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8/21/2008
11:02 PM
Melanie Turek
Melanie Turek
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Telecommuting Perception Gap

An article in Network World reports on a recent survey by furniture manufacturer Steelcase about attitudes toward telecommuting. The biggest disconnect, it appears, is the gap between the perceived value of telecommuniting (more than half of respondents think companies that endorse telecommuting will be more successful than those that don't) and the perceived problems with it (most notably, 71% of those who could telecommute but don't say they don't because they think their employers would rather they didn't, and 64% think they will miss out on a promotion).What's also interesting in the face of all the negativity is that 80% of respondents said they thought they could be just as communicative at home as at the office; 80% believe the trend toward telecommuting will continue to grow; and more than 80% say telecommuting boosts employee morale and reduces turnover.I've been telecommuting since the mid nineties--when I first moved from an office in Long Island to a desk in Aspen I was communicationg on AOL via a 28.8kbit/s dial-up connection--and I think one of the most important things in making the situation successful is indeed communication. I try to respond to e-mails as quickly as possible, return voicemails in a timely manner, and show my online status as "available" only when I truly am available. But just as important is productivity--delivering what's required of me on time and as expected. Telecommuters probably have a little more to prove than their office-based counterparts (which isn't necessarily a bad thing, since it makes us all better at our jobs, too).As for promotions, I still find management to be the biggest telecommuting roadblock--it can be hard to do from home unless your team also mainly comprises telecommuters. So if you work for a company that likes managers to be at HQ, you may have to return to an office to get the better title (and, presumably, bigger paycheck).At the end of the day, if your employer or manager doesn't buy into telecommuting, you probably won't be successful at it. The good news is, if you are productive and available to colleagues and customers, you'll probably be able to convince the powers that be that telecommuting really is a good thing.

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