The Art of Telecommuting: A job skill of the new economy

Employers are looking more and more for future employees and managers and leaders with the skills to telecommute. Today about one in five workers telecommutes on a frequent basis and nearly 10% work from home every day. And the numbers are growing for good reason. The economic potential is staggering. Businesses that promote telecommuting see almost instant growth in their productivity and reduced absenteeism and turnover. I’m a time management fanatic and I teach it to all of my clients. It is always amazing to them how much work someone can actually get done when you eliminate the “drive-by” co-worker hanging around wanting to chat about last night’s game or how lousy the weather is. In fact the opportunity to telecommute is now considered a perk by many employees and with that then comes higher job satisfaction and improved work-life balance.

Global Workplace Analytics projects that businesses in the United States alone could save (you might want to sit down) $500 billion a year with a telecommuting program. The savings come from reduced utilities, janitorial services, security, maintenance, coffee and water, parking, furniture, office supplies and office space.

So far, telecommuting sounds all fine and dandy, but there is a dark side to telecommuting that every company that considers it should take into consideration. Not every employee has the skills and discipline to telecommute. A number of years ago, when the idea of telecommuting was just catching on, I was a National sales manager for a company that thought it would be very cutting edge to allow all of our sales people the “perk” of working from their home. We did and quickly learned that we shouldn’t have. Some of our top sales producers who thrived in a team environment and an office centered sales base ended up, after a month at home, in their underwear, eating potato chips and watching sports center every afternoon. Their past success was based on the accountability that going to the office represented.

A company that is considering telecommuting must be selective in who gets this perk. The only way productivity grows and job satisfaction increases is if the employee possesses certain competencies and skills to make it work. Some of those would include;

  • Self discipline: When they get up in the morning can they have the discipline to then go into the next room and “go to work”.
  • Self-Management: Can they manage time and priorities without a supervisor looking over their shoulder
  • Focus: Can the employee focus on the task at hand and not be easily distracted by email; video games; kids; dogs; telephone chat; TV; naps, etc.
  • Communication Skills: Can the employee effectively communicate as good as or better than they might in the corporate office setting. Can they build a relationship with customers and prospects in any business setting?
  • Tech Savvy: An employee must be able to understand and utilize all the tools that are necessary to do their job and communicate clearly. If they’re lost with technology, they’re frustrated and if they’re frustrated…they aren’t working.

Telecommuting is more than a fad and a money saving convenience, its becoming necessary for many companies to offer in order to attract the best talent. So if you’re a business owner get a plan in place to screen; train and deploy your people. If you’re an employee, hone your self discipline and self management skills and you might have a competency that top companies are looking for.


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