Most Workers Are Afraid to Telecommute

Technology lets us work from home, but we're not doing it.

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A couple of decades ago, telecommuting was said to be the future face of work—when technology would enable us to be connected away from the office just as easily as if we were sitting at our desks, and the work itself would have geographical mobility.

Well, the technology and the information economy are here now, but the telecommuting is not. A study released this week finds a majority of office workers are afraid that telecommuting will hurt their careers.

Nearly half of office workers are able to telecommute, but less than a third actually do, according to the Steelcase survey. Many of the rest fear that telecommuting will rob them of a promotion. Most workers believe their employer wants them in the office.

In a recent story on telecommuting, I asked several experts for advice on handling the downsides of telecommuting. Minda Zetlin, author of Telecommuting for Dummies, concedes that telecommuting can be a challenge for some companies because many bosses are so accustomed to managing by line of sight. She had some suggestions for potential telecommuters who feared they would lose favor with their bosses:

To address the "out of sight, out of mind" issue—or even to convince your boss to let you telecommute—craft a business plan before you begin telecommuting, Zetlin suggests. You and your boss should agree on scheduled times for daily check-ins. The phone calls should take place with greater frequency in the beginning and ease off as things move along. Staying in touch with coworkers can help you, as well. Take the extra time to chat with them when you're back in the office.

Zetlin suggests that employees establish, in concert with their bosses, new benchmarks for how they're doing their jobs. Managers are accustomed to measuring performance in part by hours worked, and that won't suffice anymore.

One cool piece of advice from Zetlin: Post a picture of yourself at your office desk with a note that says, "I really am working from home. Call me!"


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