Employee or Contractor

One of the side effects of telework’s growing popularity is this issue: are your teleworkers employees or contractors? Our position from the first has been that all teleworkers should be treated like regular employees; given the same rights and privileges, fringe benefits, health care and so on. Part of our rationale for this was that, since teleworkers tended to contribute more to the ultimate “Bottom Line” than their in-office compatriots, they should be treated at least as well as the latter group. Most employers have followed this precept over the past few decades.

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Stressed commuters get support from Court


According to an article in the 10 September 2015 BBC News, some commute-stressed commuters who live in the European Union now have support, if indirect, from the European Court of Justice. Specifically, the court ruled that:

Time spent travelling to and from first and last appointments by workers without a fixed office [emphasis mine] should be regarded as working time.

More specifically:

The fact that the workers begin and finish the journeys at their homes stems directly from the decision of their employer to abolish the regional offices and not from the desire of the workers themselves.

Requiring them to bear the burden of their employer’s choice would be contrary to the objective of protecting the safety and health of workers pursued by the directive, which includes the necessity of guaranteeing workers a minimum rest period.

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Telecommuting circa 1985

I recently came across one of the orientation manuals we used in the mid-1980s. Its purpose was to explain telecommuting to prospective telecommuters. It’s interesting to see what, if anything, has changed between telecommuting circa 1985 and today. Here’s an excerpt from The Teleguide for a typical large company. See for yourself how much has changed.

What is Telecommuting?

Telecommuting is the substitution of telecommunications and/or computers for commuting to work. There are two main forms of telecommuting: home telecommuting and satellite center telecommuting. In home telecommuting, a Company employee works at home instead of in the office, possibly with the aid of a personal computer. In satellite center telecommuting, the employee works at an office that is close to his/her home rather than at some more distant location. Telecommunications systems interconnect the home telecommuters, the satellite centers and the “main” offices so that everyone can keep in touch. Continue reading Telecommuting circa 1985

Telework for the disabled

This week marks the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), signed into law by George H. W. Bush. Since the ADA emerged in 1990 a great deal of progress has been made in expanding the options for disabled people. Good progress but not enough. Telework for the disabled is an option that needs more recognition.

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How many teleworkers — who knows?

How many teleworkers are there today? Who knows? As I noted in a previous blog it is hard to count teleworkers. One problem is that the definition of teleworker/telecommuter varies from country to country and counter to counter. Full-timers working at home for a distant employer are the easy core. It’s at the edges where the counting gets difficult — and the definitions differ.

Another,  growing problem in the teleworker counting business is the simple fact that contemporary technology has made it really hard to count reliably. An excellent overview of the problem is given in an article in the New York Times by Cliff Zukin of Rutgers University. Titled What’s the Matter With Polling?, the article paints the picture of the rapid decrease in accessibility of your average pollee. The polling business is changing for the worse

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Thoughts on rural broadband

The following announcement showed up in my email recently:

The Broadband Opportunity Council (Council), the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) are requesting public comment to inform the deliberations of the Council. Stakeholders have the opportunity to review the Federal Register Notice and submit written comments by e-mail to BOCrfc2015@ntia.doc.gov on or before 5 p.m. Eastern time on June 10, 2015.

Details of the request can be found in the Federal Register. One of the impacts of improved rural telecommunications access is increased opportunities for telework.  Here are some of my thoughts on the topic.

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Training: Why, Who, What, When

“Why do we need training to make telework work well?” is a question we get frequently. Here’s why: Teleworking is not the same as working in the office; it requires establishing communication patterns and modes that are likely to be different from those in the office.

For starters, that face-to-face interaction that is the mainstay of intra-office communication is either absent or flattened in telework situations. Almost the first question a prospective telemanager asks when faced with the prospect is: “How do I know they’re working if I can’t see them?” That is the crux of the problem and the main motivation for training.

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Commuting costs

Time for a review of Business Economics 101. Focus on commuting costs. The problem with this cost review is that it all depends on who is counting and what is being counted. Commuting, that daily to and fro between home and workplace, usually is viewed entirely differently by commuters and their employers. Commuters may look at commuting as a cost of transportation. Employers, mostly, consider commuting costs as what economists call externalities: something that may or may not exist but is of no concern to them unless it disturbs the normal work routine.

The view of both of these groups is way too limited. Commuting imposes costs on all parties involved.

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Telework and Disasters 2015

The winter of 2014-2015 presented a new series of natural disasters that served to demonstrate the power of telework. The eastern half of the United States suffered record-breaking blizzards and cold waves while the west coast continued its millennium drought. What an opportunity for teleworkers — at least in the east.

In case your organization has yet to adopt teleworking for disaster preparedness it’s way past time to get the attention of your CEO. Even if you’re not in one of the weather-stricken areas. Start with the fundamentals: Continue reading Telework and Disasters 2015

It’s the management, stupid — again

Once again we find some commentary in the press about the questionable management techniques in some large corporations. This time the commentary is about Yahoo! — again. Specifically, the New York Times Magazine had an extensive article by Nicholas Carlson titled “What Happened When Marissa Mayer Tried to Be Steve Jobs” in its 21 December 2014 issue.

Although the Times article covers a number of management mistakes made by the highly paid ($117 million over 5 years) Mayer, I was particularly struck by a section about Mayer’s management style:
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