The why, when, and how of telecommuting

July 25, 2013

By Sheryl Smolkin


I have worked from home for over eight years – first as a magazine editor and now as a freelance workplace journalist. I certainly don’t miss the daily commute and my co-workers Simba (the cat) and Rufus (the dog) are great companions.

Telecommuting saves me time and transportation costs plus I don’t need a business wardrobe. But don’t just take my word for it.

In April 2011 the Telework Research Network in collaboration with Calgary Economic Development released a study that revealed twice weekly telecommuting could save Canadian companies, employees and the community over $53 billion dollars a year, reduce greenhouse gasses by the equivalent of taking 385 thousand cars off the roads and save approximately 390 million litres of gas

That means Canadian employers can see savings of $10,000 per two-day-a-week telecommuter annually. Employees who telework can also expect savings between $600 – $3,500 per year through reduced commuting and work-related expenses.

A 2013 BMO poll reveals that 23% of Saskatchewan employers offer telecommuting. Companies that offer telecommuting by sector are:

  • 28%: Business/finance
  • 14%: Manufacturing
  • 14%: Retail
  • 13%: Services
  • 3%:  Agri-business

However, not every job lends itself to working remotely either full or part-time. For example, job tasks that that have been identified as appropriate for telecommuting include writing and editing; data entry and transcription; online research; data analysis; and inbound and outbound telephoning. A chef, waitress, construction worker or police officer certainly does not have the same latitude to work offsite.

It also takes self-discipline and commitment to work effectively from home. Many telecommuting advocates say they are more productive when they are not distracted by the hustle and bustle of an office. Nevertheless, there are definitely people for whom the negative aspects of telecommuting outweigh the advantages.

If you don’t have a separate home office where you can comfortably work away from kids, dogs and the doorbell, you may feel like you are always at work or always at home. I know I find it hard to resist checking my email at 10:30 PM when I pass my office on the way to the bedroom.

Another reason for decreased productivity at home may occur if you need the structure of the office environment to work efficiently or if an office is your major source of social interaction. Informal interactions with co-workers can also be an important source of information about the needs of your internal and external clients.

So if you think the “pros” of occasional or regular teleworking outweigh the “cons,” how can you make the business case to your boss?

  1. Analyze your job: Review the components of your job on a daily or a weekly basis. Be prepared to explain how you can do research, writing and telephone work from home, but come to the office for scheduled client and internal meetings.
  2. Your home office: Reassure your boss that you have a suitable, private working space with an internet hookup and telephone. More and more people are opting to get rid of their landlines, but if you will be handling a large volume of local and long distance customer service calls, a landline with a headset may still be preferable.
  3. Technology: Most companies now allow employees to dial into the office network and/or their own desktop machine so they can work seamlessly, regardless of where they are on any particular day. Nevertheless, check with your IT department to find out if they can recommend solutions for backing up your computer and any potential security issues.
  4. Stay in touch: Teleconferences, Skype and live chats with your group are all ways to stay in touch, even when informal meetings are scheduled on days when you are working from home.
  5. Performance measures: Make sure out of sight is not out of mind. Clearly establish with your supervisor how your performance will be evaluated. Performance measures should be based not solely on input (the number of hours you work) but on output (work done, projects completed and contributions to the organization’s goals and objectives).
  6. Pilot project: Set some goals, try out the proposed arrangement for a few months and then reassess. This will ensure both you and the company have an exit strategy if telecommuting turns out to be a less than optimum arrangement.

Do you have tips for telecommuters or teleworkers? Share your tips with us at and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card. And remember to put a dollar in the retirement savings jar every time you use one of our money-saving ideas.

If you would like to send us other money saving ideas, here are the themes for the next three weeks:

1-Aug Vacation Staycation ideas that can save you money
8-Aug Garage sales How to make money on your garage sale
15-Aug Back to school Back to school shopping: A teachable moment
, , , ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *