Telecommuting - Earn it

Subject: Telecommuting - Earn it
From: Andrew Plato <intrepid_es -at- YAHOO -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 9 Jul 1999 09:47:58 -0700

Okay, I am going to say what nobody else will say:

Telecommuting is great for talented, hard-working people who are committed to
their work and clients.

Telecommuting is an abysmal pit of counterproductivity and waste for everyone

In other words, people who can work effectively without any supervision do well
as telecommuters because they are committed to getting the job done.
Unfortunately, in my experience, hard working people like this represent about
5% to 10% of the working population.

Most people DO NOT work when they are telecommuting. Even bright, decent
people who pray to God and feed stray kittens cheat. They need the guidance
and control of a team environment to be productive and engaged in the project.
Let's face it, being at home introduces numerous distractions to the working
environment such as children, food, comfortable beds, television, and

Now, EVERYBODY thinks he/she has a good work ethic. But what comprises a good
work ethic? Getting a job done at all costs? Defining rigid rules and laws
that you refuse to break? Demanding perks you have not earned?

A job (be that full-time or contract) is a commitment like a friendship or a
marriage. If you are not willing to do what it takes to make your company,
team, or group successful and profitable, then why are you there? Who needs a
person who whines about their job and then 20 minutes later demands a raise or
a treat like telecommuting. Why should a company give you squat if all you do
is whine about how the company is hurting your social calender.

If your friend calls you at 4:00 am and says, "I am depressed help me," is your
response "Sorry, I have a personal life. Besides, you are not scheduled to
have an emotional crisis today. Please call back next Wednesday on your
scheduled personal crisis day." If you live by rigid rules, expect to be
treated rigidly in return.

Likewise, when your company says "we need you," if you say "sorry" then don't
expect your company to shower you with praise and raises. If you want to get
something you have to give. Perks like telecommuting are earned not given. And
you have to keep earning them.

For example, I had a consultant who was allowed to work from home. We did a
few projects, she did okay work. We spent a lot of nights working until 8 pm
or so. Her work was fair. Then when the project ended and we were back to a
regular grind the real problems started showing up. I would call her up at
11:00 am to discuss something. She was not there. 2 hours later she calls
back. "Oh, I was at the gym and eating lunch." After two weeks of this I began
pinning her down to a schedule. Which she never kept. The problem: I was
paying for 8 solid hours of work from this person, and getting getting maybe 5
or 6. She claims that while at the gym and doing her dishes she was working -
NO. She was not.

This person would scream at me what a committed and solid work ethic she had.
Because she worked until 8:00 pm a few nights on some project, she was
convinced that she had "paid in" enough to begin short-changing the company.
WRONG. That is not how it works. You have to earn your perks each day. Doing
a good job once does not give you the latitude to be a lazy oaf afterwards.

The conditions that comprise a productive telecommuting experience are
exceptionally numerous. Technical issues, telephones, work load, network
access, dedication of the team, empowerment, etc. etc. etc. One problem I have
seen is that even when the person is committed and works hard, the people at
the office will ignore the telecommuting person. Weeks can go by before this
person hears about some new issue or change.

I hear the "personal life" complain all the time in relation to telecommuting.
People seem convinced that companies want to destroy their personal life. The
only person who can destroy your personal life is you. If you let the company
get to you, then it will destroy your personal life. Sitting at home
quasi-working on telecommuting is not a replacement for a personal life. You
have to balance the two. Why should your employer be punished because you
cannot balence your personal life and professional life? That is like
punishing your children because you're a bad parent. Sorry, that's not how it

Telecommuting is like a combat metal. You don't get it by asking for it. You
have to earn it.

Now, get back to work, YOU!

Andrew Plato

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