Diversity Woman Magazine

FALL 2013

Leadership and Executive Development for women of all races, cultures and backgrounds

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We Mean Business percentage of their job is truly collaborative," she says. "I guarantee that there are a number of tasks that are done independently." Even for the tasks done in tandem with others, Sutton Fell says telecommuting can work. It just takes a little extra effort to set up video conference calls and shared online documents. Dr. Silvers agrees with Sutton Fell. Much of the work she does from her home in Virginia is collaborative, she says, but she still manages to work well with her team via teleconferencing and sharing fles over e-mail. What about the argument that in-person meetings foster deeper connections with colleagues? To this, Dr. Silvers is quick with a story. "I can see where having a person in front of you can help you connect with body language, but I feel like I'm very connected with the key people I work with," she says. "In fact, I met one of the colleagues I've been working with for four years a few months ago, and it was amazing. She was passing through Virginia with her daughter for a college visit, and they stayed with my family and me. Even though we'd never met in person, we were close friends from just talking on the phone and e-mailing over all of these years." Telecommuting by the Numbers Statistics largely prove that telecommuting is gaining popularity among the American workforce. In 1999, 9.5 million Americans worked from home at least one day a week compared with 13.4 million in 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's Survey of Income and Program Participation and the American Community Survey. Te American Community Survey found that 5.8 million people worked from home for most of the week in 2010, up 1.6 million since 2000. CareerBuilder.com, a site for job seekers, conducts a quarterly employee survey; the company polled 3,690 employees for its second quarter 2013 installment and found that 15 percent of workers are not satisfed with their work–life balance because their employer will not allow them di ve rs i tywoman. com to telecommute. In addition, 15 percent of employers reported ofering at least onceper-week telecommuting as a beneft to job candidates who wanted a higher salary than the company could provide. Words to Live by: Employees and Employers Swiontoniowski is living proof that working from home isn't for everyone. If an employee is in an involuntary Telecommuting is liberating, especially for those who have children. vs. Telecommuting employees lack structure, both personally and professionally. telecommuting situation, she recommends pretending like every day is a day at the ofce with a defnitive structure. Tis means waking up and showering at the same time, eating at regular times, taking normal breaks, and not turning on the TV. "Daytime television is soul sucking," she says. "If you need background noise to replace ofce chatter, play music or listen to NPR." Cora Rodenbusch is a huge fan of telecommuting. On August 1, 2011, her company > allowed her to follow her dream of traveling around the world and working while on the road. For the next 10 months, she and her husband traveled from ofce to ofce of her multinational company. Some days she was working from Ireland; other days she was in India or Australia. She says she loved every minute of the experience and gleaned a few lessons. "You need to be in the right mind-set," she says. "A lot of people think working remotely will be easier, but it can be harder if you are not highly motivated. You need to be full of energy, optimism, and hope and be aggressive with moving things forward." Rodenbusch created a monthly newsletter to keep the lines of communication open with her boss, and she recommends that others follow suit. "It was kind of like a customer newsletter," she says. "I put together all of my wins for the month, what I was working on next, and a glimpse of my goals. It was nicely packaged and understandable and let him know how I was doing." Communication is key to a successful telecommuting work arrangement, according to Sutton Fell. She says employees and employers need to be proactive communicators from day one. And for employees who are also working parents: "Don't assume that working from home means you don't need child care," she notes. "It takes just one baby crying in the background for you to lose all credibility." For employers who are looking to transition stafers into work-from-home arrangements, Sutton Fell recommends establishing clear productivity and deliverable metrics and scheduling weekly (or more frequent) check-ins. "Try using online collaboration tools and simply speaking up," she advises. "Both you and your employee need to be completely dedicated to open communication. Tat is the only way telecommuting will work." DW Katie Morell is an independent journalist based in San Francisco. Read more of her work at katiemorell.com. Fa ll 2 0 1 3 DI V E RSI T Y W O MAN 37

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