Friday, December 5, 2008

Sustaining Telecommuting Momentum

Back before we expanded our economic worrying to fretting about the looming Greater Depression, we were just worried about gas prices. Remember how great that was? We were all excited about how the high cost of gas was going to drive telecommuting, and those of us who already were telecommuting were feeling stoked about how little we drove.

But now that gas is down below $2 a gallon in most places, will the trend to let people telecommute as a cost-saving benefit be cast aside again? I don't think so for a couple of reasons.

First, things really aren't that much better. In fact, just because gas is cheaper doesn't mean that you're not also facing very lean times at work. Your company is probably not handing out raises, bonuses and the like, and the cost of absolutely everything is going crazy. Continuing to allow people to save time and fuel is a smart move, and a pretty easy perquisite to offer.

Second, once people have demonstrated that they have the capacity to work effectively in their slippers there isn't much of an incentive to make them stop. The backlash of disgruntled former telecommuters (while muted by the uncertainty of the job market) is probably not worth it to an employer. With everything else your manager has to worry about -- budget squeeze, endowment performance, trying to keep the business alive -- why bother cracking down on productive telecommuters.

Just stay focused on your bottom line and let people work from where they are.

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