Posts in the ‘News’ category

HP regressing on telecommuting

Here’s an interesting article in the San Jose Mercury News.

Apparently the new CIO has decided that employees are abusing flex time and telecommuting privileges and need to be reigned in and slapped down. He has taken the draconian step of eliminating the option to telecommute for about a thousand IT personnel. This will require employees to commute up to 50 miles a day, relocate or quit (without severance pay.)

This is from the company that was a pioneer in the flexible workplace. A company whose telecommuting program began in the 1960’s. A technology company that makes a lot of the products that enable telecommuting. Hmmm.

So what does this mean? Is this a new trend? Is telecommuting a failure? Will other companies start to follow HP’s lead?

I really don’t think so.

As far as I can tell, this is just poor management. Here are some of the reasons for the decision specified in the article and my take on them:

  • Some employees were abusing the system. Frankly, I have never thought it is a good leadership practice to punish everyone for the mistakes of a few. I mean really… this sounds like what the nuns did to us in 2nd grade because Johnny in the back row was talking.
  • Poor performers learn better when they can interact with good performers. Ummm… does it really make sense to punish (and possibly lose) the high-performers for the sake of the poor performers.
  • “There’s a certain synergy when people are together in a room”. That’s true but there is also a lot more socializing, idle chatter, wasted time, distractions and interuptions. Does everyone need to be in the same room all the time?

I have always found that for telecommuting to work you need an employee with certain qualities and training and a manager with certain qualities and training. Obviously it doesn’t work for everyone. But just as obviously, it really works well for many.

I can’t see this move as anything other than a management failure. It’s sad to see, but I don’t think we will see a large crackdown on telecommuting and flextime from other companies. Of course, my vision may be clouded by my obvious bias but I will be keeping my eye on the situation.

I Bought the Law… (But the Law Won)

This article on Enron’s Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling made me very happy.

Skilling and Lay were found guilty by a jury of their peers. Okay well sort of… I mean it wasn’t a jury of gazillionaire white-collar crooks that convicted them. It was a jury of real people, with real lives just like the real people with real lives that were screwed by the obscene greediness of these guys.

Okay, but how do I really feel. :-).

Well the remarkable thing about this conviction is that it actually happened. These guys gave so much money to politicians that they should have been protected… but they weren’t. It could be argued that political contributions simply don’t buy favors and protection. It could also be argued that these guys’ crimes were so outrageous that the millions paid to keep them out of jail simply weren’t enough.

In any case, the conviction couldn’t have happened to a more deserving pair. I know, I know the appeals are just getting started. But let me enjoy the moment.

Report: Washington DC is Best City for Teleworking

A new report sponsored by Intel and the Sperling’s Best Places names Washington DC as the “Best City for Teleworking”.

The first thing I noticed about the report was the blatant advertising for Intel products. The next thing I noticed is that the cities highest on the list also ranked highest on the list of cities with the worst traffic. That is when I noticed that the study shows the cities with the most potential for teleworking and not necessarily the cities that ranked highest for people already doing it.

To determine what made a city good for teleworking, they used the standard “best places” type of criteria like climate and combined it with factors that make teleworking more desireable or possible like communications infrastructure, amount of telework friendly jobs (office workers) and as I pointed out – worst traffic.

So… workers, employees and governments of the listed cities – This is not a pat on the back for a job well done. This is a call to action. You have all the ingredients required to promote teleworking as a viable option. Get out there and make it happen.

Teleworking improves the environment, prevents wear and tear on the roads, provides flexibility and business continuity options for companies and represents a cash and time benefit for the employee. Everybody wins.

Gas Prices are Crazy, Time to Telecommute

When I drove to work, I spent about $20 a week on gas. When I began telecommuting full time, I was able to save about $1000 a year on gas I didn’t have to buy. It was like a raise I gave to myself.

Of course that was before the price of a gallon of gas doubled and tripled. I often think about what I would have to give up if I were still driving so much and paying $2000-$3000 a year in gas.

Are you still driving to work everyday? What are you giving up to deal with the high costs of gas? What if you could get some of that money back by telecommuting one or two days a week?

Yahoo had a story on the topic today. At the end of the story there are some good questions to ask yourself if you are considering telecommuting and it gives some good strategies for getting your company to support you in your efforts.

High-Tech Workers Telecommute to Avoid Urban Sprawl

Here’s another article repeating what we already know: More and more people are getting more work done by doing it from home.

This article cites several benefits to the employee such as flexible hours, self-controlled environment, and the much shorter commute.

The author of the article is in Florida and writes the article with the purpose of encouraging local business and government to adopt telecommuter friendly policies so that more high tech workers and businesses will come to Florida.

A lot of telecommuters are high tech workers who are generally paid more and without the commute have a smaller impact on the local resources. It really makes sense for localities to encourage this type of behavior. The formula is really quite simple: More Tax Revenue + Less Impact to Roads and Environment = Great Deal!

Home Office Holiday Party

This year I didn’t get an invitation to the office Christmas party. Apparently since I telecommute, I didn’t merit an invitation. The only reason I even heard of it was because of a stray email that happened to land in my inbox. Of course that was on the Monday after the event.

Just because you work at home, doesn’t mean you should forgo the office holiday festivities. There was an article in the Baltimore Sun this morning that told of a group of local home based business and telecommuters that took matters in their own hands and held their own home office holiday party. It had everything you would expect of a regular office party including lamp shades for their heads, pre-spiked punch, and a copier for… uh… later.

This article made the cover of the Sun’s Today section which tells me 3 things: 1. There are a lot of people working from home these days. 2. We’re an innovative bunch that takes what’s good, improves upon it and makes sure we get our share. 3. That mainstream people are starting to notice.

More Taxes for Telecommuters?!

The United States Supreme court declined to hear a case involving a man that telecommutes from his Nashville home for a company based in New York. This leaves a lower court ruling intact that allows New York to fully tax 100% of the man’s salary.

Essentially, this ruling puts telecommuters that work for out of state companies at risk of taxation by multiple states. Currently only New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Nebraska have laws allowing this kind of taxation, but other states may pass similar laws to increase revenue. All is not lost, however, Congress is looking at a new law, the Telecommuter Tax Fairness Act, that may prohibit double taxation on telecommuters.

An article at CNET News goes into further details on the subject. Senators Dodd and Lieberman along with Representative Shay sponsored the Telecommuter Tax Fairness Act which is currently stuck in committee.