Re: Telecommuting

Subject: Re: Telecommuting
From: Jane_Torpie_at_III-HQ -at- PROTEON -dot- COM
Date: Mon, 31 Jan 1994 11:19:00 EST

The following answers apply to my previous employer, not my current
employer. (I could probably telecommute at least occasionally, but in my
current situation, I prefer not to.)

The situation I describe below applies to a software company in Boston at
which I worked for 3.5 years as a Technical Writer.

+ How often do you Telecommute in a month?
Tuesday and Thursday each week

+ How long have you been Telecommuting?
3.5 years total

+ What company do you work for?
Pilot Software (formerly Pilot Executive Software)
N.B. I do not know if this arrangement is available any more.

+ What industry is your company in?

+ What type of work do you do?
Technical Writing

+ In what part of the country do you live/work?
I lived in suburban Boston and the company's office was downtown.

+ How far is it from home to work (miles and minutes)?
7 or 8 miles, 45 minutes by public transit, driving would be the same

+ How would you get to work before you started Telecommuting?
worked for another employer in the suburbs and drove there

+ Why did you start Telecommuting?
my company offered it as a benefit

+ Did you suggest Telecommuting to your employer or was there a program already
in place?
already in place

+ If you suggested the idea, what information did you present to convince your

+ Is your option to Telecommute a company wide program or is it something your
specific department, group, or boss lets you do?
available to those who did a significant part of their work in solitude,
such as software developers, technical writers, software quality assurance
engineers, and trainers who were doing course development

+ What type of equipment do you use to Telecommute (desktop computer, portable
computer, fax, phone, modem, multiple phone lines, pager, portable phone,...)
desktop computer, phone, modem, two phone lines (one for voice, one for

+ Was the equipment you use to Telecommute provided by your employer?
the desktop computer, the modem, and the installation and monthly standard
fee for the phone service were provided by the employer. I provided the

+ What did it cost to set you up for Telecommuting?
Relatively speaking, not much. I had a "second tier" machine at home which
would probably be otherwise unused by anyone in my department. (For
example, I had a 386 at work and a 286 at home.) I had a 2400 baud modem
but not a 9600, which were available at the time. The cost of the second
line installation was somewhat under $100.

+ Do you know how much you are saving the company by Telecommuting (time,
No. However, this company established telecommuting because it was less
expensive to buy additional hardware (at commercial and multiple-unit
prices) and install phone lines than to rent office space and buy
furniture. Some of the most senior and talented people continued to work
at the company because they valued the telecommuting arrangement.

In my situation, I'd say that the company probably got another 4 hours of
work from me a week. I'm not a 40-hour-per-week worker and tend to work
the hours necessary to do a project. But I get tired at the end of the day
and have responsibilities outside of my job. The hours I didn't spend
commuting were hours I could put into my work, and usually did.

For my part, I rarely or never had to be away from work because a repair
person came to the house or I had a dentist appointment. I scheduled these
on a "home day," let my manager know that I'd be away from my dining room
table for a while, and made up the hours after dinner.

+ Have you had any problems/difficulties?
Occasionally I wished I had a nicer computer or a faster modem.

Sometimes friends would confuse "the days I wasn't going to work" with "the
days I wasn't working." It only took a minute to clear this up.

There may have been some employees who resented our privilege to work at
home. In general, I think this is a management problem ... most people
understood that we worked just as hard there and had to produce to continue
to have the privilege.

But in general, it was a good arrangement that encouraged trust between my
manager and me. He and other managers had to learn to trust their
employees to do their work well and finish it on time. Employees had to be
self-motivated and self-monitoring. There were a few people who abused the
situation and didn't work on their "home days;" disciplinary action

I also learned a lot about organizing my work and managing my time.
Because my home days were regularly scheduled and coincided with other
workers' home days, we could plan meetings according to our needs.
(Meetings didn't just "happen" and soak up all of our time; we had good
reason to think about whether a meeting was necessary and what topics we
wanted to discuss.) I got a huge amount of work done because there were
fewer interruptions.

Any information you have time to provide would be greatly appreciated.
Here's my last comment, addressed to management:

Most information workers who are willing to try this arrangement can make
it work, but the support of management (or lack thereof) is the most
critical aspect in achieving success. Like employees, individual managers
must be willing to try an "intrapreneurial" approach to working, especially
in the networked '90s. Our networking technology reinforces the fact that
a work team (group, department, company) is made up of individuals who are
interdependent. If your people really are your most important resource,
then restricting their autonomy will in some way restrict their ideas, too.
It's the 90's ... take a leap and consider something new, rather than
reinventing the wheel.

Good luck, Frank.

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