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What's the advantage to telecommuting?

  • Story Highlights
  • An estimated 10 percent of today's workforce telecommutes from home
  • 2 million American businesses support some kind of telecommuting program
  • Survey: 36 percent would choose telecommuting over a pay raise
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By Kate Lorenz
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Editor's Note: CNN.com has a business partnership with CareerBuilder.com, which serves as the exclusive provider of job listings and services to CNN.com. This article first appeared in September 2005.

(CareerBuilder.com) -- Are skyrocketing gasoline prices cursing your commute? Wondering why you're driving to work only to spend your hard-earned dollars to get you there and back? Perhaps telecommuting is the answer.

Telecommuting is changing the way we work. An estimated 10 percent of today's workforce works from home and remains on the company payroll. And a recent study commissioned by Bell Atlantic estimates that 2 million American businesses support some kind of telecommuting program.

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Employees who telecommute largely report that they are happier with their jobs and more satisfied with their personal lives. A survey by the Information Technology Association of America even found that 36 percent of respondents would choose telecommuting over a pay raise.

Increased quality of life sits at the top of the list of employee benefits along with reduced stress levels, greater flexibility and increased productivity. And contrary to the popular "out of sight, out of mind" misconception that telecommuting will take you off the fast track, a study of 17,000 telecommuters by the U.S. Small Business Administration (Myths and Realities of Working at Home) found that teleworkers receive a higher proportion of promotions than their stay-at-work counterparts.

Employers in turn benefit from reduced real estate costs and absenteeism, increased productivity, morale and employer turnover costs. In addition, many find that telecommuting seems to encourage certain entrepreneurial qualities in their employees, including drive, self-discipline, self-reliance and improved judgment.

There are benefits to the community as well: reduced fossil fuel consumption and traffic congestion which lead to cleaner air and safer neighborhoods. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, if an additional 10 percent of the nation's workforce would telecommute just one day a week, Americans would avoid the frustration of driving 24.4 million miles, breathe air with 13,000 tons less air pollution and conserve more than 1.2 million gallons of fuel each week.

Are you a candidate for telecommuting? Certain jobs such as writers, salespersons, accountants, programmers, graphic artists, researchers, engineers, architects and public relations professionals lend themselves to telecommuting better than others.

You also need to have the right personal qualities. For example, do you have the self-discipline to work from home under minimal supervision? Does your boss perceive you as a self-starter who can work independently? Are you a proven performer? Well-organized? A good time-manager?

If the answers are yes, you may want to propose a telecommuting arrangement with your employer. To do so successfully, follow the same principles you would in a job interview. Focus on the benefits of telecommuting to the company, not the benefits to you. State only that telecommuting will make you more productive and efficient, be a better use of the time you currently spend on the road, make your boss's life easier -- whatever benefits you come up with that focus on the employer's needs, not yours.

Outline in writing your job description and assure your boss that you'll meet your responsibilities. Emphasize that you know what needs to be done and that telecommuting won't significantly change that. You may even want to include a table that shows which of your job functions will be accomplished off-site, which will be performed in the traditional workplace and which can be done at either location. Describe how you will handle key relationships with other team members.

Think about yourself the same way you would if you were looking for a new job. What is your unique selling proposition? How are you an asset to your employer, and what do you do better then anyone else in your company? By effectively communicating your value to your employer, you'll be better able to sell your boss on the idea of letting you telework. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

Copyright CareerBuilder.com 2009. All rights reserved. The information contained in this article may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority

Kate Lorenz is the article and advice editor for CareerBuilder.com. She researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues.

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