Thursday, January 18, 2007

Exactly what are your goals?

I caught an interesting article over on /. this morning entitled "Will Telecommuting kill a Career". I've been telecommuting full time now for almost five years, so you might assume I shot over to see if they predicted the death of my career. As usual, the comments ranged from silly "Tele-commuting didn't kill my career. Slashdot killed my career!" to "I knew a boss that only telecommuted!", and everything in between.

The not-so-simple answer is that telecommuting is not for everyone or every company. First, the person working has to be disciplined and focused to get their work done and to provide consistent results. Second, management has to understand that because they don't see someone doesn't mean they are not productive or an active member of the company. Third, there has to be mechanisms and culture in place to make the first two happen.

My boss and most of my coworkers are in the UK , 5 hours ahead of me. When I'm coming in each morning they're heading out to the pub for lunch. I check my email for anything that happened before I got in, answer any low priority questions in email and any high priority ones in IM. When required, we break out the land lines, but we keep it to a minimum to save some $$ on the phone bills.

Has it killed my career? No. My goals were not to climb the corporate ladder into management and beyond. I have increased my skills, both managerial (ever try remotely managing people you don't see daily over multiple time zones and countries?) and developer. I have a challenging work environment and my boss and I work out ways to continue improving my skills. I'm currently writing a replacement for one of our key production lines and working with multiple groups within our organization to do that. I'm visible, active, and challenged.

Will it kill your career? I can't answer that. It will depend on a lot of things. I can provide you with some questions to answer though:
  • What are you goals?
  • If you are looking to climb the ladder and that requires face time and schmoozing, don't telecommute all the time. It's not likely to help.

  • Is your corporate culture tolerant of Telecommuting?
  • I've worked for companies that were both tolerant and intolerant of telecommuting. If your corporate culture is against it, don't do it.

    Tolerance tends to come from the people high up. I've talked with many upper management types that, in their own words, cannot get anything done at home. Thus, they believe no one can. Bucking that trend wont help your career prospects unless your looking to be the maverick in the company.

  • Do you have a compelling reason for doing so?
  • "Because I want to" isn't going to show the people above you that this is a good idea. Have a solid reason or set of reasons before approaching management.

1 comment:

CJ said...

Cool article.

I agree, it really depends on the person, the manager, and even to some extent the type of work. I doubt a car mechanic could telecommute. (^_^)