The Truths (and Myths) of Teleworking

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Photo originally published in The Austin-American Statesman

Welcome to your work day: Wake up, brush your teeth, get ready and get in the car. Drive, honk, yell, get cut off in traffic, fight for parking, pay for parking, deal with office politics. Glorious.

 After work: get out of downtown, fight traffic again, yell again, listen to some classical music (it doesn’t help). You get home with barely enough time to eat, much less spend any time with your partner or family, before you wake up to do it all over again. It’s the American dream. Wait… That can’t be right.

A Social Construct

In the modern era, do we really even need to go to an office when we have such a digitally integrated society? Everything from video conferencing to online workspaces and collaborative project management tools provide a platform for teleworking that makes going into the office seem a little, well, passé.  However, the idea of the office workspace is engrained into our collective consciousness and our culture.

The Future of Work?

Current trends favor teleworking and the trend seems to be growing. Take the hiring process, for example: Since 2011, the use of video interviews has risen 49% and 6 out of 10 HR managers now use video conferencing to interview at least some of their candidates.  Additionally, millennials are totally on board with the notion of working remotely: 37% say they would take a pay cut in exchange for flexible hours and 81% think they should set their own work schedules. These numbers are striking and seem to drive home the message that jobs are no longer as much about the place you go, but about getting the work done, and usually on your own time.

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Is Teleworking Right for My Company? Is it Right for Me?

All of this begs the question: Should I, or my company, try teleworking?

The numbers are striking and some even tout teleworking as “the ultimate green job.” Certainly, there are jobs that lend themselves to teleworking like web development, SEO and analysis, network administration sales and account positions and many more can be  done remotely.  However, not every job lends itself to telecommuting. Some jobs require a person to be physically present such as bus drivers and service industry people.  Even though many employees jobs could be done remotely there are many perceived drawbacks to teleworking: less personal interaction, less access to information, less “office time”. But are these really valid?

A recent interview debunks these common telecommuting myths and demonstrates the impact and value of telecommuting for employees, including:

  • increased job satisfaction,
  • reduced stress and time pressure caused by interruptions, and
  • less exposure to office politics and associated negativity.

A unique discovery included that telecommuters exchange information with their supervisors and colleagues less frequently than their in-office counterparts; however, teleworkers have similar levels of access to quality and timely information, proving that more information is not always better.

Furthermore, some research indicates that it takes a certain type of person to succeed as a teleworker. More than just having a job that can be done remotely and having the motivation to do well at a job, a combination of self-discipline, confidence, resourcefulness, comfort with self-imposed deadlines, and a good deal of extroversion seem to be the magic mix of personality characteristics common among successful teleworkers. If you think you’re ready to try out telework, be sure to show your manager all these benefits and get started!

Work From Home (WFH) Day

With more than 2,000 businesses in the downtown ZIP codes alone, it’s no wonder that telecommuting would have appeal. All those employees mean traffic: lots and lots of traffic. All those extra cars means trying to find parking, which usually involves employers paying for that space for their employees, anywhere from $60-125 per month, per employee.

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If all of the above factors have prompted you to consider teleworking, either for yourself or your company, then you might be interested in participating in Social Good Summit Austin’s September 10, 2013 Work From Home Day (WFHD). This is a great way for your company to explore allowing employees work from home.  Here is a great resource if you want to talk with your manager about participating: http://movabilityaustin.org/2013/07/the-yin-yang-of-telecommuting/

Results from this WFH Day will be announced at the Annual ATX Social Good Summit, Sept. 24th, 2013 at Austin Community College Eastview Campus. Help remove 20,000 cars from the road on WFH Day. SIGN UP to work from home. If you can’t work from home you can still SIGN UP and get credit by carpooling or riding the bus, rail or bicycling.

We know we can do it and you can help make this possible by signing up at http://socialgoodsummitaustin.org/get-involved/.

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