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Why managers cant allow telecommute or PT schedule

Is anyone here part of a regular IT staff, but telecommutes in any capacity. (No, logging in after dinner doesn't count!)  I'm just feel that telecommuting can't really catch on b/c if a manager grants that right to one person, he can expect the remainder of his staff asking for the same thing as soon as word got out. (Dont get me wrong, I think an empty office building is the way we should be heading anyways) 

What are you experiences?  I suppose it's different for a contract assignment, where your not part of the long term staff anyways, and have a fixed project.  I'm more talking about a FT, long term staff member who may want to telecommute in some capacity in a long term sense.

The same argument applies to flex time.  During the boom, we were getting paid several multiples over our cost of living, and PT work was always in the back of my mind.  But of course, as soon as one goes PT, the rest of the staff may request a PT schedule also.  I can sympathize with not setting a precdent. 

Bella
Wednesday, May 22, 2002

I know of a few product development teams that work in a telecommute-type fashion. In fact, they were deliberately set up that way. They consist of high quality developers who love what they do, combined with development-experienced managers.

There are some distinct requirements for the management. They need to be able to explain and parcel out work well, and to trust people.

Hugh Wells
Wednesday, May 22, 2002

I worked in a virtual office setup for a while. The company was small (4 people) and we had one product. It wasn't a maintanance shop. We had a source repository and we had our own area of expertise. It was actually very productive.

Jeb
Wednesday, May 22, 2002

Our experience is that having engineering, product, qa, etc. in very close proximity is a significant competitive advantage.

pb
Wednesday, May 22, 2002

pb, a significant competitive advantage compared to what? Have you tried it the other way or is that just some bs managerial power-trip speak? Everyone in my office has the option to telecommute, and in fact, I have worked strictly out of my home for 18 months, and don't even have a desk at the office any more.

I get more done at home than I ever did at the office, but we do have programmers that actually prefer to work at the office because their home environment doesn't let them get much done (very young children, etc.).

Troy King
Wednesday, May 22, 2002

I for one have a perfectly fine home office envoirment, but prefer to work in the office for a number of reasons.    Mainly, the ability to run next store and brainstorm on something,  ask a question about the big project everyone is collaborating on, or have a peer review some of your code is invaluable.  Also, because i'm surrounded by collegeues, I am definatly more motivated to work faster and better. 
I have done some of my best coding at home, but usually its when i'm inspired late at  night and/or I just want to code it right away.  I feel like I can transition better when I have somewhere to "go" everyday: when I get to work, i'm in "work" mode, and when I leave, I leave "work" mode.  Since i'm the type of guy that has code floating around in his head 24-7, not being at the office lets me focus on other aspects of my life. 

Vincent Marquez
Thursday, May 23, 2002

I work flextime, with "office days."  It works fine for me.  My particular pathology is that I love freedom, and working on a laptop machine is quiet heaven for me. 

This mainly precipitated because I had a team member that wouldn't leave me alone.  A wonderful, nice man, but I couldn't get anything done and he'd keep on pushing me to optimize early and other productivity-killing things.  It was a great thing though, since I started coming in even odder hours until people asked me just to take flextime.

Mainly one important thing is to be good about the bugs.  When you write buggy code, people want you to be in the room so they can show you their pain.  So high-level design is useful, with care about null values & such.

Hard to know the pain of laptops before buying though.  I just bought a Sony I kinda like, though it's really a consumer appliance.  Nuked usb + touchpad support with sleepmode.  I once had a Dell inspiron that was great. 

If you hire professionals with soul, you can trust them to do things for the sake of the product.  And their mistakes will be caught early and dealt with.

Sammy
Thursday, May 23, 2002

Has anyone been denied telecommute or flextime due to my original "domino effect" hypothesis ?

Bella
Thursday, May 23, 2002

bella - i was denied telecommuting on the basis that some of the libraries that we needed to do the development could not be taken out of the building (which was a fair point, the company signed an agreement that said that so they were bound by it, but i do not think that it was an insurmountable obstacle, since the libraries only existed on the target platform anyway, and we developed mostly on pcs in a simulation environment). i did get the impression though that at the root of it was the fact that it was a sh*tty office that everyone would have preferred to be somewhere (anywhere!) else, so they would have had a bunch of managers sitting around with nobody to manage*. anyway, unable to get out of the office one way, i chose another and quit.

i don't think telecommuting is an impossible situation to manage, but it does make a manager's life a bit more difficult i guess. personally i think it is worth one person having a more difficult life if their entire team can have an easier (and more productive) one.

* it would then have been quite clear who was doing the work...

nope
Thursday, May 23, 2002

I've had some interesting experience with this.

My first real tech job, besides an internship at a large company, was as the webmaster for a business website.  I telecommuted for months there until they got a regular office (my job requirements changed and the office was close, so I worked at the office most of the time).

That worked very well.  I found I was more productive at home, with my own tools, than I was at the office with an unfamiliar PC.

When I applied at my current company, they said that they'd provide for telecommuting.  This was later denied, ostensibly because of technical reasons, but I suspect it was partly because of an "If we allow one person, everyone will" mentality.

Today, I'm contracting for the same company, and I work an average of four days a week.  I asked for something like this earlier, at a reduced salary commensurate with my hours, but it was disallowed, again because of the "If we allow one person" rule.

To get back to the original question, I've found that I get more work done in one day at home than I do at work.

However, I'm sure that this productivity gain is dependent on the work involved.  As the single webmaster with total control over a website, or a technical writer, telecommuting has obvious advantages.  There's comparatively little communication needed.  Other jobs may or may not see similar productivity gains.

Brent P. Newhall
Thursday, May 23, 2002

At a past employer a few employees did telecommuting for a time.  In one or two cases the arrangement was at the request of management.  The employee had decided to leave the area but the project manager wanted the developer to continue on the project.

