by Dr. Ronald E. Milliman
Telecommuting has become increasingly popular over recent years. Some people consider a telecommuting job their dream come true, and for blind individuals, it could be an ideal employment situation. This article will present many of the advantages and potential disadvantages of a telecommuting employment scenario. I will also suggest some ways for finding a telecommuting job.
When looking for a telecommuting position, you must be on alert for numerous fraudulent, get-rich-quick schemes that make it sound like you can make big money working just a few hours a week from the comfort of your home. As trite as it sounds, if it is too good to be true, it probably is, and you should stay away from it. Such phrases as “work at home” or “work from your own home” are often clues to schemes you should avoid. Check out all firms offering such job openings by putting their name into Google to see what comes up.
Not all firms offering work at home or work from home are fraudulent. There are alternative terms used to denote a telecommuting job; they include remote jobs, virtual jobs, cloud working, and telework.
Telecommuting work is away from the employer’s place of business, and is most often done from the telecommuter’s home, but can actually be performed from about anywhere, e.g. from a coffee shop, friend’s home, or library. Also, many telecommuting jobs are really a blend of the more traditional job, where you work in the employer’s place of business, and the more contemporary position where you telecommute. Some positions have you work two or three days a week from the office, and telecommute the other days.
When you telecommute, you work by using your computer to do word processing, make spreadsheets, and/or all or a combination of e-mail, instant messaging, video conferencing, and using your phone and fax machine. Often the employer provides whatever is needed, e.g. laptop, software, fax/scanner/copier, and in some situations, you are even provided a cell phone to use for your business-related calls.
What are some of the advantages of a telecommuting job? Here I have listed some of the benefits often achieved from a telecommuting job for your consideration:
- Working from a home office can be a reasonable accommodation under the ADA;
- Much more flexible hours and work schedule;
- Substantially reduces and may even eliminate time-consuming, frustrating, and expensive travel;
- Can design your work environment to suit your comfort level;
- Flexible clothing – no dress codes at home, e.g. pajamas, shorts and T-shirt, etc.;
- Significant reduction in your food cost;
- Lower expenses results in your earning a higher net income;
- Less likely to have the company techies mess up the accessibility of your technology;
- Numerous tax benefits, e.g. home office deduction, write off equipment costs, a portion of your utilities, etc.;
- Company is likely to provide or pay for laptops, home network, cell phone-related expenses, etc.;
- Increased productivity in the absence of distractions, e.g. gossiping and office politics;
- Improved morale resulting from greater work flexibility;
- Reduce job-related stress;
- Much more comfortable environment for your service animal;
- Fewer problems getting along with co-workers;
- May reduce or eliminate your child care or adult care expenses, thus, increasing your net income; and
- Gives you more time with your family.
That is a pretty impressive list of advantages, and it all sounds great, right? Well, not so fast. There are some disadvantages, too, that you really need to seriously consider.
- You must possess considerable self-discipline, motivation and a tremendous amount of focus;
- Not a good match if you are a procrastinator;
- Not a good match if you need direct social interaction with your co-workers or other people;
- You will have little or no assistance from co-workers if needed, e.g. your speech program stops talking on your computer and you have no idea why;
- May be more difficult for you to get promotions, i.e. not able to play the political game with the boss and company higher-ups;
- May be more likely to be part-time, and not eligible for benefits;
- People are more likely to call your home office at all hours, including weekends, assuming you can talk anytime;
- Time management is very important to help you keep your personal and business life separated;
- The company you work for may require a room be used exclusively for your home office or work space;
- Your regular homeowner’s insurance may not cover claims if it considers the claim business-related;
- You may need special business-related insurance and liability coverage; and
- You may be in violation of local zoning laws.
Several ACB members currently work, or have worked, in telecommuting jobs, and have seen the positives and negatives of such work.
Ardis Bazyn says, “I’ve been working on and off for a company based in Washington state since 2011. I set my own hours and they give me projects to do … The positives were working from home much of the time, but some travel was included. I could choose the amount of hours I worked and was paid based on the time invested, and extra bonuses were paid for special accomplishments … The down side was there would be months in between when the firm didn’t give me work and then wanted a bunch done when they finally got back to me again. … Time management is very important, keeping personal and business life separated.”
