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Frequently Asked Questions

Which employees are ideal for teleworking?

The ideal teleworker is well organized, can work independently and requires minimal supervision. Successful teleworkers have a high degree of job skill and knowledge, and strong time management skills. Teleworkers like working at home or away from the office for at least part of the week and don't mind working alone. Teleworking is not ideal or desirable for every employee.

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Is teleworking a substitute for child or elder care?

No. A teleworker must focus on his/her job, and not try to handle demanding child or elder care situations while working. However, teleworkers are often better able to manage their work/family schedules because they have greater flexibility in their work hours, and because the time they would normally spend commuting is reduced or eliminated.

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  • Coping with interruptions and distractions — Often friends, neighbors and family members do not realize that a teleworker is working. Although an occasional, brief interruption may be welcome, teleworkers must learn to keep interruptions to a minimum.
  • Working long hours — Teleworkers need to be careful that they do not slip into "workaholism." Some personality types have the tendency to work longer hours than usual when they are teleworking because they can focus so well on their work. Teleworkers should give careful consideration to the balance or integration of their work and personal lives to avoid burnout.
  • Exercising self-control — If teleworkers find themselves procrastinating, they should evaluate their work habits and make necessary changes to ensure productivity.
  • Designating space — A designated work area is recommended for teleworking. A separate work space may mean fewer distractions or interruptions and a higher level of discipline and organization.
  • Gaining support — A family's or supervisor's attitude may sometimes be detrimental to a telework arrangement. Teleworkers must work to gain the support and understanding of those around them (Source: Valley Metro, Phoenix, Arizona).

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I really want to start teleworking. How do I go about getting approval from my manager?

First, find out if your company has a telework program. If so, review the telework policy to see if you are eligible and submit an application if you meet the criteria.

If your organization does not have a formal telework program, then prepare a brief, written proposal that addresses the following:

  • Why You Want to Telework — Explain exactly why you want to telework and what teleworking one or two days a week will mean to you
  • Employer Benefits — Relate why you want to telework with how it will benefit the organization
  • Job Responsibilities — Summarize what you do and identify specific tasks or parts of your job that lend themselves to teleworking
  • Employee Characteristics — Discuss why you would be a good candidate for teleworking
  • Home Environment — Describe where in your home you will work and how you will handle dependent care issues (if applicable) while teleworking
  • Equipment and Communications — Describe what equipment you will use (your employers or yours) and how you will communicate with your supervisor, coworkers, clients, etc.
  • Schedule — Suggest a schedule that will be "comfortable" for your supervisor. Consider starting out with one day a week and increasing the number of days as you both gain more experience
  • Trial Period — Suggest a short trial period (3-6 months minimum) so you and your manager can evaluate the telework arrangement

Preparing a written proposal shows you have given your request a lot of thought and addressed any potential concerns. Many successful telework programs have been started because a valued employee wanted to telework and asked!

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What do I do if my employer says no to my request to telework?

First and foremost, be professional. Try to find out why you were turned down and see if there is anything you can do to change or address the factors that resulted in your request being denied.

Second, don't get discouraged. Teleworking is still new to many organizations and they may just not see the value in it — yet.

Third, be persistent, but not at the risk of annoying your employer. If you see an interesting article or report about the benefits of teleworking (especially if it is applicable to your field or industry), pass it along to your manager or human resources director.

Finally, stay informed and look for opportunities to network with other teleworkers.

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Will teleworking make it harder for me to be promoted, since I am not in the office each day?

Contrary to expectations, there is no documented evidence to show that teleworkers are promoted less often. In fact, a research project, which examined 46 telecommuting studies over the past 20 years and involved nearly 13,000 employees, showed that "telecommuting has no straightforward, damaging effects on the quality of workplace relationships or perceived career prospects." (Source: The Good, the Bad, and the Unknown About Telecommuting. Journal of Applied Psychology)

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What are some tips to being a successful teleworker?

If you want to be successful as a teleworker, the single most important thing you can do is to take it upon yourself to make sure your supervisor is comfortable with the arrangement.

You can help establish a trusting telework arrangement by communicating what you'll be working on when you'll be teleworking and by providing feedback on what you accomplished when working at home. This is a simple, yet effective way for building trust with your supervisor. Many managers quickly find they know more about what their teleworkers are doing than their office counterparts.

In addition to building trust with your supervisor, here are some additional tips for becoming an effective teleworker:

  • Plan in advance what you'll be working on
  • Take more work with you than you think you'll be able to finish (twice as much is a good rule of thumb)
  • Prepare for technology glitches by having non-computer dependent work with you, such as reading, editing, etc
  • Make sure you have everything with you that you need including phone numbers, reference material and office supplies (paper, printer cartridges, etc.)
  • Avoid calling the office to ask others to look things up for you
  • Establish a routine similar to your normal workday
  • Avoid procrastination — have a schedule for the day and stick to it; set deadlines
  • Take regular breaks throughout the day
  • Set ground rules with other household members about when and why you can be interrupted when you are working
  • Avoid overworking — shut down at the end of the day

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