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
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.
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?
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
– 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?
– 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?
– 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?
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.
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
– 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?