The long distance telecommuters eventually gave it up.  Meetings were still necessary and that meant a long trip.

At past and current employers a few individuals have part time or odd hour work arrangements.

In no case has there been any domino effect.  The employer that allowed (or requested) telecommuting had a decent office environment.  And most people seem fairly content with the standard 40 hour week.

In my current position the commute and office environment are bad enough that partial telecommuting would be nice, but some lab work with specialized equipment is required, so it couldn't be full time.  Current network restrictions make even parttime telecommuting impossible.

mackinac
Thursday, May 23, 2002

My experience is a little different - my manager telecommutes.  He's actually a senior developer who moved out of the area, but the company needed his expertise & kept him on-board.  His time is split between working code & managing the rest of the team, so he spends lots of time on the phone, but he's at least as effective as any other manager I've had. We see him about once a month when he travels back into town.  As for the rest of us, we work in the office, but I personally find it much more convenient that way.  (We have one other developer who moved out of state and works remotely.  It's kind of nice to think that if I have to move out of the area, I could still keep my job.)

TonyD
Thursday, May 23, 2002

I've had the pleasure of telecommuting for the past 2.5 years, providing development and support for an in-house manufacturing application.  My co-workers are in Maryland, and I'm in Northern Arizona (my choice).  I worked for one year on site and then moved out here to a rural community.  Everyone is very satisfied with the arrangement.  I work as both project lead and lead developer and haven't had any problems.  There have been two trips back to the office since I started telecommuting - neither of them were necessary nor very productive.  One other member of the group is moving towards full time telecommuting, while others are working at home when it is convenient. 

One tool that has made my life easy - Terminal Services Client.  I log in via a 56K dial-up over a VPN and can do coding and drag-and-drop gui design via TSC.  My boss recently asked me if I wanted a high-speed connection and I said it just wasn't necessary (It would be nice, but, politically, I like to be a low-cost item on the balance sheet).

The key aspect in my arrangement is trust all 'round.  Having worked with the team for a year on site made it easy to keep relationships strong, even over a long distance.

 

Dave Warner
Thursday, May 23, 2002

Bella,

My situation is the exact reverse of the one you are proposing. We have an office of a dozen people, programmers and testers only. All the programmers work in one big room with private confrence rooms. Our manager telecommutes from his home in another state. We communicate with him by email and phone. He and some others in the company fly in every few weeks to speak with us face to face.

Your proposal presupposes that everyone wants to work from home, and that a manager could not function being seperated from all his (her) workers.

anon
Friday, May 24, 2002

Well...a competitive advantage is an advantage over competitors. I don't manage I'm afraid to say...just reporting my observations. Our programmers don't have the home issues you suggest as they are practically "very young children" themselves. I will say, that the one thing that may finally make telecommuting doable is instant messaging.

pb
Friday, May 24, 2002

I think the domino effect is in the back of everyone's mind in these cases, even if it's not given as a reason to deny telecommuting.

One thing that needs to be clear for a manager is that she can rely on a programmer to take this decision in the best interests of the product.  Even if the reason is something like, "It'll boost my morale and productivity, with no ill effects on development."  Even better is if you can set everything up so it has minimal impact.  Take care of the VPN; consider a webcam.

It also depends on you being very good.  Under the domino effect is the assumption that people must be treated the same.  But in a team of individuals, fairness is not the same as sameness.  If you can, through technical skill, make yourself indispensable enough to get concessions for the sake of morale and the product, bully for you.

TELECOMMUTING IS NOT FOR EVERY TEAM.  If offices were in a beautiful university building, with members of the preferred gender roaming around the grounds and the team composed of people who are deep with each other, telecommuting would be largely unwanted.

MH
Friday, May 24, 2002

a webcam? does your manager really want to see his staff writing code in their underwear? i think not!

nope
Friday, May 24, 2002

I recently requested alternate work hours and was turned down. No reason was given. When I showed a document from the parent company stating that alternate work schedules were in place, I was told ~that's them, we don't do it~, nothing else was said and it was made plain that I shouldn't bother asking again...

Hmmm, anyone got any jobs? Willing to work for knowledge and power... ;)

Jack lives over there -->
Monday, May 27, 2002

Yeah, I once worked for a French company.  We couldn't get 6 weeks of vacation or wine in the cafeteria either.  I was bummed.

Nat Ersoz
Monday, May 27, 2002

"consider a webcam"

Oui, et ne oubliez pas le whips et chains!

M. de Sade
Monday, May 27, 2002

(shrug)  Actors get to work in their underwear with millions watching none-the-wiser, why not let programmers do the same? 

MH
Monday, May 27, 2002

B/c actors are attractive. 
No one would pay a dime to see YOU in any  capacity.

Bella
Tuesday, May 28, 2002

This is my last offtopic post, but you missed, Bella. ;-)  I came to my current country on a girl's dime, and I'm not bad looking at all.

MH
Wednesday, May 29, 2002

Telecommuting is no different than office work. I worked for the biggest networking company in the world and an important part of their development methodology was based on telecommuting. They had the campus and a virtual company on the internet. If you telecommuted, you had to be more "reachable" than you would be on campus.

With Netmeeting and other products, everyone could communicate at any time, day or night. Telecommuting scares inexperienced managers because they think they lose control. They don't. You plan your work as always. The people that flake off at work with flake off telecommuting.

Remember the old adage, hire the right people, give them what they need to do the job, and get out of the way.

Telecommuting eliminates most sick days, minimizes the impact of dentist appts, and is a great "retention" factor.

Now, if you don't build the right telecommuting infrastructure, that's another story. Telecommuting saves money for the company and boosts productivity.

Alan BRyce
Tuesday, February 18, 2003

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