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Why are companies afraid of telecommuting?

Discussion in 'Off Topic [BG]' started by tZer, Sep 12, 2008.


  1. Our company just put out the Fall edition of it's company magazine (on paper) that ironically touts our company's "Green-ness" and all the great, green things we are doing to reduce our carbon footprint.

    The list was quite long - light fixtures, direct-deposit, "don't print emails" suggestions, etc... Notoriously absent in the entire article was even a hint of a suggestion of how significantly telecommuting could help reduce not only the $$ we all MUST spend on gas everyday just to get to and from work, but the fact that if we didn't have to commute everyday, how HUGE an impact that would have on both reducing carbon emissions as well as unclogging the highways and putting more disposable income back on our pockets.

    My question; Why are companies so unwilling to even talk about telecommuting?
     
  2. Kosko

    Kosko

    Dec 12, 2005
    Buffalo
    Side jobs, not doing anything, no supervision, taking care of the kids rather than working, can't go to meetings, etc. etc.

    I hate it too; as an IT guy I can do basically everything from home and it wouldn't matter but the company policy is to not allow it.
     
  3. JanusZarate

    JanusZarate Low End Avenger Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 21, 2006
    Petaluma, CA, USA
    Kosko nailed the gist of it.

    Employers in general fear they have more to lose financially from employees who abuse the telecommuting option, especially if they're having trouble already with the staff that actually show up to work at the office. Hence, it tends to be reserved to employees who absolutely must be on leave (disability, maternity, etc.), or often not an option at all.

    I should add that I'm not an employer, but I've been a supervisor and a project manager. I've also worked closely with execs before, so I can understand their concerns. However, I do certainly agree that it's a reasonable option in the campaign to go green.

    But modern-day society is ingrained with distrust of our fellow humans...
     
  4. +1

    Hey Tony! You can always do what I did. Quit and start your own company. I love my basement office!!! Plenty of time to get my projects done and then talk to all my buddies on TB! It's amazing how much real work you can get done in a half day when you don't have any commute time or meeting requirements.
     
  5. TallLankyBastyd

    TallLankyBastyd

    Jan 31, 2007
    Seattle
    Yeah...

    ...it is just too difficult for Big Brother to keep an eye on you.

    :eyebrow:
     
  6. I know that has been the reason to date. But telecommuting technology (Net Meeting-ish stuff, Web Cams, etc...) could easily insert a level of initial confidence that employees who telecommute actually do their job. Hell, isn't it the results that count anyway? Does it really matter if I do my coding between 8AM and 5PM or 5PM and 2AM as long as the job gets done on time and under budget?

    It seems like such an obvious way to not only "go green-er" but to essentially give everyone who does it a raise without actually having to give them any more money.

    Win, win.
     
  7. Hello, Ken! And sure, that would be a way to go about it. But I like the stability of working for an established company. I am lazy, I admit it... And I am aware of the 'fear of slacking' thing that companies have - and I even sort of understood it a few years back when things were less unstable, economy-wise.

    But my disposable income is going right into my gas tank. How that's going to help spurn our lagging economy is beyond me let alone reduce our carbon emissions. When I consider how important people being able to get back into the buying mode is to righting our wronging economic situation - then I consider exactly how many $$/month are spent just getting my body to work to allay the irrational fears of some faceless upper managers, well, I begin to scratch my head and wonder if there's more to it than just the fear of workers slacking.
     
  8. Really I just don't buy that anymore. If I had a web cam trained on my deck and my manager had it up on her monitor (OK - let's keep it G-Rated here!) - I don't see how that's any different from her sitting right behind me watching me work.

    Telephones, cell phones, and IM's - are all great ways to be instantly in touch with anyone, if need be.

    Further - if the work is getting done as expected, really? What's the issue?
     
