I often refer to Starbucks as my second office.
Being a reporter, I’m not tied to desk all day, and, frankly, I shouldn’t be. I should be out talking to sources, just like some of you need to out meeting clients.
But it’s not just those of us with more flexible jobs who are working outside the office.
Eighty percent of human resource executives surveyed by Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. earlier this year said their companies currently offer some form of telecommuting option to employees. This was after Yahoo!’s CEO Marissa Mayer made the controversial announcement the company was ending telecommuting as an option for its employees.
South Sound employers though, seem to be more trusting than Mayer and more in line with the majority surveyed — that is, when the job allows for telecommuting.
Telecommuting has been a part of business at Tacoma-based web design firm SiteCrafting since it began in 1998, but it didn’t create a formal policy until about five years ago, when it became more popular.
“It’s something they like to have and utilize when they need it,” explained Sarah Champion, director of operations.
Employees can work from home as long as their supervisor approves it. For some, this could mean the option of working from home five days a week, but employees aren’t choosing to do that, she said.
“We don’t have people telecommuting 100 percent of the time. Often times, people prefer the option to be able to be in the office,” Champion said.
For those who are wondering, keeping tabs on employees outside the office hasn’t been an issue for them.
“The strength of your telecommuting policy is going to be defined by the strength of your operational policy,” Champion said. “Because of the high level of transparency we have, I can tell what people have got done.”
Managers stay in contact with employees working outside the office through many of the same tools they commute with in the office, including video conferencing and instant messaging. They also expect their staff people to be available by phone.
The only downside has been the inefficiency of communication, because conversations are drawn out when they’re not face-to-face.
But, it’s also meant there are more productive days in a year.
“We find that being able to allow telecommuting when someone is sick, we get more work out of it. If something comes up with their family, they don’t have to come back to work,” Champion said.
It’s also been a reason they’ve held on to staff members.
“We found that we are able to kind of retain some really great high-quality people by supporting telecommuting,” she said. “We’ve been able to employ full-time students, people who have family priorities.”
Champion also said it’s also become the expected norm among newer hires.
“It is something that overall is expected from a recruitment standpoint. It’s always expected that telecommuting is an option,” she said. “In order to maintain relevancy, it’s important to keep that in mind. Its not a passing fad, it’s becoming a much more common benefit.”
Staff members at JayRay, a strategic communications firm in Tacoma, also have flexible work schedules, although the company doesn’t have a formal telecommuting policy.
“We travel a lot for client business, so in some ways we’re telecommuting a lot,” said President Kathleen Deakins.
None of her employees regularly work from home though, so when they’re not traveling, they’re in the office.
“They are professionals and can manage their own … flexibility. We’ve always had that attitude. JayRay was founded in 1970,” Deakins said. “We manage less on when you are in the office and more on, ‘Are you getting the job done?’ and ‘Are you contributing to the team?’
“We are not a policy driven firm.”
There isn’t a written policy at my office either, which is why I sometimes take my writing to Starbucks or conduct early morning phone interviews in my pajamas, on my couch.