Telecommuting: Help the Company, Help Your Career?

Ann All

Companies with telecommuting workers can enjoy big savings on real estate. Many also find work-at-home programs an effective recruitment and retention tool, since telecommuting employees are often happier than their office-bound counterparts.


Some companies, like Convergys Corp., which is expanding its telecommuting program, say the practice gives them access to folks who might be great employees despite the fact they are not able to drive to an office every day. It's been an especially effective strategy for call centers, like those run by Convergys.


And telecommuting enhances disaster recovery capabilities. Telecommuters were among the first folks to return to work after disasters like the 9/11 terrorist attacks.


It's easier than ever to telecommute, thanks to the ready availability of broadband connectivity and communication tools like instant messaging.


So why aren't more folks doing it? A recent survey from Korn/Ferry International may offer some clues.


While 78 percent of the global executives surveyed said telecommuters were at least as productive as their colleagues at the office, 61 percent said that telecommuters would be less likely to be promoted.


A Korn/Ferry executive says that a lack of "face time" with colleagues and limited opportunities to network may help explain the apparent disconnect.


A blogger commenting on HP's recent decision to have some of its telecommuters return to the office opines that outdated management philosophies are to blame.


While some employees are more productive at home than they are in the office, it's not for everyone. Sun Microsystems, which is known for its progressive stance on telecommuting, uses an evaluation tool that weighs employee preferences, work environment, and the nature of the work itself to help determine when telecommuting makes sense.

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