Sunday, January 13, 2008

Do You Have What It Takes?

To telecommute, that is. This is an interesting blog post from Tech Republic listing ten signs you might not be cut out for telecommuting. I think one of the best items from this list is

#4: You can’t sustain enough (or any) proactive contact with the office

and this goes hand-in-hand with

#6: You have a manager who can’t or won’t manage remotely

The other issues (distractions, ability to be self-motivated, technical set up to get things done from where you are, handling the relative isolation of working at home) are the usual problems that people face. I think the key to staying super-productive and not isolating yourself is striving to be as available and in-touch as the people in the Real Office. Often this means technology that fosters casual contact, like IM and low-cost video conferencing so that anyone and everyone can pop in on you as needed without booking the super-high-tech-telepresence-equipped conference room.

It also requires a mind-set that your colleagues have where they understand and feel free to pop in on you. You really need your manager to foster this mind-set, too. S/he must bring you in on meetings where an issue that you should weigh in on emerges, for example. It's just like what people do when you're physically co-located -- they get to talking about your project in the conference room and realize they need your expertise, so someone stumbles down to your desk and says, "Can you join us for a minute?" As much as we all wish we could just work all day without any interruptions, the fact is that we work in social contexts and even when you're out of the physical office, you're still part of the group.

So act like you're part of the group and you'll have more fun and success in your slippers.


Anonymous said...

I work for a large company that encourages telecommuting for as many of its employees as possible. I'm in IT and have been a full-time telecommuter there for a couple of years now. There's a local office, but I stopped going there because my own department is scattered across the US. It was pointless to go sit in a cubicle and do the same thing I do here.

I've never met any of my deparment's management or my co-workers, but we're in constant contact using e-mail, Office Communicator, phone calls, conference calls and Live Meeting.

At times, it can get a little lonely if I'm winding down on one project and the next one hasn't yet geared up fully. Spending a week or so catching up on paperwork and required training can be a little dull with no other human interaction. Sometimes during those periods I will go into the office for a day or so just to be around other people. Once I'm busy again, though, I don't have the time or the patience for the time lost to commuting.

Stella Commute said...

Thanks for reading, anonymous. When I telecommuted full time, my experience was a lot like yours -- when projects are rolling it's natural to be really in touch and fully engaged. Keeping your energy up in between crunch times is important.

It sounds like you've got a sweet arrangement -- how enlightened your employer must be! Keep up the slipper wearing...