisor that has a team that doesn't work well independently.

Making Teleworking Functional

There are often a lot of roadblocks to working out a situation that benefits both the employee and employer. Perhaps a trial period or an attempt to work one of the five days of the week at home. Perhaps trying out working on a specific project remotely.

If you work for the federal government, take some time reviewing the information at Telework.gov. It provides guidance for all involved. The Telework Enhancement Act of 2010 requires executive agencies to have guidelines for telework and emphasizes that telework is an essential part of continuity of operations plans.

Even if you are not a government employee, there is information available online or in books such as Making Telework Work from the SHRM Press.

Next week: Tips for Working at Home


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Marie September 28, 2012 at 01:36 PM
I have seen where only certain people are allowed to telework even though everyone has to fill out the forms. The people who telework call in and ask the ones working in the office to do "administrative" things for them. Not fair.
Mike Lambert September 28, 2012 at 04:03 PM
Ms. Chenevert makes some very good points above, particularly about self-discipline. I have been a DoD teleworker for two days per pay period, for several years now. My best practices and lessons learned consist of: keeping a dedicated work area at home (the corner of my dining room, in my case), to keep the *same* work hours as you do at your work site, and to make a definitive to-do list for a given telework day. While there tend to be more "drive-by" conversations from colleagues at work that can impede progress there some days, there are just as many potential distractions of a different kind (family, TV, radio, food) at home, and it's imperative to have that daily list to push you. Above all, remember that telework is a privilege, not a right -- and to treat the opportunity that way.
Mcl September 28, 2012 at 04:26 PM
There is an article and I am planning a study that shows workers, specially Gen X and younger are more productive in the late afternoon into the evening hours. In fact, people who work a traditional workday (8-5) only get about 40-60% of their work done (another study I read) because of the interruptions, coffee, meetings, socialization, breaks, lunch, etc. I personally discovered that I am at my peak during 3pm and 11pm and because I am at my optimal creative/productive stage, the work gets done faster and efficiently even with the family interruptions like dinner and homework time. It is important to know yourself before teleworking. In some cases, the office environment can bring forth better results. Teleworking is certainly not for everyone.
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