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Words from a Veteran Telecommuter

Posted by Betsy Herrick on Wed, Aug 09, 2017

working from home.jpeg

I have the coveted corner office with a magnificent view. But it’s not the typical “corner office” you might be thinking of, the one perched thirty stories up, with floor-to-ceiling windows offering unobstructed views of the bustling city street below. Nope, my corner office looks out over the quiet, rural landscape of my backyard in Maine.

Even though my company’s headquarters are in Downtown Boston, for the past 11 years, I’ve been a full-time remote employee.

When I first started working from home in 2006, it wasn’t nearly as popular as it is today. The concept of working from home, or “telecommuting", as it’s come to be known as, seemed to be a perk that only startups offered employees, not "regular" businesses. To those who weren't familiar with the concept, they probably pictured remote employees as sitting at home with their feet up at their desk eating bonbons. But fortunately, even in the early days, CMB embraced the idea with optimism.

Over the last decade, telecommuting has gained tremendous popularity with the number of full-time remote employees in the US increasing by 115% between 2005 and 2015. I was the first CMBer to work remote full-time, and now we have more than five employees telecommuting with another group doing so part-time.

Both the employer and employee have much to gain from this arrangement, for example, higher productivity, fewer sick or weather-related absences, more flexibility, a generally happier workforce, etc. While telecommuting can be mutually beneficial, there are a couple key things that must happen in order for it to be a productive and successful arrangement.

In my eleven years as a remote employee, I’ve learned communication is integral to a successful telecommuting arrangement. And fortunately, today’s technology makes it really easy for communication to flow seamlessly between colleagues—ensuring I am connected and engaged, even when I’m hundreds of miles away in Maine. In addition to traditional email and good, old-fashioned phone calls (never underestimate the power of the spoken word!), we regularly use virtual meeting software equipped with screen sharing and video chat capabilities. These technologies enhance productivity and enable real-time responses.

A successful telecommuter must be able to prioritize tasks without much guidance and regular physical check ins. It’s their responsibility to keep up with important deadlines, and know which projects take precedence over others when priorities shift. In my case, as a graphic designer, it helps that I have a deadline-oriented job—I’ve been trained to work autonomously towards daily goals, but know when I need to rearrange my schedule if something unexpected pops up.

Working from home offers distractions that a traditional office setting might not—whether it’s the beautiful weather outside or a pile of laundry inside. To combat these distractions, it’s important for a telecommuter to have a designated work space away from their “home life”.  I treat my office space as exactly that, a place “away” from home where I go to work each day. It is a separate space with a desk, good lighting, and all the technology I need to do my job. I do not answer my home phone or go pull weeds in my garden during business hours, just as if I was at my company’s physical location… although I do enjoy having a cat on my lap occasionally while I work.

As telecommuting grows in popularity, companies are discovering other, less obvious benefits from this practice: better staff health, lower operating costs, greater loyalty (with less turnover) for the company, and fewer weather-related business interruptions, to name a few. But despite the pros, telecommuting is not for everyone. When you work remotely, you sacrifice the social aspect of going into a physical office—there’s no water cooler at my house and I regularly miss out on weekly company events.

But ultimately, my commute rocks, my productivity is high, my colleagues keep me “in the loop”, and I love my corner office with a view. I wouldn’t change my work situation if you paid me, and ironically, I already get paid to stay home.

Betsy is CMB’s Corporate Design Specialist, and does enjoy bonbons…just not during working hours.

Topics: Chadwick Martin Bailey