  9. MakiSupaStar

    MakiSupaStar The Lowdown Diggler

    Apr 12, 2006
    Huntington Beach, CA
    I agree with you, but I think that in the end that will wash itself out. A company would basically dump the employees that aren't getting them the results they need. I think that what you mentioned is very real, but I think only in the beginning with the novelty of not having to drive into an office. I think a big part of the fear of telecommuting comes from the middle management who would eventually lose their jobs. ;)
     
  10. Jazz Ad

    Jazz Ad Mi la ré sol

    It is very difficult to work from home and very few people can pull it right.
    The lack of socialization is very bad and keeps you from remaining efficient.
     
  11. Relic

    Relic Cow are you?

    Sep 12, 2006
    Robbinsville, NJ
    I'm an IT guy who works from home.
    They can absolutely positively keep tabs on everything you do just as easily as they can if you were physically in the office. Trust me. Do they? No, not really.
    The thing is that, they REALLY don't care about distractions, your kids, lack of supervision, they don't care if you buy the morning paper and take a 20 min poo, what they care about is the bottom line. Are you getting your work done? Are your customers happy? Are you being proactive about things? Are you going the extra mile here and there? If the answer is yes, the 20 min poo's and 15 min loud arsed bass-solos interspersed into your work day are fine. If the answer is no, get ready for another job search
     
  12. I am a firm believer in 'deliver the goods or get off the pot'. I am a little disappointed that this sort of initiative that would have such significant positive implications in so many areas is not even on the radar for our company, at least.

    To put out a publication with a green cover, green headline and feature story and to find that the idea of telecommuting is not even mentioned says to me that it was deliberately omitted. I find it virtually impossible to believe that it never occurred to anyone. By the fact that it's not even alluded to leads me to believe it's something they are consciously avoiding in spite of the value it would bring.

    That's just disappointing to me. And as KJung points out - I do have choices I could make. It just seems like such a positive move and it's depressing that it's got the "name that shall not be mentioned" thing wrapped around it.

    I'm inclined to believe that if I were to broach the subject in some half-public way, that I'd be in for a talking to...
     
  13. Relic

    Relic Cow are you?

    Sep 12, 2006
    Robbinsville, NJ
    I think that it may only be a matter of time. The whole telecommuting thing is starting to really proliferate around this area and in this field. I work with folks from other companies on a daily basis who telecommute.
    The company I work for was the same way at first: "it shall not be mentioned, it shall not be said" but eventually they relented. They probably looked at the dollars and cents of it and figured that it was a good move. I'm hoping your company will do the same. A bunch of the heavy-hitters - Intel, etc etc are sending folks home now as well.
     
  14. jive1

    jive1 Commercial User

    Jan 16, 2003
    Alexandria,VA
    Owner/Retailer: Jive Sound
    The problem to me is that it's a drastic paradigm shift for many managers. Too many managers are focued on tardiness, dress, paperwork, etc. that are extraneous to the job rather than the job itself. There are plenty of workers who go into the office to slack who know how to play the game while achieving no results. Luckily the shift is towards results, and I find that it not only benefits the company but aids in retaining workers. There's plenty of people who love their work, but hate dealing with traffic and wearing a tie everyday.

    Aside from the cost of gas and carbon emissions from cars, the company also saves on the costs of heating/cooling, rent, electricity, custodial maintenance, etc. Considering that office space around here is $25 a square foot, the savings can accumulate fast. Working from home saves my company at least $6000 annually for me in rent alone.

    A company can keep tabs on an employee working from home if they wish to. The technology is there. But, if the results are there, then why bother? Most managers who are busy prefer a self starter who can work independently, and don't have time to count the number of minutes they spend on the toilet. I'd much have a poorly dressed, tardy individual who gets results over a prompt, well dressed slacker.

    The issue for some companies is that a couple of slackers ruin it for everyone. Because those folks can't handle telecommuting, the company makes a blanket policy forbidding it. The fear being that if you let the independent, self starter who keeps their nose to the grinstone the ability to work from home, then you have to let the slacker who plays solitaire all day long the same ability. At my company, telecommuting is done on a case-by-case basis. You have to work there for a while and demonstrate the ability to work independently before telecommuting is an option. And even then, you still have to show that your project can handle such a work environment.

