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Should you allow your employees to telecommute?

By allowing telecommuting for employees, companies reduce office sizes and still gain from increased productivity
By Lawrence Chin |

Getting up late is something that doesn\\\'t worry Ma. Teresa L. Pacis, external communications manager of Intel Technology Philippines Inc. And although she lives in Marikina City, the usually heavy traffic that leads to her Cavite office 46 kilometers away doesn\\\'t bother her at all. This is because on a typical working day, she doesn\\\'t have to go to her office. All she needs to do is turn on her laptop and she is already at work. She is a telecommuter.


Telecommuting is a work arrangement that allows employees with traditionally office-based jobs to work offsite on a regular basis. A growing number of companies is adopting it to promote job satisfaction among employees while further improving productivity. For the company, of course, telecommuting is also a means for significantly cutting down on office space and rental costs.


A major factor that prompts a company to allow telecommuting is the usually considerable distance between its offices and the places where its employees live. In particular, Intel adopted telecommuting for some of its office jobs in 1997 when it gradually moved out of the Bangkal, Makati City facility, and moved it to the town of General Trias in Cavite. The arrangement eliminated the time and effort required for its employees to cover that distance twice daily amid rush-hour traffic.



One of the major objectives of telecommuting is to give employees greater peace of mind and much more time and opportunities to take care of their respective families. In fact, with telecommuting, working couples who can\\\'t afford to hire nannies no longer need to worry about bringing kids to work, and single people can more vigorously pursue their hobbies and other interests.


Telecommuting also benefits people who want or need to take a second job on top of their regular one. For instance, Doy A. Roque, managing director of the advertising agency Media Meter, finds nothing wrong with such an arrangement and even encourages it. He says that advertising people taking on extra projects is nothing new to the industry, and he doesn\\\'t believe in restricting it particularly now that telecommuting makes it even more feasible. His only restriction is that Media Meter employees who take outside jobs must not work for companies that compete with existing Media Meter accounts.



In the Philippines, it is often people in the managerial level that are permitted to telecommute, considering that they are not paid for overtime work anyway. At Intel, Pacis says, even supervisory level employees may be allowed to telecommute provided they can justify it.


Definitely, though, not all employees will be eligible for telecommuting. There will always be job descriptions that require continuing onsite work, like those who need to operate machines and factory equipment. For these employees, companies usually offer such options as flexi-time and staggered work hours instead of telecommuting.


Telecommuting is, of course, possible only if the person is equipped with the necessary telecommunication equipment at home, so the big question is often this: Who will foot the bill for its purchase? At Intel, Pacis says, the company only provides a laptop for its telecommuters. She therefore had to make a personal investment in a homeoffice setup with an Internet connection.



Some companies that allow telecommuting provide a partial subsidy for telecommunication equipment; others, none at all. In the case of Media Meter, Roque says the company doesn\\\'t provide laptops to its telecommuters because laptops have limited graphics capability. He says he would rather invest in powerful desktops for the purpose.


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