How a Telecommuting Tax Cut Would Fit Obama and McCain

It's green enough for the Democrats and business-friendly for the Republicans.

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Suzanne Lucas
I didn't watch the Democratic National Convention. I'm not watching the Republican National Convention, either. It's part of my plan to keep myself from dying of boredom. But someone from one of those conventions should listen to me and make the following suggestion part of their platform:

Tax cuts for companies that encourage telecommuting.

Oh, I know, we've got bigger fish to fry and more negative campaign ads to create before anyone would do this, but why not? It's the perfect issue for either party.

The Democrats can tout that it's the "green" option. Working from home means no commute. No commute means fewer cars on the road, less pollution, and less money to those evil oil companies. Plus, the need for office space will decline, meaning not as many new buildings need to be built, lit, and air conditioned, giving us more green space and cutting energy consumption. Yeah! It's a Democratic dream.

The Republicans, on the other hand, can claim how it's business- and family-friendly. Businesses will have lower expenses (cost of a phone line and high-speed Internet are substantially lower than providing office space) while employees save time (no commute) and money (no commuting costs) and are all home for dinner because only the children left—for school. It's a Republican dream.

All right, so it's my dream, and why isn't it coming true? Seriously, what are businesses afraid of? Well, they are actually afraid that if you aren't in the office, you'll be watching Oprah instead of working on next year's budget. (And maybe not just Oprah—maybe NASCAR!)

Managing a remote workforce is a very different task than managing people you can see. You have to trust that they will do their jobs without someone hovering over them. You have to switch your success standards from "face time" to results. You can't be 100 percent sure that your telecommuting employee isn't watching Oprah. But, in reality, who cares if she is? The question is: Is quality work being accomplished in a timely way? If the answer is "yes," then you need to stop worrying. If the answer is "no," it isn't a "telecommuting" problem. It's an employee problem. You address it by discussing the output, not the location.

Telecommuting isn't for everyone. Some jobs can't be done remotely. Some people work best in an office. It's harder to build team cohesiveness. But more people could do it successfully. With excellent results.

I wouldn't even require full-time telecommuting. Allowing employees to work two to three days from home can bring all sorts of added benefits, and team unity is easy to build. It's an ideal situation if you aren't ready to take the jump to an entirely remote workforce. So, I'm hoping some politician will pick up on it and make it part of their plan. Wouldn't it be nice to see that proposal in one of those campaign ads?

And I can't resist saying, "I'm Suzanne Lucas, and I approve this column."

Suzanne Lucas has nine years of human resources experience, most of which has been in a Fortune 500-company setting. She holds a Professional in Human Resources Certificate from the Society for Human Resource Management. She blogs at Evil HR Lady.