Last week, I received an offer from a prestigious backpacking company to do online community management. I could barely contain my excitement! As I was reviewing some final details with my supervisor, I mentioned something about Skyping when I return to Germany next month. You can probably guess what happened next…
That’s right. He mumbled something about difficulties with time zones, told me the offer was being retracted, and promptly hung up. Right before I was about to be hired.
This is just the most recent example of getting turned down for a job because I wouldn’t be working “on site”. There have been other instances too.
I specialize in social media marketing and community management. Considering my work is completely online, you’d think there might be more leeway for telecommuting, right?
This is why I’m writing this post. Instead of simply complaining that life’s not fair, I’m taking a pro-active approach. I’ll briefly outline WHY telecommuting is beneficial to an employer, and WHY its downsides are negligible.
Heidi Sutton, Creative Talent Representative at Artisan Talent, told me that about 90% of the job postings for community management require on-site work. In other words, according to Darryl Villacorta, the community manager at Utellit and Mac Duggal, said it seems that the majority of companies need to physically see your butt in a chair every day.
–Why is that?
Argument #1 – “If I can’t observe my employees working at their desk, who knows if they’ll actually get anything done?!” (from Why Your Boss Doesn’t Want You To Telework)
Response: The employee who has the freedom to move around will be MORE productive and end up getting MORE work done in an allotted period of time. Try this experiment: Work at a desk for 8 straight hours — with nothing but the occasional bathroom and lunch break — and see if you can be 100% on-task. Chances are, at some point you’ll check your personal email, update your Facebook status (“soooo booored”), see how much that funky lamp is selling for on eBay, and so on. Even the most focused employees will usually chat with their colleagues at some point during the day. “Did you hear the Cubs lost by 20 runs yesterday!?!” …and so it begins. (from “Ten Advantages to Telecommuting”).
The employer still pays the employee for the day, unofficial breaks and all.
Contrast this with telecommuting. The employee sits down in the morning, works on a project for 2 hours and logs the time spent. Then he decides it’s time for a little yoga break and ends up checking his Facebook afterwards.
This telecommuting employee takes a nice, well-deserved (and guilt free!) break, and the employer doesn’t have to “pay” for it. It’s a win-win situation.
Argument #2 – “I can’t get to know them if they’re not in the office” (from 17 Telecommuting Disadvantages)
Response: Although this argument makes sense, there are several easy compromises that can be made. Andy Angelos, the COO of social media powerhouse,SocialKaty, said they had an employee work out of state for an extended period of time. The company was OK with telecommuting because the employee had already been with SocialKaty for 6 months.
Similarly, Jerome Pineau, Social Media Strategist for the Autodesk Customer Service and Support Organization says: “I’d never hire a telecommuter right off the bat, but I’m perfectly fine with my guys working from home (they know the system inside/out) at this point in time. As long as they’re available and get stuff done, I don’t care if they’re on Mars!”
Another common compromise is that the employee returns to the office a percentage of the time. While Tim McDonald was the Community Manager for Astek, he spent one day at the office per week. Tim worked just as hard the other four days he telecommuted.
In some circumstances, I’d say it’s not even necessary to “get to know” the worker. This is especially applicable for part-time workers and freelance contractors with several years of experience under their belt. Let’s say a company wanted to hire me for specific, pre-arranged social media tasks for a set amount of hours per week. They would need to know who my past clients were, see samples of past work, and perhaps contact several references. I could provide them with all this info online or via email. My experience would speak for itself.
What about you…do you have any telecommuting experience? Any stories you’d like to share? Please feel free to leave a comment below!
About the author: Jordan Sanders loves being creative, thinking outside the box and talking to new people. He enthusiastically put this skill set to use through social media marketing and online community management. And his favorite color is green. Follow him on Twitter: @JordanOnSocial
photo courtesy of citrixonline