IT workers to management: NOW can we telecommute?

IT helps others to work remotely but rarely gets to join in. Is that fair?

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"We were crowded," Campbell reports. "With the confluence in interest in working remotely, improvements in unified communications technology and the reality of our physical space constraints, we set up hoteling facilities in our headquarters with whiteboards and beanbags."

"It's had a tremendous impact on our real estate requirements in IT, and we've gained significant savings." Campbell doesn't have a figure solely for IT, but companywide, he estimates $30 million in real estate savings overall.

Other times, a remote workforce is the only workforce a company can attract. Annis knows this situation all too well from his experience as senior vice president of IT at his previous employer, Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Universal Technical Institute (UTI). It used Progress Software for application development, but developers were not easy to find. "We couldn't convince enough of those developers to move to Phoenix," he says. "If we had an open position, and the applicant was in Tampa, it didn't matter."

Eventually, somewhere between one-third and one-half of the developers, project managers and quality assurance staff were remote. UTI flew its remote Progress developers into Phoenix every six to eight weeks in order to foster relationships, which kept everyone connected and collaborative.

Experts give that strategy high marks. Organizationally, it's important to schedule regular confabs for remote employees, they say -- everything from quarterly in-person meetings to a regularly scheduled weekly check-in call between employee and supervisor. Sometimes, as with agile scrums among developers, a daily call works best to assess progress.

All those strategies help reduce the danger of invisibility to remote employees, RHT's Reed says. "If you work remotely all the time, you miss the opportunity to engage, to build camaraderie, to take part in face-to-face meetings. There's a danger to being out of sight and out of mind. You may still have to make yourself available, and make time to be in the office."

Frequent contributor Baldwin, a Silicon Valley freelancer, is perpetually remote.

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Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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