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IT workers to management: NOW can we telecommute?

Howard Baldwin | Feb. 15, 2013
IT helps others to work remotely but rarely gets to join in. Is that fair?

Which techies get to telecommute?

Does that mean CIOs can simply fling open the doors to the enterprise and set their people free? Not exactly, experts caution.

In deciding who can and can't work remotely, sources agree that it depends on the employee's level of hands-on work and collaboration. "Supervisory roles, roles that involve hardware management, or strategy and business planning -- those people need to be close to the action," says RHT's Reed. "Roles that require writing code and doing phone-based technical support are easier to do remotely."

That means anyone dealing with deskside support -- never. Business analysts and project managers charged with collaborating with users -- rarely. IT managers -- rarely.

Annis agrees that it's "difficult, but not impossible" for IT managers to work remotely. What's more feasible is telecommuting once a week. "It's important that I'm here. I'm the eyes and ears of development" -- which means it's important for him to interact face-to-face with the business side when necessary. Occasionally, though, he'll steal away from the office to work on a specific project.

In fact, many CIOs who have implemented telework for their IT staff recommend this. "Any work that requires your full concentration but does not require collaboration is better suited to be done off-site," says Niraj Jetly, CIO at EdenredUSA, the U.S. division of a global developer of employee benefits and incentive solutions in Newton, Mass.

"A task that requires four to five hours of concentration can easily take two business days in the office," Jetly observes. "If I have to write an RFP response, and I've already brainstormed with the functionality team and I just need to write it down, it's ideal to do it from home."

Telework allows businesses to ...

  • Increase employee performance, efficiency and satisfaction
  • Recruit skilled workers from a wider geographic area
  • Retain valued employees
  • Increase the diversity of its skilled workforce (e.g., parents of young children, workers with disabilities)
  • Lower absentee rates
  • Expand the work day and service reach of the organization
  • Decrease costs related to office space

That said, there's one group of employees who shouldn't work remotely, regardless of their job responsibilities -- employees whose productivity drops off outside the office. This happens for several reasons, IT executives say.

Sometimes employees lack an isolated workspace at home, and can't escape family members, pets and other distractions. "For some people, the office may be quieter than the house," says Sprint's Campbell.

Other employees lack the discipline to work without physical supervision -- which they're sometimes aware of, though not always. "Some employees will self-select out of telework," says Nancy Crouch, deputy CIO at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C. "They'll admit they're not disciplined."


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