Top 10 Telecommuting Questions Answered

by Ron P on March 10, 2011

in Telecommuting, Work From Home


Intrigued by the idea of working at home in a job? Millions of people each year surf the Internet to find the perfect work-at-home job only to be overwhelmed by the number of scams and work-at-home schemes. One of the first steps to finding a legitimate work-at-home job is to understand what telecommuting is all about. Below are the answers to the top ten telecommuting questions.

1) What is telecommuting?
Telecommuting describes the situation in which a person works off-site for all or part of the workweek. In essence, he commutes via telephone or other telecommunication equipment such as a modem. He may telecommute from home, from a satellite location or mobile office. He doesn’t do assembly work, email processing, envelope stuffing, or ad placing.

2) How many people telecommute?
The number of telecommuters is difficult to compute. The International Telework Association and Council reports the number of employees who telecommuted at least 1 day per month increased from 23.5 million to 24.1 million in 2004. That number is over 137 million worldwide (Gartner Group). Further, employers offering telecommuting increased 22% in 2004 according to Lori Rosen, CCH workplace analyst in HR Networking: Work-Life Benefits. 

The difficulty in determining the number of telecommuters is partly due to the ambiguity in defining the status of some workers. For example, many people who work at home are “hired” by a company but are contract workers not employees. Are they counted as telecommuters? How about freelancers who are also “hired” or contracted by companies to perform specific tasks? Whether or not these groups of people are counted in the over all population of telecommuters can significantly affect the resulting number of telecommuters. However, experts agree that the numbers of people who are working at home for a company are increasing steadily each year as the concept of telecommuting grows in acceptance.

3) What companies allow telecommuting?
Telecommuting can be found in companies and organization (including government agencies) of all sizes. AT&T is a pioneer in the telecommuting phenomena. Other organizations include Aetna, Gale Research, Journal Graphics, the Federal Government, many state governments, and even small privately owned companies. In essence, its everywhere.

4) What jobs are best suited for telecommuting?
While telecommuting jobs have expanded to include a large spectrum of job types, the jobs best suited to telecommuting are those in the technical field especially in computer programming and writing. However, telecommuting jobs can also be found in research, customer service, accounting, journalism, transcription, marketing and PR, sales, law, social work, nursing, teaching, and many other areas.

4) Do telecommuter’s get salaries and benefits?
Salaries and benefits are part of many telecommuting programs. They can be found mostly in situations in which an employee has made arrangements with his employer to work at home, and in highly skilled or professional jobs. Many of the telecommuting jobs found on the Internet are freelance or contract-based work in which the employee is paid on the amount of work completed. However, contract work doesn’t necessarily mean sales nor does it mean inconsistent income. There are many contract jobs that are steady in terms of work and compensation.

5) Do you have to pay for telecommuting jobs?
NO! Legitimate employers never charge to hire you. NEVER! Any place that tells you otherwise is selling you something. Telecommuting jobs are like any other job. You are hired because you have shown you have the skills and experience for the job. You wouldn’t pay your current boss for paper clips or to add you to payroll! The only time money may be involved in a work-at-home job is for equipment (not all companies supply the equipment – but you should be careful of any company that tries to sell you it’s equipment) or if you use a fee-based job database to locate work. Further, any job announcement that suggests you can sign-up to work isn’t a real job. There is always an application process.

6) Where can telecommuting jobs be found?
There are two ways to get a telecommuting job. The first is to consider your current job. Are there tasks at your current job that you could do at home? If so, create a Work-At-Home Proposal outlining your work-at-home plan and how it will benefit your company. The second way is to do a work-at-home job search. The best places to find these jobs are on career oriented websites. Many of the fee-based telecommuting job databases are very good and cut down search time significantly. But always do research before forking out money to a telecommuting service.

7) Do I need special skills?
Special skills, particularly in computer programming, will make it faster and easier to find a work-at-home job. But there are work-at-home jobs in many fields that don’t require any special degrees or skills. Basic skills you should have include writing, organizing, Internet use, research, and problem solving.

8) Do I need special equipment?
Maybe. Many telecommuting employees do not provide equipment or materials. A company is most likely to provide needed equipment if you are a full-time employee moving from an onsite position to a telecommuting one. In other cases, companies may reimburse the cost of some expenses such as materials and travel. In many cases, companies don’t supply or reimburse for anything. In this case, your expenses may be tax deductible, which is like getting reimbursed.

At the very least, you should have a fast computer with programs needed to do the job, a high-speed Internet connection, and possibly a second phone line and fax.

9) Is telecommuting suited to parents?
Telecommuting offers many benefits to parents but that doesn’t mean telecommuters can get by without childcare. Many companies require a written telecommuting agreement with childcare arrangements specified. Working at home with children can be difficult, as children need much attention and care. Even when they are engaged in an activity, they can be a distraction. If you plan to work at home, it would be wise to research different child care options such as pre-schools, co-ops, and play groups that could give you some uninterrupted time to work.

10) Does telecommuting work for everyone?
No. While telecommuting offers many benefits such as flexibility and no commute time, it does have its disadvantages. Working at home requires much self-discipline to avoid distractions such as the dishes and television. It can create resentment at the office especially if the office staff is unable to contact the telecommuter or ends up picking up extra work not being finished by the telecommuter. One of the biggest complaints by telecommuters is the isolation experienced by working at home. Telecommuters are left out of the formal and informal office social systems unless they make an effort to keep in touch with the office.

Telecommuting continues to grow as more and more businesses see the cost effectiveness of allowing people to do work from home. But to find telecommuting work requires the same amount of diligent effort and professionalism as needed in a traditional job search. Your best bet for finding legitimate telecommuting jobs is to understand telecommuting and the companies that use telecommuters.

Leslie Truex is the author of The Jobs Online Toolkit which provides step-by-step details on finding and getting a work-at-home job, including a list of over 300 companies that are frequently hiring. Visit The Jobs Online Toolkit and start applying for a job today!

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