I once heard an anecdote that if Microsoft-founder-turned-philanthropist Bill
Gates passed a $100 bill on the ground, it wouldn't be worth his time to pick
it up and put it in his pocket. Instead, he's better off spending those five
seconds checking Xbox sales reports and the price of Microsoft stocks. It's
true that if Bill Gates were to work 48 40-hour weeks a year, one second of his
time would be worth $536.74, but that implies his personal time is worthless.
So each second he spends with his family, playing bridge or fighting
horse-sized ducks should be worthless to him, right?
I could argue that those seconds
should be more valuable to him, and with it goes along the mindset that 'nobody
ever wished they worked more on their deathbed.' Let's take a small glimpse at
how valuable personal time is around the world. I may even be able to convince
you to take all of your vacation time this summer.
Around the world, there is an almost-universal respect for the
weekend. While you may have a Saturday-Sunday (Christian), Friday-Saturday
(Jewish/Islam), or Thursday-Friday (Islam) weekend, in every society a week of
labor commences with at least one day of rest [where we just bang on the drum all
day]. (The French Revolutionary calendar ordered one day of rest for 10
days of work!) The first official limitation of work hours came from
Boston-based shipbuilders in 1842 who demanded eight-hour workdays. In the
following decades more American unions took up the eight-hour day banner, and
the idea began to proliferate internationally (U.K. 1884; Australia, 1916;
In the United States, the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of
America demanded a two-day weekend in 1929, and the ensuing Great Depression
would reduce work availability overall. In 1938, FDR signed into law a standardized
five-day, 40-hour workweek in an attempt to help reduce layoffs, and this is
seen as the current international benchmark.
There are some minor exceptions to the 40-hour workweek
however. Chile works a 45-hour week; Columbians and Indians work 48. In Israel,
workers typically labor from Sunday until midday Friday, resulting in a 43-hour
workweek. Danes have an official workweek of 37 hours. The communists of the
Soviet Union saw the benefit to a 41 hour workweek. So while most nations fall
into the ballpark range of 40 hours, there are also some major exceptions to
the 40 hour week. Many developed countries have seen the average hours worked
per laborer slowly erode. Several factors are responsible for this trend:
technological advances and mechanized efficiency; the huge increase in women
workers in the past 50 years; and the smaller family sizes which means less
hours need to be worked to support dependents.
has the second-lowest workweek in the world, with just 30 labor hours on
average, and a legal cap at 35 hours. This saves the French worker 22 days a
year, in addition to their average 30
days of vacation and 13 holidays. The typical Dutch worker belabors just 27
hours each week, and at current rates the Netherlands will be first nation to
have an average workweek of less than 21 hours. What's more, the Dutch are some
of the most
productive workers in the European Union.
have been calls to further reduce the average workweek from 40 hours to 21.
British economy watchdog the New Economics Foundation called for the U.K to
permanently adopt a 21 hour work week. They cite that a workweek deduced by
nearly half would address issues such as climate change, high carbon emissions,
low worker morale, class inequalities, family care situations and an overall
lack of leisure. Other policy think-tanks agree that such a move could affect
numerous social problems, but instituting a very short workweek, either legally
or collectively, has been met with much skepticism. Opponents argue that
shortening the work week for the benefit of unemployment and wealth distribution
is decidedly Marxist, and it has not curtailed unemployment in France, which
stands at over 10%.
Instead, perhaps we should make better utilization of our
vacation days. Expedia (yes, the discount travel website) believes that North
Americans, the Japanese, and Koreans are all vacation-deprived. The typical
CanAmMex worker earns between 10-16 days of vacation, but still leaves an
unused surplus. Japanese and Korean workers earn at most about 10 days of
vacation, and maybe they use half of
them. On the flip side, Germany, Brazil, France and Spain see the most days of
vacation, with the average of 30 days-all of them redeemed. Some employers even
grant 40 days of vacation.
What's not up for debate is the need for
Today notes that overstressed individuals are more
susceptible to become ill, injured or depressed. It also cites studies that
state vacations allow time for individuals to have, "rest and recuperation from
work; provision of new experiences leading to a broadening of horizons and the
opportunity for learning and intercultural communication; promotion of peace
and understanding; personal and
social development; visiting friends and relatives; religious pilgrimage and health;
and, subjective wellbeing." One study even suggests a type of 'vacation
welfare' for families who are unable to de-stress.
