The Downsides Of Teleworking

Posted by | Filed under Business | Oct 6, 2015 | Tags: , | No Comments

tdotwARE YOUR OFFICE-BOUND COWORKERS green with envy–or resentment–because you telework? Working at home may be your temporary reprieve from office politics, but it’s not always “business as usual” when you return to the main office. If your colleagues’ resentment festers, it can be the downfall of your telework program, but there are ways to help your office mates accept your work schedule.

The Bitter End

For Pam Waterman, a senior technical marketing writer for Bolt Beranek & Newman Inc., a computer software and hardware company located in Cambridge, Mass., she became aware of resentment over her teleworker status after the birth of her first child. Waterman and a fellow coworker–also a new mom and an engineer who worked in a different department–worked out an arrangement with their respective supervisors to work from home the same two days every week. On those days, they split childcare and work time. But soon after implementing the change, Waterman and her fellow teleworker felt the same chilly reception from their coworkers: Despite the 40- to 50-hour weeks each devoted to the company, they weren’t taken seriously. “We got the subtle sense that we were really only considered to be part-timers,” says Waterman. “We were made to feel like we were not pulling our weight.”

Bit by bit, Waterman felt squeezed out of the communications loop. First, conference meetings that she’d normally attend were scheduled on days she worked at home. “Then, a client would call or raise an issue, or a change would be made to the production schedule, and I’d find out accidentally after the fact,” says Waterman. After three months of slights, she threw in the towel and went back to the office full-time.

In all likelihood, that’s exactly what Waterman’s manager wanted, says Debra Dinnocenzo, author of 101 Tips for Telecommuters ($16, Berrett-Koehler Publishers). Because there was no formal written agreement, it’s possible her manager believed Waterman’s request to work at home was just temporary. The manager might have had one set of expectations and Waterman another, but there was no way of knowing without the clarity of a written agreement, says Dinnocenzo.

Controlling Resentment

To keep peace on the staff, Dinnocenzo says it’s imperative to have a written agreement to spell out expectations on both sides. Before the employee teleworks, it’s important to hold a formal staff meeting led by the manager, with the teleworker’s key partners within the organization, to explain the arrangement. If the details of a teleworker’s agreement aren’t shared with the company, the schedule can foster hostility, says Dinnocenzo. “If you’re denied a formal written teleworker agreement, then communicate with coworkers one-on-one and explain your reasoning for telecommuting,” she adds. “Be clear with coworkers about what days you plan to work from home, how you can be reached, and what work you plan to do from your home office.”

Resentment about a teleworker’s schedule is not entirely unfounded, says David Fleming, who was chosen to direct California’s Telecommuting Pilot Program from 1992 to 1995 and organized the California Task Force on Interactive Telecommunications in Government. “In my workshops for soon-to-be teleworkers, I urge them to be sensitive to what could result in their colleagues having to put out all the fires in the office,” explains Fleming. “I encourage teleworkers to take on less attractive duties when they are in the office to give colleagues relief.”

Airing Grievances

Al Jacobus, a former telecommunications engineer for the State of California’s telecommunications division in Sacramento, worked at home two days a week during the pilot program. As soon as he started telecommuting, his colleagues began making snide comments about his schedule.

Instead of taking offense to his coworkers’ resentment, Jacobus started a monthly telecommuting forum where everyone could come and vent problems about the flexible schedules. “We’d meet once a month for one hour,” recalls Jacobus. “We’d pick a topic, send a flyer out to 250 people in the division, and we had a great response.” During meetings, anyone interested in telework could ask questions, and those affected by the program could report their complaints.

Quelling Jealousy

Ways to keep colleague envy out of your telework arrangement:

* Put your manager’s expectations in writing.

* Have your manager hold a staff meeting to formalize and explain your telework status to coworkers.

* Have a one-to-one meeting with coworkers explaining why you’re teleworking.

* Lend an extra hand to coworkers when you’re in the office.


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