22 September 2008

Employment: The Telecommuting Option

Like a lot of boomers in the want-to-retire phase, I am drawn to the image of the telecommute. Me—anywhere—logging in to work for conference and communication, and otherwise working solo at highest productivity and peace and quiet. I'm not trying to get out of work. I like work. But more and more I want it to be efficient and flexible. The telecommute has promise for those criteria.

Here's what I've learned so far about telecommuting:

1 - Web conferencing works. I have preferences (I like some video but not everyone has to be on camera) and a few strong opinions. Practice makes perfect; that's not a new concept. Everyone should be comfortable with several different platforms; that's a hard sell. Free online conferencing services are fine for a small number of participants.

2 - Hours must be flexible. The worker's efficiency goes up if the work can be scheduled in chunks. This is not just about the worker's peak performance time (early riser vs. midnight oil burner) but also the elimination of non-productive periods of traditional office workdays. As much as I appreciate the value of interpersonal communication among worker bees, I also know the amount of time that is wasted in many, many workplaces. Telecommuting has the potential for wiping out the time-waster activity. (I cannot promise it.)

3 - Some jobs are better suited to the telecommute than others. I'm working on this thesis: if the work involves submissions, telecommuters are the superior workers on the job. "Submissions" refers to an incoming product that must be reviewed (probably evaluated and maybe edited, too) and then either returned to the submitter or reported on to another entity. This style of work describes online education (in large part) and explains why instructors and students return for repeat semesters. The key is a well-defined process that is measurable. Not only is the telecommuter's progress measurable, but performance is, too.

The challenging part of the third point is understanding that if the telecommuter is the superior worker, then the resident worker isn't. More to explore there. Another day.

On a personal note: I am close to saying that I will only telecommute for the rest of my working years but I am cautious. Tom Bold predicts otherwise. What does he know about me that I am not recognizing? He has known me since 1970. Oh, my.

© 2008 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (www.marybold.com, www.boldproductions.com, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as professional, legal, financial, or medical advice. Or education advice. Or marital advice. Or even a tip.

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