    But, appearances make a difference. If they don't see you working, sometimes they assume you are not. But I think there will be a shift in paradigm that will focus more on results, mainly because management is continuously expected to do more.
     
  15. That depends on the definition of "as expected". My field has little to no supervision and I see the problem with telecommuting everyday. In my line of work (independent title researcher, among other related stuff), a person could fabricate a very large and plausible work related delay and still complete the work and turn it in "as expected". They could also just show up, do it and cut the project time in half. It would take blatant abuse of the system or a complete work stoppage and someone MIGHT get caught in a couple weeks.

    I once worked in the field for a month with only intermittent call to the home office or client with a verbal or faxed update on my progress. In the end, it was a 6 month project with maybe 6 face to face meetings with the client and/or my boss. I honestly could have stretched that job to a full year and still turned it in "as expected".

    The bottom line is that, unfortunately, it seems a decent sized portion of society simply won't work as hard if they are not supervised. I see it everyday. People showing up at the site one hour late and leaving an hour early and still billing for a full day's worth of work. My industry can be hard to break into and the level of trust needed is the reason.

    Mike
     
  16. Relic

    Relic Cow are you?

    Sep 12, 2006
    Robbinsville, NJ
    All true - and another thing that they look for is a "softening" in the schedule of your work day. What I mean is that I work 9-5, but if I have a really tough issue that I'm dealing with, they know that I may sign back on at 10 after the kids are in bed to take another look....or sign on at 7 am before it gets busy to work on it a bit. It's psychology, the computer and tools are sitting right at home, and you only have to walk into a room to work on something that bugging you and not drive across town.
     
  17. funkometer

    funkometer Supporting Member

    Jan 16, 2006
    Birmingham AL
    Whats yer day job, Kjung?
     
  18. The company I work for owns 4 buildings and leases 2 in the same 2 block area. They also own 2 more buildings about 10 miles from here as well as smaller buildings in the west coast, TX and NY (for supporting the stock market). About 75% of the company's personnel is IT related (though the company itself is in the financial market). I could definitely do my job remotely. When you consider that I have never met (face to face) some of my co-workers and interact with them on a daily basis (they are either located on one of the other buildings or out of town) it's an even more "viable" option than managers realize.

    A "nice" story I have is that when I started working here I met this guy who supported one of the systems my apps interacted with. He applied for and got approved to telework because he wanted to move back home to NC. A month later the company decided he couldn't do his job remotely and asked him to come back to regular office schedule or he would be fired. He did return but was so pissed off he couldn't/wouldn't get his job done was aggressive towards all his co-workers (including me) that he got fired. He had been with the company for 25yrs and was on the verge of retiring. He got about 50 weeks severance pay, retired officially and returned home to NC.
     
  19. MakiSupaStar

    MakiSupaStar The Lowdown Diggler

    Apr 12, 2006
    Huntington Beach, CA
    +1. This is what I meant when I said middle managers fear it.
     
  20. I am aware of the unfortunate reality of "one bad apple..."

    To add to that, there's the reality that some workers cannot telecommute and "if they see other's doing it..." thing.

    The funny thing is, I've been at this company approaching 3 years and there are still people all around me I've never spoken to or interacted with. My role (and the roles of most of my coworkers) rarely, if ever requires such interaction.

    But when the big Highway 40/64 construction monster loomed, the company had a big old meeting to talk about how we'll all have to double-down and figure out creative ways to deal with it. When one "progressive" employee started talking about telecommuting or even true "flex time" (not the hybrid version where you get no flexibility, just a fixed in and out time based on a very limited range) - the presenter went from warm-fuzzy, go team, to chilly, icy, stern, NO!

    The woman who was asking about it has "interesting" social skills and persisted since she, like most of us, could so easily see the value that even true flex time would bring, it was clear the presenter was in a spot he'd hoped he would have to be - and he shut her down pretty sternly.

    I guess I am just lamenting the silly "reasons" otherwise intelligent people use to justify proceeding with a less than optimal solution to a fairly simple problem. It seems so juvenile when it comes right down to it.
     

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