Working time seemed to top out in the late 19th
century with industrialization on the rise, a lack of government oversight, and
a general disregard for workers' rights. As the average workweek fell, domestic
lives seemed to improve. But between 1970 and 2002, hours worked per capita in
the U.S. has increased by 20%. Is it time to scale back again?
Telecommuting can be a great work arrangement with a lot of
benefits (see part 2), but there is also a downside. Understanding the potential challenges
associated with remote work can help those considering this type of work
arrangement identify and avoid common pitfalls.
We know that working remotely can reduce work-family
conflict (WFC), but what about family responsibilities conflicting with work
responsibilities? Family-work conflict
(FWC) is the opposing argument to increased work-family conflict (WFC). Assuming there is a limit to the amount of
energy one can devote to both work and family responsibility, if the energy
spent on one increases, the energy spent on the other must decrease.
It is important for telecommuters to establish boundaries or
rituals to prevent FWC from creating additional role stress. For example, saying goodbye to family members
and closing the door to the home office can help the telecommuter separate
family time from work time.
Social isolation is a common complaint among
telecommuters. Informal relationships
between employees develop through casual conversation around the office, and it
is difficult for remote workers to replicate that kind of interaction. Some telecommuters find it helpful to use
instant message software to communicate with co-workers informally.
Telecommuters also experience lower work-based social
support and organizational affiliation than non-telecommuters which can lower
an employee's ability to identify with the organization. A fragmented organization is seldom ideal for
productivity, so job performance can suffer as a result.
Additionally, many telecommuters feel professionally
isolated from the organization.
Professional isolation can occur when a telecommuter feels he or she is
missing out on opportunities for professional development and growth within the
organization. The old saying "out of
sight, out of mind" is especially true for telecommuters.
Impact on Others
Telecommuters themselves are not the only individuals
affected by telecommuting. Increased
aggravation and strained relationships with co-workers and supervisors are
other major drawbacks to the virtual work situation.
Co-workers are also often expected to pick up the extra
slack for their colleagues who are out of the office, and may experience more
distractions and an increased workload.
For example, a supervisor may hand off extra work to the members of the
team that are present rather than to a telecommuter because it is more
Supervisors find it difficult to manage employees they
cannot see. Surprisingly, even though
supervisors feel that it is harder to trust telecommuters to complete work
appropriately, they provide less regular feedback to remote employees. Over time, this can damage the relationship
the employee has with the supervisor.
Telecommuting programs can be difficult to implement
successfully without proper training and guidelines. It is essential that employees, co-workers,
and managers fully support the change in the work environment and understand
how to deal with these new challenges to all parties involved. Establishing policies about proper scheduling,
work environment, communication, and feedback can combat many of the drawbacks
of telecommuting for both the individual and the organization.
Bailey, D. E., & Kurland, N. B. (2002). A review of
telework research: findings, new directions, and lessons for the study of
modern work. Journal of Organizational Behavior , 383-400.
Belanger, F., & Allport, C. D. (2008). Collaborative
technologies in knowledge telework: an exploratory study. Information
Systems Journal , 101-121.
Cooper, C. D., & Kurland, N. B. (2002). Telecommuting,
professional isolation, and employee development in public and private
organizations. Journal of Organizational Behavior , 511-532.
Golden, T. D. (2007). Co-Workers who telework and the impact
on those in the office: Understanding the implications of virtual work for
co-worker satisfaction and turnover intentions. Human Relations ,
Golden, T. D., Vaiga, J. F., & Simsek, Z. (2006).
Telecommuting's Differential Impact on Work-Family Conflict: Is There No Place
Like Home? Journal of Applied Psychology , 1340-1350.
Guimaraes, T., & Dallow, P. (1999). Empirically testing
the benefits, problems, and success factors for telecommuting programmes. Journal
of Information Systems , 40-54.
