How can I Become a Telecommuter?

Becoming a telecommuter holds a definite appeal for many people who must report for work in office buildings every morning. A telecommuter is a regular employee, an independent contractor or a freelancer who works out of his or her home at least one day a week. Almost all of a telecommuter's work duties can be performed in a home office setting, using electronic communication equipment such as fax machines, computers and modems to connect him or her to the employer. A telecommuter may have to report to a traditional office in order to attend meetings or receive new assignments, but most of his or her time is spent working from home. Not every job is suited for telecommuting, but there are some ways a traditional office worker can become at least a part-time telecommuter.

Before approaching an employer about the feasibility of becoming a telecommuter, it is important to take a personal inventory of the advantages and disadvantages. A telecommuter may not have to drive to an office or interact with dozens of co-workers in a frenetic work environment, but isolation does not always equal improved productivity. An ideal telecommuter should be able to work with minimal supervision and have the self-discipline to dedicate the same amount of time to the job as a traditional office worker. Some workers may not perform as well without the direct motivation of a supervisor or the immediate feedback of co-workers. Personal work habits are important considerations when transitioning from traditional office worker to telecommuter.

Many employers may not consider certain positions to be compatible with telecommuting, so an employee may have to pitch the idea as a clear benefit for the company. Allowing an employee to telecommute even one day a month might be seen as a positive step towards becoming a full-time or part-time telecommuter. The space currently occupied by a traditional workspace could be used for other purposes if the employee is allowed to telecommute. An employee who requires a quiet workspace in order to be more creative or productive could also benefit from telecommuting. An employer could also use the possibility of telecommuting as an incentive for the most efficient workers.

Starting a home office may require some investment in specialized equipment in order to perform the work, but many employers agree to provide such equipment in exchange for increased productivity. Some routine work may also be performed on existing home computer equipment and then uploaded electronically to the office. An employee seeking to become a telecommuter should be able to prove the same volume and quality of work can be performed remotely from a dedicated home office space. Some employers may be concerned that a telecommuter is not always available for in-house meetings or collaborative projects with co-workers. A telecommuter may become "out of the loop" on the company's inner workings or upcoming projects. Telecommuters need to demonstrate a willingness to make occasional commutes to the traditional office for important face-to-face meetings.

Not every job description is an ideal fit with telecommuting, so an employee seeking to work from home should be prepared to handle some unforeseen problems during the transition. It is also important for a telecommuter to find a workable balance between personal and professional obligations, since his or her workspace is now located in his or her home space. Many telecommuters with families often find themselves working more flexible hours at home than they would at a traditional office. As long as the employer is comfortable with the telecommuter's productivity and accessibility, however, there shouldn't be major conflicts between personal and professional responsibilities.

Some employees who become telecommuters may find they prefer the traditional office environment to the relative isolation of working from home. Others find it easier to work from home without the pressure of a time clock, regular commute in heavy traffic or a strict dress code. Some may miss the social interaction with co-workers, but others may enjoy working in an environment free from office politics.


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