Friday, October 2, 2015

The Age of The Telecommuter

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Imagine waking up to a horrible storm, several subway lines have been affected. Your job is an hour and a half away, due to service changes getting there could take double that. Lucky for you, you work from home.

Now imagine that you’ve finally booked that much-needed vacation. Seven days of rest and relaxation with family, friends…and your work colleagues who will be joining in via conference calls and e-mails, because unfortunately, you will be working while on vacation.

Those are two very different scenarios, but both quite possible due to expansions of workplace technology that have made it easier than ever to work from remote locations.

As of 2013, there are 3.3 million Americans, not counting those self-employed, working from home. Working from home comes with many perks. Schedule flexibility, fewer interruptions from coworkers, and a lack of commuting that not only saves money on transportation costs but also helps the environment by reducing pollution associated with driving to work daily.

Work from home opportunities can be found in many fields, primarily health care, information technology, education, nonprofit, and sales and marketing. However, if your current job does not offer any telecommuting opportunities, that’s not necessarily a deal breaker.

If telecommuting is something that you are truly interested in, experts suggest you pitch the idea to your boss. Begin by writing a proposal, address the pros and cons and try to come up with solutions for any anticipated challenges. Ask for a trial period, a fixed amount of time in which you could demonstrate the benefits associated with your proposal. Lastly, be prepared to negotiate! Be clear on the details so that both you and your employer get positive results.

If you can work from home, however, then it’s very likely that you can work from vacation as well. Although many of us may cringe at the idea, the reality is that most of us already do it. Working outside the office is not limited to telecommuters, research shows that 60% of all American employees work while on vacation. Although the best option would be to unplug all together, sometimes you may have no choice. So how can you get the work done and still have fun?

The first step is to set aside specific times. Designate a few hours a day (i.e early in the morning or before going to bed) to check work emails and perform pressing work related duties. Make sure you plan your time effectively, so that the things that need to get done, do get done.

Conversely, designate “family/friends” times in which you will not handle any work business at all. Make sure to inform your colleagues of these times beforehand so that they know what to expect. Finally, do not be afraid to delegate less important items to other co-workers. After all, you are on vacation!

Working remotely results in increased productivity and decreased absenteeism, benefiting both employers and employees. The workplace has outgrown the traditional in-office setting, calling employees to work in non-traditional ways, whether that be while sitting in their living rooms in pajamas or lounging on a hammock on the beach in Costa Rica.

Originally published in LatinTrends Magazine, August 2015

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