Marriage and Family — 09 January 2011
Blending telecommuting into your family

With current technological tools and companies’ cost cutting focus, more employers are offering part or full time telecommuting jobs. Avoiding extra commuting time and hassles and being with family are two big draws for workers to happily accept these offers. Yet, working from home poses new challenges of balancing work and family needs.

Telework Research Network (TRN) estimates that, ”20 to 30 million people currently work from home at least one day a week, 10 to 15 million have a home business and 15 to 20 million work at home part time.”

“Companies find telecommuters to be productive. Best Buy, British Telecom, Dow Chemical and many others show that teleworkers are 35-40% more productive. Sun Microsystems’ experience suggests that employees spend 60% of the commuting time they save performing work for the company.”

From the employee’s perspective, TRN also found, “79% of people want to work from home. 36% would choose it over a pay raise. 71% of retired workers who later decided to go back to work originally retired because of a desire for more flexibility than their job offered.”

David Harrison, Smeal Professor of Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management research reports, “Telecommuting has mostly positive consequences for employees and employers, resulting in higher morale and job satisfaction and lower employee stress and turnover.”

TRN results concur, “Because telework reduces stressful commutes and alleviates caregiver separation issues, teleworkers are likely to suffer fewer stress-related illnesses.”

My discussions with telecommuting parents revealed that family connections were intensified, work productivity increased and family teamwork and communication improved when a spouse worked from home. It also enlightened the working mate as to the daily challenges of the stay-at-home parent.

On the down side, since the home is where the family’s love connections are and where relaxation, playtime and fun interactions with children and spouses occurs, it may sometimes be difficult for the worker to focus on his/her work.

Also, spouses and children may have difficulty not soliciting the telecommuting parent for supplementing needs once he/she is physically home.

The telecommuters also felt that the gain in family closeness paralleled some reduced connection with colleagues and teammates in day-to-day interactions.

To be a successful telecommuter,

• Have a family meeting explaining that work from home is in the service of the family and differs from family time.
• Set clear physical boundaries for your home office that helps family know when you are unavailable, (except for emergencies). Impress upon the children that this area does not isolate them, but intends to integrate Mom/Dad’s work within the family.
• Take frequent scheduled breaks to air out and connect with your loved ones.
• Train yourself not to overwork due to the convenience and family support.
• Communicate with your partner about your work. Healthy exchanges cement your teamwork and bond.
• Meet periodically with work colleagues for camaraderie and team connection.
• Be a grateful telecommuter. It will enhance your productivity, job satisfaction, health and your family’s happiness.

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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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