Telecommuting gets the thumbsup

Telecommuting gets the thumbsup

Summary: Consider benefits such as peace of mind that employees can continue to work, even though they're not in the office.

TOPICS: IT Employment, CXO, SMBs

As I've recently discovered, telecommuting is an option that organizations should offer and prepare for.

Responding to my recent editorial in the ZDNet Asia SMB e-newsletter (see box below), three readers gave the thumbsup to telecommuting which, despite the negatives, has tremendous benefits. One reader also offered some reasons for the lack of telecommuting in Singapore.

Read their experiences below, and if you, too, have something to share, drop me an e-mail, or write your comments in Talkback below.

Productivity gains
I work for a U.S.-based MNC in the software business, and my company is set up for telecommuting.

We do sometimes work from home when the need arises, and the company is okay with that.

Thank God for the Internet!
Three weeks ago, clumsy me missed a step and fractured my right ankle. Since Apr. 17, I've been working from home, and few people, save for my co-workers, are aware of this. I haven't been a huge fan of working from home, because I love the social interaction at work. For example, one of my first-thing-in-the-morning routines is to discuss with colleagues the cliffhangers of the previous night's TV programs. For example, did Bree's husband, Rex, really die in the Desperate Housewives season finale? Or who'll be eliminated next in American Idol?
While I don't think I've missed out much on anything that's directly related to my work, I sorely miss my co-workers, lunching at the nearby food centers and catching up on the latest industry gossip over coffee. Sure, we get to "talk" every day on Yahoo instant messenger, but nothing beats face-to-face interaction, not even those smiley emoticons. Give me someone's broad grin and laughter any time. So, while I've got almost everything I need at home to stay productive--office laptop, broadband Internet connection, and secure access to company resources--I'm looking forward to returning to the office. Call me crazy for not relishing the opportunity to work from the comfort of home, but when you've got great colleagues and a conducive work environment, remote working is a consideration only when the commute is tough.
Nonetheless, this is a reminder to employers to plan for telecommuting. Even if the company's policy does not allow staff to work from home, businesses should allow for such special work engagements, especially for staff with good reasons. Not only will this enable your employee to recover from their injuries faster, you will minimize any potential loss in productivity. So consider this as part of your business continuity plan.
Isabelle Chan
senior editor, ZDNet Asia

    But one thing I realize is most people do not know how to manage their time. For example, I notice colleagues logging in when they get home and they leave the computer connected to the company network through the night.

    Allowing staff to work from home does increase worker productivity, but I think work-life balance goes down the drain! I think people need to know how to manage their time and understand how to make good use of the ability to connect to the office network from home.

    I was working from home for about two years in my previous job, and I came up with a schedule where I would log in in the morning to clear my e-mail but get out of the house to meet friends for lunch and see customers in the afternoon.

    I think I am like you--I need the social interaction, so that schedule works perfectly for me.

    End of the day, work-life balance is very important to me, and it takes top priority. I know some companies don't like that attitude, but I actually believe if we can achieve a good work-life balance, it makes me more prodcutive at work!

    Jason Lum

    It's about business continuity
    Your piece is very timely. In fact, here in Hong Kong we had exactly that situation in early 2003 when SARS almost crippled normal businesses. I was working with a large bank, and we split our teams such that half worked from home for the period as part of the business continuity plan. With experts predicting an eventual pandemic based on the H51N virus or bird flu, this planning will be even more critical.

    Michael R. K. Mudd
    director of Public Policy, Asia-Pacific
    CompTIA Hong Kong

    Build trust and reap the rewards
    Coincidentally, I am in the midst of planning a company policy that allows my employees to work from home. I share your thoughts on the advantages and disadvantages of working in the office vis-a-vis working from home. Those were right on!

    I believe corporate Singapore should not shudder at the thought of working from home if they can build a measured deliverable system in place cemented by the character of human trust and professionalism.

    Well, hopefully, my company's staff will like our new working-from-home concept.

    Christopher Low
    director, Pendulab

    What do you think? Is your company set up for telecommuting? Drop me an e-mail, or write your comments in Talkback below. Published letters will be edited for clarity.

    Topics: IT Employment, CXO, SMBs

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