Guest Commentary by J. A. Sisson
Tactics for Teleworker Wannabes
After seeking a
telework position for over six months, I've come to a conclusion. There are a lot
more of us teleworkers than folks who want to hire us. Research indicates the
problem is supply and demand. The demand for teleworkers just hasn't kept up with
the throngs of people seeking telework. Companies that are implementing telework
programs fill telework positions with their existing workforce, rarely with new
the online "telework" job
listings, which seemed to have one job posted per 1,000 teleworker
wannabes, I turned my attention to regular classifieds and recruiters.
I've been carefully seeking out positions such as word-processing, web
design and other kinds of jobs already being accomplished remotely (and
successfully) all over the world.
I apply for these jobs normally, going through
the typical process. When I feel there is sufficient interest in me as a candidate,
I then ask the employer to consider a teleworking arrangement. I explain telework in
terms of the company's bottom line rather than mine.
I explain telework in terms of the company's
bottom line rather than mine.
However, despite the fact that I'm already
equipped to telework and that I have excellent references (as a worker and as a
remote worker), the answer is always naught. This is true even if I'm overqualified
for the job for which I'm applying.
"No" comes in many forms, such as, "We aren't
equipped to handle a teleworker," or "This is a job that has to be done on site."
There is one response, though, that I appreciate for its honesty: "We have to
evaluate your job performance in person before we can set up that kind of
I think that teleworker wannabes need to be
aware that it isn't always about supply-and-demand or qualifications, but sometimes
it's about trust. I suspect that many companies hold a traditional way of thinking
regarding workers and supervision. Employers are leery to employ and evaluate people
merely on the basis of the results of their work. They want to see the "means to the
end" -- i.e., their work ethic, their motivation. In short, they want to make sure
that time-wise they are getting the most for every dollar they've invested in their
employees. And this, to some employers, may be more important than any promise of
financial savings or increased work production.
I wonder if there was a time when the same
factors came into play with businesses working with other businesses long distance.
When businesses went beyond always buying from "Joe's company down the street," the
portfolio was born -- evidence that a company is trustworthy. In this sense, there
is a negotiation of trust between two equal entities. But in the sense of job
candidate and hiring company, the negotiation is between "unequal parties" -- the
worker is the subordinate, not the equal entity. A resume doesn't hold as much
weight, nor incur as much trust, as a company portfolio and history.
Perhaps the appeal of telework for the
worker is that of increased equality.
Perhaps the appeal of telework for the worker
is that of increased equality. As professionals, we realize that working for someone
is no longer something that we should feel "lucky" about, but that we offer sound
skills and experience in return for our compensation. We are offering, in addition
to valuable expertise, a good one-third to two-thirds of our valuable time. We
realize that companies gain as much from having us as we gain by working for them.
Going to work for someone is no longer a "take whatever you are offered" proposition
but a negotiation of pay and benefits for a valued service.
Research has shown that in companies that have
instituted teleworking programs, there is less employee turnover and increased
production. Thisis no surprise. In the past, companies found that offering benefits,
such as health insurance, went a long way to gaining and holding quality employees,
because benefits reflect the value of an employee.
In one sense, currently, telework is probably a
rare "benefit" that may draw and hold quality employees. In the future, as companies
become increasingly aware of the advantages of telework for themselves, the
environment and the community, I think it will be more of the norm rather than the
exception. But I think for telework to be considered a truly alternative way of
working, human resource professionals will have to learn to accept a
My experience with telecommuting was a brief
but positive temporary
position as an office manager. Realizing that I could
do the work from home, I proposed the idea of telework to my employer. He agreed to
it on a trial
basis, and after the trial he was so pleased with the results, that I
continued working for him in this capacity. The job entailed many aspects that
employers think can't be done remotely, but which never posed a problem for me,
including answering phones and filing.
Since then, I've been looking for a similar
arrangement, but telecommuting
isn't easy to find. So, four years ago, I started offering desktop publishing
which eventually grew into a web development business. Ironically, companies that
might not consider me as a teleworker seem to have no problem trusting me as an
Ironically, companies that might not consider
me as a teleworker seem to have no problem trusting me as an independent
My advice to other telework wannabes is to keep
trying, but if you are already a valued worker for a company, you may have more luck
getting that company to consider a telework alternative than to quit your job and
hope to find a telework position. It's unfortunate, but many employers are missing
out on a highly skilled, low-maintenance and cost-saving workforce-- only because
the applicants happen to desire or require a teleworking arrangement.
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