Mitch Pomerantz, a former president of ACB, says: “I have worked from home both as L.A. City’s ADA compliance officer and as a consultant in the ADA field … Primarily, both as an employee and as a contractor, I was researching, writing and participating in telephone and e-mail communications with various parties, including my own staff. I think that the up side is the freedom it gives you, albeit you do need to stay in electronic and/or telephonic communications with your manager; at least as an employee. If you’re going to take a two-hour lunch break to run an errand, you’d better make sure your manager knows it. As an employee, I was scrupulous about working a nine-hour day, since we were on a 9/80 work schedule, even if that meant working until 6 or 7 p.m. That’s not so much of an issue for a consultant since you can set your own hours, as long as you complete your work within whatever deadline you are given. I’d say the only down side is that the telecommuter needs discipline to work successfully from home. … It also helps to be able to compartmentalize. I know folks who have worked from home and can’t enjoy their home when not working because of the association with work … I’d also say that it helps to have a separate home office which you can close off from the rest of the house. It limits distractions.”
Michelle Zentz says, “I worked from my apartment doing web accessibility testing for two years. I loved it. I went in once during the whole time and that is when I did my personal interview, filled out employee forms, had lunch with my supervisor and direct co-worker on the project. The supervisor left it up to me if and how involved in the office staff I cared to be; I chose not to attend those meetings. However, there were issues maybe that would have better served the organization if I had been able to voice my concerns in person … I used all my own equipment and did not ask for any accommodations. My checks were handled by direct deposit … Job performance evaluations were handled by e-mail or accessible documents or online surveys … All in all I was pleased with the experience.”
Chris Gray, also a former president of ACB, stated, “For me, the greatest advantage was in the time and cost savings for transportation. Going from my home in south San Jose to Redwood Shores, Calif. was a 2-hour commute each way, entailing a bus, train and cab with all the associated costs for each. Even carpooling, the time was in excess of 1.5 hours each way. So by telecommuting, I saved the money, had far more time and energy to devote to the company, and since the majority of my work was handled via e-mail and phone, aside from generating a final product, it was a win-win all the way around.”
I have worked as a telecommuter and found that it allowed me to be much more productive because I was able to avoid all of the distractions of the office: co-workers just walking in to chat, office staff coming in to tell you a funny story, etc. I used my own computer, and as a result, I didn’t have the techies coming in and installing new operating systems, completely replacing the entire computer, and similar happenings that cause considerable frustration. It also kept me away from the plethora of calorie-packed goodies that were available in the office that people brought in. The down side, however, was that it was much more difficult to develop the personal relationships with colleagues that often shows up in the inevitable political battles that develop from time to time in organizations and office politics; thus, it is more difficult to develop political allies that will support your ideas and views in staff meetings. Of course, if you are one who dislikes office politics and prefers to completely avoid it whenever possible, this latter point would be a plus for you.
I have also been an employer where I hired and worked with people who worked from their homes or place of residence. I liked the fact that I could hire the best people I could find for the requirements of the position, regardless of whether they were based in Los Angeles or London, England. Of course, these were all tasks that required creating web sites, software, research and report writing, etc. It was my job to clearly communicate what was needed, to establish clearly defined targets or goals, be available if questions or problems arose, and then, I let the telecommuter work at his/her own pace and create his/her own schedule, as long as the work got completed on time.
So, how do you find telecommuting jobs? You can communicate your desire for a telecommuting job to local employment agencies. You can also go online and look up local firms to see if they have any jobs listed on their web site, and if any of those positions are telecommuting jobs, or if they are the kind of work that could be done as a telecommuter. If so, you can contact the firm’s HR person and explore the idea of transforming it into a telecommuting position. You will need to be fully prepared to present the benefits to the firm, and to handle any objections to telecommuting. You can also conduct a more thorough online search for telecommuting jobs, using all of the terms and phrases I presented at the beginning of this article. Be careful! There are at least 10 rip-offs or scams advertised for every legitimate telecommuting job.
I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you about a service that specializes in helping people find telecommuting jobs. It is FlexJobs, and their web site is www.flexjobs.com. I have invested considerable time checking out their web site. It seems very accessible using a screen-reading program. I am impressed with their service and what they offer for a reasonable fee. They do all of the searching and screening for their subscribers, so you can be reasonably certain that any position posted on the FlexJobs web site is legitimate. I am not associated with FlexJobs in any way and have absolutely nothing to gain by recommending their service, except for the satisfaction that I would feel if anyone reading this article subscribed to their service and found employment as a result of it. If that happens, I would greatly appreciate knowing about it. My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Good luck! I hope you land a good telecommuting job!