Booth Martin; Contract Programming, Inc.


Telecommuting is a very touchy and worrisome subject. As programmers become scarce and their individual knowledge becomes more targeted, then time wasted traveling is going to become expensive, and even worse, needed work will never be done. I asked programmers that I respect for their thoughts on the positive aspects of telecommuting.
Here are their responses:

"The biggest plus we receive is the lack of interruptions. Also the freedom to work out a problem when an idea hits you...even if it's the middle of the night. Then eliminating the commute time, there are more "working" hours in the day....not that more work actually may get done..but a gain on time to think through a problem." "Now if I can just get my spouse to understand that just because I'm at home doesn't mean I'm available to mow the lawn..."
"It's a little subjective, depending upon the particular situation, but here's my experience with it:
1. Lack of Interruption -- People tend to not bother you about the latest sporting event, what they did this weekend, or ask that question that they already know the answer to "just to be sure" when you're not in the office.
2. Sick/Out of School Kids -- They usually are either sleeping or playing (if sick or just out of school), so you can be away from the office without losing work time.
3. Saving the Environment/Auto Expense -- Not an "Environmentalist Whacko" myself, but you not only cut down on gas, but employee automobile mileage accumulation, insurance rates (average distance to work), and the risk that the employee will be out due to a travel-related injury/repair. Could even be a point in salary negotiations!
4. Office Space -- You don't need as much if some people work from home all the time. Even if you alternate schedules, you can incorporate "shared offices", where one person uses an office one week, and the other the next.
5. Resources -- Many employees will already have a PC with a modem at home. It's a _LOT_ cheaper to buy them one of the popular 5250 emulation packages for home than it is to provide a terminal and printer at work. Also, the home printer has no other users to wait on!
6. "Workaholic" Utilization -- A "workaholic" is more likely to go home and work until Midnight or later than they are to stay at the office for the same period and face a 30 minute or greater commute.
7. 24-7 Support -- Employees required to provide this can provide faster, and more amicable, support when they can do it from home."
8. Travel Expense -- If you're a consultant billing expenses to a remote client, LD is often cheaper than airfare, meals, and hotels -- especially in major metropolitan areas (or, heaven forbid, overseas). Great LD rates can be had if you promise to spend $X/month!"
"I am doing some telecommuting. I support clients in Illinois, Missouri, Washington, Utah, Iowa, and Texas. I do this from a remote office with several other consultants here in Texas. We have a LAN attached via T1 line to a host in another state. That host is part of a 6 machine complex that is actually in two different states!
Other access is from the home office using 33.6 Dial-up to 800 number. Only drawback here is that we have to connect via a different number for E-mail access. I created a rule in the e-mail system to forward critical messages to my Alpha Pager, so I won't miss important messages.
Benefits -
1. Communicating via Fax/Email/Voice seems to require that specifications are more detailed. I think it is because the other party can't just pop into the office everytime they think of a new requirement.
2. Client companies get my expertis. I have worked for up to a year at a time for out of state clients. The time away from the family is a killer. I provide the same service at a lower rate for tele-c clients. (No housing, no travel expenses)
3. Client does not have to provide office space, secretarial support, supplies.
4. Quality of effort is better. If I am not in the right frame of mind to solve a problem, I siiignoff and take care of "family matters". No leaving work to take care of the Cable guy, car service, etc.
5. 25 x 8 coverage (Or it just seems that way) Wiith pager and cellular phone, help is just moments away.
6. Less impact on computer resources. Besides providing PC, Printers, Modems and software (Including NetSoft's connectivity package), I often work in the evening. Several of the systems are idle during these times, so I get great response, and do not impact the daily production user's.
7. I can smoke in my office! (Our remote office is in a no smoking building.) I don't have to break from the task at hand to indulge my habit. (Non-smoker's, please disregard)
8. Save 1:30 of travelling and $4.50 in tolls every day, not to mention wear and tear on the truck. And that's time I can use for more work or family time."
"Knowing that you are from Vermont, and the fact I'm from New Hampshire, my reason would be snow, snow, snow. I suppose if someone were in California, it could be earthquake, mudslide, brush fire, or now El Ninio. Gee, maybe living in New England isn't that bad!"
"I can go anywhere in the world with my laptop and support clients, from a beach, boat, or from the top of Mt Washington etc. If I have to get onto my system, I just get onto the internet and then get on my system. From my 400 system, I can get onto any of my clients systems within a matter of 5 minutes. I can fax them, download files, upload files, debug problems.
I have a unique password system over and above IBM's signon and password system. A password in this system is only used once in its life. I carry two diskettes with the codes on them. If I have to get on 10 times in a day, I would use 10 different passwords just in case someone was sniffing the line for a password. If you don't use the proper password, you are not let on my system.
If you are in the middle of Marblehead harbor watching the USS Constitution come into the harbor for the 2nd time in 140 years, you don't want to try to find a telephone. By using the internet, you are keeping the cost of the telephone call low."

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