J. E., Miller, B. C., Weiner, S. P., & Colihan, J. (1998). Influences of
the Virtual Office on Aspects of Work and Work/Life Balance. Personnel
Psychology , 667-683.
Kurland, N. B., & Cooper, C. D. (2002). Manager control
and employee isolation in telecommuting environments. Journal of High
Technology , 107-126.
Leonardi, P. M., Treem, J. W., & Jackson, M. H. (2010).
The Connectivity Paradox: Using Technology to Both Decrease and Increase
Perceptions of Distance in Distributed Work Arrangements. Journal of Applied
Communication Research , 85-105.
Raghuram, S., Garud, R., Wiesenfeld, B., & Gupta, V.
(2001). Factors contributing to virtual work adjustment. Journal of
Management , 383-405.
Wiesenfeld, B. M., Raghuram, S., & Garud, R. (2001).
Organizational identification among virtual workers: the role of need for
affiliation and perceived work-based social support. Journal of Management
Last week in Part 1, we briefly talked about the increasing popularity of telecommuting and some
important things to consider before making the decision to telecommute on a
regular basis. Under the right
circumstances, telecommuting can be a fantastic work arrangement. Now let's look at some of the advantages
telecommuting can give to both the employee and the employer.
One of the greatest advantages of telecommuting is
flexibility. Without the strict time
constraints of a traditional office setting, an employee has more control over
his or her schedule. Many remote work
arrangements allow employees to work during their own peak hours of
productivity (e.g. early morning).
Even though flexible scheduling is beneficial, there is a
caveat. The technology we use to stay in
touch can lead to a feeling of over-connectedness. For example, a telecommuter may feel
obligated to answer his or her work phone at 9 pm just as he or she would feel
at 9 am.
Any employee, telecommuter or not, may need to
simultaneously fill the roles of employee and family-member. Conflicting demands from these two entities
is called work-family conflict (WFC). If
a child becomes ill or other personal needs must be fulfilled, flexible
scheduling is helpful in reducing WFC.
Reduction in WFC is a positive aspect of telecommuting for
employees as it eventually leads to reduced job stress, but it is important for
telecommuters to keep boundaries between work and family. A flexible schedule allows for work
activities to be scheduled around family activities to some extent, but these
boundaries ensure that the schedule remains manageable.
Telecommuters tend to be more satisfied with their
jobs. Though research agrees that
telecommuting is undeniably related to job satisfaction, which can be
influenced by a number of variables, there are some conflicting opinions as to
how they are related.
Telecommuting is positively related to job satisfaction when
employees have high perceptions of job autonomy and low perceptions of
WFC. On the other hand, telecommuting is
negatively related to job satisfaction when employees feel that their
professional development is suffering as a result of being away from the
Under ideal conditions, telecommuters are highly
productive. If a problem with a remote
employee's productivity arises, consider the following:
How long has the telecommuter been working
New telecommuters often need several months to
adjust to virtual work.
Is telecommuting a good option for this
Not everyone is cut out for telework. The telecommuter's work habits play a large
role in productivity.
Does the remote employee have the proper
technology for telecommuting?
Without the right tools, productivity will
Is the remote employee too isolated?
Be sure to enable communication between the
telecommuter and the organization.
At the end of the day, organizations want to know how
telecommuting can save them money.
Companies that allow employees to regularly work from home save in one
or more of the following areas:
There are two sides to every story. Even with all of the advantages of working
remotely, it is still important to understand that every situation is different
and what works well for one employee or organization may not work well for
another. What are some of the challenges
associated with telecommuting? Find out
in part 3.
Bailey, D. E., & Kurland, N.
B. (2002). A review of telework research: findings, new directions, and lessons
for the study of modern work. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 383-400.
Baruch, Y. (2000). Teleworking:
benefits and pitfalls as perceived by professionals and managers. New
Technology, Work and Employment , 34-49.
Cooper, C. D., & Kurland, N.
B. (2002). Telecommuting, professional isolation, and employee development in
public and private organizations. Journal of Organizational Behavior , 511-532.
Gajendarn, R. S., & Harrison,
D. A. (2007). The Good, the Bad, and the Unknown About Telecommuting:
Meta-Analysis of Psychological Mediators and Individual Consequences. Journal
of Applied Psychology , 1524-1541.
