Opinions of UniForum Members
Does Telecommuting Work?
In December, we asked our readers whether their companies have a policy
on telecommuting and if they are telecommuters themselves. Here's
what they said.
We are actively exploring the possibilities of using ISDN to provide both
telephone service from our switch and data services off our Novell network.
This would provide one of our employees with a virtual office from her home,
allowing her to tend to a personal situation while she continues to manage
her payroll and accounting responsibilities. The cost of implementation
will be far outweighed by the fact that we will be able to maintain our
relationship with her.
At SCO, a lot of people do at least part of their job by telecommuting.
We have development sites all over the world. In some instances, employees
telecommute to another country. The combination of technology infrastructure
available to our people and the types of high-tech jobs we have lead me
to believe we will have more telecommuters over time.
Santa Cruz, CA
Our company allows its employees to telecommute when appropriate. Much of
our business is international, covering many time zones, so it is often
as easy to work from home, responding via e-mail, telephone and fax. I manage
our marketing group, and my employees telecommute several times each month.
San Jose, CA
My company's policy about telecommuting is summed up in one word: fear.
Over 90 percent of my job could be done from home, and I wouldn't be looking
for employment elsewhere if they would adapt to accommodating this reasonable
I'm the director of a department that runs many servers for time-sharing,
file-serving and printing, and I am looking to formalize our "policies"
on telecommuting. With most servers running seven days a week, 24 hours
a day, there is ample need for support staff to access systems at off hours.
We have long had informal arrangements with some staff--providing modems
and some systems for home use. Now we will be providing complete systems
with the express purpose of enabling support staff to work from home.
Robert R. Pescinski
New Brunswick, NJ
We are running several pilot projects in this area, but I am not involved
with telecommuting today. Most issues I see involve "relating"
with others and the social implications on the work force. We do business
better with people we know and understand. Telecommuting will only make
us more isolated without extra steps to bring people together regularly.
Janet L. Rimlinger
King of Prussia, PA
We have some employees that telecommute. With the advent of ISDN lines,
more have started to work from home. Most of them are partners or traders
that need access to the market 24 hours a day. The start-up cost for an
ISDN connection is expensive, but the long-term payoff is reduced absenteeism,
less time spent commuting, and less reimbursement expense for weekend work.
New York, NY
My department at the University of North Carolina allows for telecommuting
at the employee's discretion but provides no support for it. We use dial-up
modems from the pool supported by the university, and connect to whatever
machine(s) we are working on.
Dennis R. Sherman
Chapel Hill, NC
We have a total staff of 30 but only eight are at company headquarters.
The remainder telecommute exclusively.
Colorado Springs, CO
Our company is starting a pilot program for IT to test telecommuting. Most
of the sales force telecommutes now, and it has been successful.
Pamela S. Dunsky
As a small consulting company (not exactly self-employed but close), we
use telecommuting to support clients, and we are involved in developing
telecommuting environments for clients.
My company has been investigating this matter. Although there have been
numerous committees and endless announcements, I am unaware of any telecommuters
coming on board. I feel this is due mostly to reluctance by senior management
to let workers out of their sight. Because system personnel like programmers
would be a natural fit for telecommuting, if management cannot tolerate
these mostly unstructured employees working at home, there is little hope
they would do so for others.
We think telecommuting is a great idea that will truly come into its own
when the phone companies can offer massive, cheap bandwidth to homes and
small offices. Until then, we'll be limited to persons who can work on limited
projects, such as a report that can be downloaded and worked on, then returned
(uploaded) when finished.
Corte Madera, CA
We are a virtual company. We have professionals that work in Colorado, San
Francisco, Tucson, San Luis Obispo and San Jose. Telecommuting works when
you have a group of dedicated people that have worked together and understand
Arroyo Grande, CA
I am a member of a network integrator and consultancy with over 3,000 employees,
most of whom I have never seen. (I have been to our headquarters once this
year.) I rely extensively on telecommuting both for activity internal to
our firm and in support of clients.
Our firm has offices along the West Coast with "headquarters"
in San Francisco. Our senior managers, managers and partners are supportive
of telecommuting. We do not have a rigid policy on telecommuting dos and
don'ts; it is left up to our own judgment and discretion on how best and
when to telecommute. With busy schedules and large amounts of travel, telecommuting
definitely enhances my productivity.
Derek R. Thomas
My company is working on such a policy. We have a couple of employees who
dial in about three days a week, more or less as a pilot project. It seems
that our telecommuting employees wind up coming in on supposed home days
My company has a very infor-mal/nonexistent policy toward telecommuting.
If there is work you can accomplish at home and a good reason why you can't
complete it at work (e.g., interruptions), talk to your manager. If you
have a reasonable manager, you may be able to work at home one or two days
to complete the assignment. I believe the entrenched managerial belief that
"If I can't see them working, then they aren't working" is the
biggest obstacle to telecommuting in my company.
Melissa Fawn Bull
My company has an internal policy regarding telecommuting and a vigorous
telecommuting program. (I am writing this reply in my home office.) Telecommuting
is great, but forethought about how to and who should telecommute can make
or break a new program.
Ann Arbor, MI
Our company implemented telecommuting at the beginning of 1995. Four of
us carry notebooks with Ethernet plus modem PCMCIA cards in order to work
from our homes or while traveling, and to connect to the network when we
are in one of the company locations. Our customers have access to our Unix
boxes remotely via dial-up lines for e-mail and to search our Unix Q&A
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Here is our new question. It is addressed particularly to users, independent
software vendors and systems integrators.
Next Time Around
What difference have the Single UNIX Specification (formerly Spec 1170
and UNIX '95) and/or the Common Desktop Environment (CDE) made to you and
your company? Are these initiatives of practical help in multivendor computing
environments? Please note which of the above categories you fit in and tell
us how the technologies have impacted (or have not) the kind of work you
As usual, send your unadulterated opinions to email@example.com.
Please keep your replies brief (about 100 words), and send them to us by
Mar. 1. If you're a member, new or old, and we don't have your e-mail address,
please send it to the address above, and we'll add you to the distribution
list. We look forward to hearing your views.