Saturday, January 01, 2005

Top Telecommuting Questions Answered

Top Telecommuting Questions Answered

While the media has been painting a bleak picture of telecommuting in America, millions of Americans are successfully, happily working at home. The Federal Government has passed legislation giving companies, particularly those in busy, congested cities, financial incentives for encouraging telecommuting. So while, telecommuting statistics may fluctuate (don't stats on employment fluctuate regularly anyway?), the truth is telecommuting is here to stay. It may not replace full-time on-site work but it will be a valuable perk for employees much like flex-time and other alternative work schedules. Below are the top 10 questions I am asked regarding telecommuting.

1) What is telecommuting?

Telecommuting describes the situation in which a person works off-site for all or part of the workweek. In essence, he commutes via telephone or other telecommunication equipment such as a modem. He may telecommute from home, from a satellite location or mobile office.

2) How many people telecommute?

The number of telecommuters is difficult to compute. The International Telework Association and Council report that approximately 23 million people work at home at least part time for an employer. It further estimates that 31 million will be working at home for an employer by 2003. The difficulty in determining the number of telecommuters is partly due to the ambiguity in defining the status of some workers. For example, many sales people who work at home are hired by a company but are contract workers. Are they counted as telecommuters? How about freelancers who are also "hired" or contracted by companies to perform specific tasks. Whether or not these groups of people are counted in the over all population of telecommuters can significantly effect the resulting number of telecommuters. However, experts agree that the numbers of people who are working at home for a company are increasing steadily each year as the concept of telecommuting grows in acceptance.

3) What companies allow telecommuting?

Telecommuting can be found in companies and organization (including government agencies) of all sizes. AT&T is a pioneer in the telecommuting phenomena. Other organizations include Aetna, Gale Research, Journal Graphics, the Federal Government, many state governments, and even small privately owned companies.

4) What jobs are best suited for telecommuting?

While telecommuting jobs have expanded to include a large spectrum of job types, the jobs best suited to telecommuting are those in the technical field especially in computer programming. However, telecommuting jobs can also be found in writing, research, accounting, transcription, sales, law, social work, nursing, and many other areas.

5) Do telecommuter’s get salaries and benefits?

Salaries and benefits are part of many telecommuting programs. They can be found mostly in situations in which an employee has made arrangements with his employer to work at home and in highly skilled or professional jobs. Many of the telecommuting jobs found on the Internet are freelance or contract-based work in which the employee is paid on the amount of work completed (i.e. commission-based).

6) Do you have to pay for telecommuting jobs?

NO! Legitimate employers never charge to hire you. Telecommuting jobs are like any other job. You are hired because you have shown you have the skills and experience for the job. Any job announcement that suggests you can sign-up to work isn’t a real job. Neither is one that charges you a fee. You wouldn’t pay your current boss for paper clips or to add you to payroll!

7) Where can telecommuting jobs be found?

There are two ways to get a telecommuting job. The first is to consider your current job. Are there tasks at your current job that you could do at home? If so, create a Work-At-Home Proposal outlining your work-at-home plan and how it will benefit your company. The second way is to do a work-at-home job search. The best places to find these jobs are on career oriented websites.

8) Do I need special skills?

Special skills, particularly in computer programming, will make it faster and easier to find a work-at-home job. But there are work-at-home jobs in many fields that don’t require any special degrees or skills. Basic skills you should have include writing, organizing, Internet use, research, and problem solving.

9) Is telecommuting suited to parents?

Telecommuting offers many benefits to parents but that doesn’t mean telecommuters can get by without childcare. Many companies require a written telecommuting agreement with childcare arrangements specified. Working at home with children can be difficult, as children need much attention and care. Even when they are engaged in an activity, they can be a distraction. If you plan to work at home, it would be wise to research different child care options such as pre-schools, co-ops, and play groups that could give you some uninterrupted time to work.

10) Does telecommuting work for everyone?

No. While telecommuting offers many benefits such flexibility and no commute time, it does have its disadvantages. Working at home requires much self-discipline to avoid distractions such as the dishes and soap operas. It can create resentment at the office especially if the office staff is unable to contact or ends up picking up extra work not being finished by the telecommuter. One of the biggest complaints by telecommuters is the isolation felt by working at home. Telecommuters are left out of the formal and informal office social systems when an effort to keep in touch with the office isn’t made.

Leslie Truex is the author of Jobs At Home: A Complete Guide to Finding or Creating a Work-At-Home Job. She has her comprehensive book plus reviews of other telecommuting resources at

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