You Can Telecommute

Working in my own litlte world

I’ve written a number of pieces about telecommuting over the years, and while some people have had success in getting permission to work from home, many of you tell me that your current manager, and likely every manager you’ve ever had wouldn’t allow it. There are a huge group of people that are convinced telecommuting is not in their future. I think you’re wrong, and let me tell you a story.

Years ago I went to work for a small (50 people), old company. The CEO had worked their his whole life, his father had worked there most of his life, and they had very conservative values and ideals. They both wore suits to the office every day and I was expected to do the same, even as an IT guy. I went out and bought 4 or 5 suits the first year I worked there, along with slacks, shirts, and (shudder) ties.

I argued, politely and regularly, with the CEO that the clothes didn’t really influence the quality of work. We rarely had clients in the office. My boss, the VP, agreed, and we found numerous studies and surveys that proved our point. Others felt the same way, but we two were the only one that regularly tried to debate the issue. I’d often return from a run or swim at lunch and “forget” to tighten up my tie. Usually by 2pm, however, my boss would come by to “remind” me.

After a year, we managed to get “casual” Friday, where we could wear (non-logo) polo shirts and khakis. No faded jeans, no sneakers, and it’s almost what many companies would see as business casual today. Another year or two went by, with regular chastising of my afternoon dress, often followed by a short debate on the subject. Eventually my boss allowed us to pilot “casual” dress on all non-client days, and jeans on Friday. No faded jeans, but more comfortable wear. Work didn’t suffer, and while my boss still wore suits, he accepted that we didn’t need to. I think I even saw him wear a shirt without a tie one day before I left.

You can do the same thing with telecommuting. Offer a pilot, show articles, blogs, and studies that talk about telecommuting, set up metrics to measure work, and get employees to agree that the privilege can be suspended. I am sure with some regular debates and discussions, perseverance and persistence, you can find a way to implement telecommuting if your job can be done remotely.

Steve Jones

The Voice of the DBA Podcasts

About way0utwest

Editor, SQLServerCentral
This entry was posted in Editorial and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to You Can Telecommute

  1. Karen says:

    I’m so with you on the dress code thing. I personally can’t pull of “comfort wear” and still feel comfortable. Perhaps that’s a reflection of my age or upbringing. It was really tough when I worked for a sporting goods retailer and everyone wore sweats and active wear to work. Sounds perfect, but I couldn’t do it. I was constantly criticized for overdressing. I wore slacks and sometimes skirts. But I find some of my skirt outfits very, very comfortable. I know others don’t.

    I think the trend towards casual dress is great, but I also think that team members should see it as an invitation to dress as one feels best. I sometimes miss the simplicity of suit, blouse, go! approach to getting dressed, too.

    As for my telecommuting wear, there’s a reason why my webcam is almost always “not available” :).


  2. I’ve been telecommuting in one form or another for the past 14 years or so. For the most part I think it has been a positive experience, and has given me the schedule flexibility (and the cost savings) to make it worthwhile.

    I will say, however, unless you are either very outgoing and gregarious, or have started out “officeworking” and have moved to teleworking, it’s really hard to keep your career moving forward. I know of more people that have made the sacrifice (willingly) to stay in a current spot in their careers for the benefit of being able to work from home than those that have successfully moved up the ladder while doing so. Not that it can’t be done by any means, but I think it’s definitely harder.

    I have to even admit that when I had direct reports that were working remote, I would see them much more as tactical resources than strategic ones. The strategic ones were the ones I knew I could pull into a conference room and do a brainstorming session. Despite advances in technology, you still can’t really do that with people in different geographies.

    Then there is the whole camaraderie aspect that can suffer. It’s very easy to get isolated and out of touch when you are remote. Nobody intends for it to be this way, but it’s the whole “out of site out of mind” syndrome. I think companies that have distributed workforces (which I do support, by the way) need to figure out ways to get those folks into the office on some frequency, just to keep the connections and relationships going. Otherwise, those remote people end up being “those guys who watch Oprah all day”.

    So, I think it’s important to weigh all these factors when considering telecommuting. If you thrive some collaboration or want to advance in your career, ensure you have a way of meeting those needs while not being in the office. Otherwise, you might find that the long-term cost of working at home may outweigh the short-term benefit.


  3. way0utwest says:

    I certainly think the dress code can go too far. Allowing t-shirts sometimes brings with it the issues of offensive ones picked by people, but you can handle that, IMHO, by banning specific items when they occur. Send someone home, or warn everyone to have a spare shirt around in case their choice isn’t acceptable.

    Torn clothing also is usually banned, along with tank tops, and certain types of clothing, which I think can push the envelope way too far from a business atmosphere.


  4. way0utwest says:

    @aaron, great points, and telecommuting isn’t the ultimate experience or goal. It fits in some, maybe many places, but not all.


Comments are closed.