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The Power of Partial Telecommuting
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The Power of Partial Telecommuting

July 27, 2006 Article Start Page 1 of 5 Next

It’s not surprising that many companies, including video game companies, see challenges in offering a partial telecommuting program. Just the word “telecommuting” can stir up disturbing images of empty cubicles, unattended water-coolers, and lonely memos floating down hallways like tumbleweeds.

On the surface, allowing telecommuting seems like a win for the employee and a loss for employers. This doesn’t have to be the case. If we recognize the strengths, weaknesses, benefits, and pitfalls of telecommuting, we can develop a productive solution to make it not only a win-win situation, but one of the most attractive and powerful programs offered by any game company.

It’s important to note that telecommuting isn’t for everyone or every job. There are some positions that require an employee to be onsite 100% of the time. To make things more complex, different jobs have different challenges to overcome to make telecommuting work well. For the scope of this article we’ll be looking specifically at game programmers and telecommuting, although many of the solutions presented can be applied to other disciplines.

Why is Telecommuting Bad?

Let’s face it; there are a lot of compelling reasons a game company might not want a telecommuting program. While many of these problems have solutions, it’s not as easy as snapping your fingers. For telecommuting to work, it takes flexibility on the part of the company, employee, and even the other onsite teammates. Problems with telecommuting include the following:

  • Slackers – Do telecommuters spend their time watching TV or playing games instead of working? How does a company know if the employee is not being as productive as they would be in-office?
  • Communication – Will the employee at home be able to effectively communicate with the team, management, and other home-employees? How will meetings work? Since email is a poor vehicle for communication, what will be an effective communication method?
  • Security – What are the issues about having work assets at home? Our company is protected on the internet, but how adequately is our employee at home? When data is streaming back and forth from work, is it being listened to by a hacker who could leak the game code online?
  • Special Treatment Syndrome – There is a reason we don’t post salaries up on the intranet for all to see. People who telecommute can sometimes be resented by onsite employees, and even become the scapegoat for many bugs and crashes that show up.
  • Potential Cost – Depending on how telecommuting is set up, it can either save money, or cost a bit of money. For instance, a VPN network should be setup, and any development-related software used from home must have valid licenses.
  • Eligibility – Companies tend to have a few low-productivity employees, and a few superstar employees (typical bell-curve scenario). What happens to the superstars who telecommute? Are they less effective than if they were in office? What about the employees who are rated at the bottom third of the team? Should they too be allowed to participate in a telecommuting program? Is there resentment within the team at those who telecommute and those who do not?

Article Start Page 1 of 5 Next

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