Does telecommuting make you invisible?

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I work within a large IT organization and the people in my department have been given the opportunity to work from home. If I do, does it reduce my opportunities for promotion and/or increase my chances of getting laid off?

First, thanks for asking. It’s great to get questions from my IT world readers. In short, the answer to your question regarding the effect of telecommuting on promotions and layoffs is that it depends on the following:

  • Your company’s culture and norms regarding telecommuting
  • The percentage of people at your company that work remotely
  • How visible you can be on a day-to-day basis to your boss and others
  • How effectively you can perform your job remotely

Now let’s discuss these items one at a time.

Your company’s culture

Companies, like people, have specific values, strengths, weaknesses, prejudices, and, dare I say, personalities. That said, consider the following questions when deciding if you want to telecommute:

  • Is the company technically equipped with conference room speakers, remote computer access, and tools needed to facilitate efficient work from outside the office?
  • Does your company conceptually support telecommuting or does it simply tolerate it?
  • Can you remotely participate in important department discussions?
  • Is there an out-of-site-out-of-mind mentality for those working out of the office?
  • Is your boss supportive of telecommuting or is he/she begrudgingly providing the option because it’s company policy?
  • Are virtual teams at your company managed well or managed poorly?

Percent of people working remotely

The reason I ask this question is that if a high percentage of people work from home and/or business groups are generally spread over multiple physical locations, then needed work-related processes are (or should be) in place to accommodate remote workers. If, however, you will be the only team member working remotely, you will most likely often be forgotten, not with any animosity, just due to people forgetting to call you. As previously said, you will be out-of-sight-out-of-mind.

How visible can you be from home?

The reason for this question is that some jobs, by their nature, are more connected to the people you work with than others. For example, if you are a software tester and are continually communicating with programmers, users, and other testers by email, via formal bug reports, and by phone to discuss issues, you can be very internally visible. If, however, you write documentation or provide phone-based customer support, by the nature of your job, you will be less interactive with your boss and teammates. With this second scenario, it will be much harder for you to have high office visibility from home.

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