Golden, T. D. (2007). Co-Workers
who telework and the impact on those in the office: Understanding the
implications of virtual work for co-worker satisfaction and turnover
intentions. Human Relations , 1641-1663.
Golden, T. D., & Veiga, J. F.
(2005). The Impact of Extent of Telecommuting on Job Satisfaction: Resolving
Inconsistent Findings. Journal of Management , 301-317.
Golden, T. D., Vaiga, J. F.,
& Simsek, Z. (2006). Telecommuting's Differential Impact on Work-Family
Conflict: Is There No Place Like Home? Journal of Applied Psychology ,
Guimaraes, T., & Dallow, P.
(1999). Empirically testing the benefits, problems, and success factors for
telecommuting programmes. Journal of Information Systems , 40-54.
Hill, J. E., Miller, B. C.,
Weiner, S. P., & Colihan, J. (1998). Influences of the Virtual Office on
Aspects of Work and Work/Life Balance. Personnel Psychology , 667-683.
Leonardi, P. M., Treem, J. W.,
& Jackson, M. H. (2010). The Connectivity Paradox: Using Technology to Both
Decrease and Increase Perceptions of Distance in Distributed Work Arrangements.
Journal of Applied Communication Research , 85-105.
Raghuram, S., & Wiesenfeld,
B. (2004). Work-Nonwork Conflict and Job Stress Among Virtual Workers. Human
Resource Management , 259-277.
Reinsch, J. N. (1997).
Relationships Between Telecommuting Workers and Their Managers: An Exploratory
Study. The Journal of Business Communication , 343-369.
It's 2013 and mobility is all the rage. We now have a number of tools available to us that can help us get our work done sans cubicle, so it is easy to understand why many employers are choosing to let employees work remotely.
Working remotely, or telecommuting, is to participate in a virtual work arrangement at least one work day per week, by way of electronic media, from various locations away from the traditional workplace. Though it may still sound outlandish to some, telecommuting isn't the futuristic alternative to conventional office work that it once was. According to the 2010 United States Census, the number of employees who work at home grew by more than 60% since 2005.
Many of the tools we use to telecommute today weren't around even a decade ago, but does having the technology to work remotely mean it is right for everyone? Not necessarily. Yahoo recently sparked some debate in the business world after banning telecommuting, and Best Buy quickly followed suit. But this doesn't mean that telecommuting can't work. Cisco and Intel both allow upwards of 80% of their employees to telecommute regularly with great success.
Before Getting Started, Consider the When, Where, and How.
For a company that has never allowed telecommuting, it can be difficult to decide when and if the time is right to initiate such a drastic change in policy. Such a major culture change will undoubtedly come with advantages and disadvantages to both the telecommuter and to the organization itself. The extent to which an employee and an organization experience these effects depends on the conditions of the remote work arrangement. If you are trying to decide whether telecommuting can work for you or your organization consider the following questions:
How often will the employee telecommute?
The term 'telecommuter' can include those individuals that only work remotely one day each week as well as those that work remotely all the time. Employees that telecommute more frequently experience the positive and negative aspects of remote work to a fuller extent than those that only telecommute occasionally.
From where will the employee be telecommuting?
The alternate location is most commonly the home, but can also include satellite offices near the home and other mobile locations like hotels or airports. Not every location is the same. Workers telecommuting from home and other mobile locations are considered to be high intensity telecommuters and often experience exaggerated effects from telecommuting compared to low intensity telecommuters that work in satellite offices.
What tools will the employee need to telecommute successfully?
It is extremely important to consider the technology that an employee will use to telecommute. Telecommuters need to be adequately connected with similar hardware and software to their organizational headquarters to remain effective. An employee that has the proper tools will experience telecommuting more positively than an employee ill-equipped for remote work.
What are the benefits of telecommuting? In my next blog post, I will discuss the advantages of telecommuting for individuals and organizations.
What clues can a job seeker gain about the culture of a company
during the interview process? How can a job applicant determine whether this place
would really be a good place to work? If
you're the job applicant, how do you know whether or not you'll fit in?
