Building loyalty outside the office: Page 3

Posted February 1, 2000
By

Ann Howe


(Page 3 of 3)

Business trends and how they relate to telecommuting

Programs that enhance work and family balance are more popular among employers...

Workplaces are evolving into nonhierarchical, knowledge-based team environments...

Like Merrill Lynch, Dun & Bradstreet employees must prove that telecommuting will be in the best interest of the company and its customers. The business case must include information on how the change will impact coworkers and customers. The employee also must be willing to come to work for business or production meetings and any other matters requiring an on-site presence.

Unlike Merrill Lynch, however, telecommuting isn't open to all Dun & Bradstreet employees. Trainees aren't eligible, for example, but senior employees are. Yet even those senior employees must have performance reviews that reflect a high level of achievement and a need for little, if any, supervision.

"We monitor people's performance on a regular basis, and if there is a decline, we might pull them right back into the office," says Karen Brophy, assistant vice president of human resources for Dun & Bradstreet. By monitoring an employee's performance and ensuring that projects are completed on deadline, Brophy says it is easy to debunk such telecommuting myths as, "'How do I know if they are really working (from home)?'"

Focusing on results

Merrill Lynch also tracks its telecommuters. "We measure and manage by results," says Janice Miholics, vice president, alternative work arrangements, at Merrill Lynch. "We monitor a telecommuter's performance approval (promotion activity, salary, bonus, etc.) vs. those who don't telecommuteand telecommuters consistently are high achievers and among our best performers." They are, according to Merrill Lynch surveys, 15% more productive than nontelecommuters.

Take Helene Garcia, another vice president for Merrill Lynch who telecommutes two days per week. Garcia is the 2000 manager for 300-plus applications, supporting a variety of functions including HR, finance, corporate services, and the office of general counsel.

Garcia's job is such that she doesn't physically sit in the same location (or in some cases, the same state) with the people whom she services on a day-to-day basis. She forwards her work telephone to her home office, so when a client calls, Garcia's location is transparent. At home, she is able to function fully whether she is answering e-mail, working with a client online, reviewing a presentation, or discussing strategy.

As a manager, Garcia communicates her schedule to her direct reports so there is no confusion as to when she is at home, on the road or on-site. Her team is constantly in transit, making them telecommuters as well. Open communication is maintained with one-on-one time while in the office and with regular contact via e-mail, telephone, beeper, and fax. Staff and clients alike appreciate that Garcia is accessible, no matter where she is.

"Through the flexibility of telecommuting, all of us were afforded the opportunity to balance our work and home lives even when the pressure was on," Garcia says.

The result? Garcia has seen firsthand the increased productivity and enhanced customer satisfaction that can come through telecommuting. "The ability to be in one location for part of the day and then finish the day at my home office affords not only flexibility, but a better use of valuable time," says Garcia.

In the end, telecommuting benefits everyone involved. "Geography has been rendered irrelevant," says Merrill Lynch's Miholics. "We are now able to hold on to critical skill sets and our people are happy." //

Ann Howe (annhowe1@aol.com) is a freelance writer living in Amherst, N.H.


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