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Telecommuting: The Special Circumstances Solution
Last Updated: 10/10/06

While telecommuting has proven effective for permanent work from home arrangements, it also helps in a variety work interruptions such as severe weather, power outages, transportation disruptions, labor disputes and flu seasons.

By having some of your employees telecommute, you can minimize business disruption and maintain services and productivity. Many organizations have already implemented this strategy during all types of work disruptions.

Telecommuting also can help workers stay connected to the workplace by using the following telecommuting plans:

Episodic telecommuting
This type only lasts a few days and allows an individual to focus on completion of a project without workplace interruptions.

Intermittent telecommuting
This type works when an employee's workload can be accomplished remotely. Intermittent telecommuting may accommodate an emergency need to be home, such as to care for a child at home due to illness, school delay or school cancellation. More workers are taking sick days for family and personal reasons rather than their own illness, at a rising cost to employers; in fact, a CCH Inc. study says indicates that only a third of unscheduled days off were attributed to the employee being ill.

Temporary telecommuting
Each department should discuss and establish criteria for authorizing temporary telecommuting to handle special needs such as:
  • during the convalescence from an injury or illness
  • during the last few weeks/months of pregnancy (if regular maternity leave is not desired). Temporary telecommuting is often combined with a part-time work schedule to accommodate the needs of the employee and employer.
  • when the office is not usable or accessible due to unplanned events (adverse weather, a fire or other disaster) or planned events (a move or renovation).
  • when the route to work is blocked by major construction, or the after effects of natural disasters such as floods or earthquakes (this works best when there is a regular program in place)

Emergency preparedness and business continuity telecommuting
Telecommuting can be an integral part of a sound business continuity and disaster recovery plan. Valuable corporate assets, including network connectivity, stored data, and client information can be revived quickly through an alternative provision in a well-conceived telecommuting plan.
According to Susan Sears, AT&T district manager and telecommuting expert, the volume of e-mail messages sent remained the same during the February blizzards. "The unchanged volume of e-mail indicates that there was no loss in productivity despite workers' inability to travel to their worksites."

Washington-area federal workers also telecommuted during the same period, said Faith Wohl, the General Services Administration's Workplace Initiatives Director. "Use of federal satellite work centers was up more than 50 percent by telecommuters who weren't previously scheduled to be there," said Wohl. "As a result, they were productive despite the weather. And thousands of work hours were put to good use that might have been lost otherwise."

A day out of work for an entire office can cost a company a lot of money, so it makes sense to have at least some people who are prepared to telecommute, if only to deal with potential emergencies.

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