Company culture can be difficult
to interpret since you're looking from the outside in and not from the inside
out. Here is a short list of tips, clues, and questions to help you interpret the
culture of a company or office.
Before the Interview, search Linkedin.com to determine
the average duration that employees have lasted with this firm. You'll also be
able to tell which career path most, but not all, employees followed to get
there. Based on the demographics, you may also be able to tell if the company's
workforce is younger or more experienced.
When you enter the lobby for an interview, is
the receptionist happy, welcoming, and in good spirits? Typically, the
receptionist is the first person you see and remember when entering a business.
It's a good sign if the company invested wisely in this person. (Note: There is
a chance, of course, that the employer may not have a receptionist, or that you're
greeted by a security guard. This depends on the type of company and its location.)
During a job interview, here's a good question
to ask a hiring manager or potential team members: "How does your team or
company celebrate success?" This will help you to gauge whether the
organization celebrates internally or externally. Personally, I've worked in environments
where not a single co-worker engaged in outside activities. I've also worked in
other places that have.
4) Analyze the employees' office space. Is it personalized
with family pictures, plants, décor and achievements? Or is it strictly about business?
If you are interviewing in the evening, are employees
there who have stayed late to finish work? If management stays late to complete
assignments, the employees might be expected to stay late, too. (This depends
on the company, of course.).
Last but not least, ask as many people you
know for information about who might have worked or currently works there. This
seems obvious, but remember to do it!
Hopefully, these tips, clues, and
questions will help you to decide if the company you're interviewing with is
right for you. What would you add to this list?
Editor's Note: Jake Briggs (KER_Recruiter)
is a Direct Hire Recruiter / Search Consultant for Kelly Engineering Resources
in Buffalo, New York. His territory includes the Upstate, NY Region as well as
U.S. Based Searches for Engineering, Quality & Operation Management
Positions. The views expressed on this Web site/Weblog are mine alone and do
not necessarily reflect the views of my employer.
Unfortunately, it's been some time since my
last blog entry here on CR4. But I'm now looking forward to starting up again.
For those readers who may not remember my previous entries, my name is Jake
Briggs. I'm a Direct Hire Recruiter / Search Consultant for Kelly Engineering Resources in Buffalo, New
Recently, I was asked to write about a topic
that I'm not an expert on - how to approach your engineering manager for a
raise. In response, I decided to reach out to three veteran engineering
managers. Each provided valuable input about how to approach this sensitive
situation, and how to gain a positive outcome.
Based on my discussions, I've compiled this
list of questions to ask yourself and things to consider.
Evaluate your position with the company. Do
you deserve a raise to begin with? (I'm sure we all would say
Do you provide value to the company? If so,
what examples of your accomplishments can you provide?
Do you set yourself apart from your
co-workers and exceed the requirements of your position? Be prepared to
provide details, but do not name specific co-workers; that could
result in a negative consequence.
Evaluate the local engineering employment
market, especially with regard to the supply and demand for engineers with
your credentials and experience. Speak to a Recruiter who knows your worth
in the local market.
Be prepared to receive constructive criticism
that will point out weaknesses in your performance. Remain positive and
ask for help on how to correct any performance issues. Also, ask to be put
on a timeline to position yourself to be evaluated again. If your manager
says that you need licenses, certifications or degrees, ask for
recommendations about how to obtain them. Some companies will pay for them
or provide tuition assistance.
In conclusion, be prepared to
state your case and receive constructive criticism. Keep a positive attitude
and do not retaliate in any form if your request for a raise is denied. If you
get your raise, then congratulations are in order. It's well-deserved. If you
don't get a raise and you don't get the support you need to reach the next
level of your engineering career goals, I'd recommend contacting a Direct Hire Recruiter /
Search Consultant like myself.
As always, I look forward to
your comments. Cheers!
Editor's Note: Jake Briggs (KER_Recruiter) is a Direct Hire Recruiter / Search Consultant for Kelly Engineering Resources in Buffalo, New York. His
territory includes the Upstate, NY
Region as well as U.S. Based Searches for Engineering, Quality & Operation
Management Positions. The views expressed on
this Web site/Weblog are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of