I’ve telecommuted for more than 5 years now, half of which was in a management/chief architect role, so anything in the news about telecommuting interests me.
Here is a brief interview with Jack Nilles, who, from all accounts, is the father of telecommuting, having coined the term back in 1973 while working for the ASAF and NASA.
He makes some great observations, among them:
- “They commute to the office, get on the phone and talk with someone somewhere else. What’s the point?”
- “Most people are relatively clueless about the human interaction aspects and supervision techniques and so forth required to be good managers”
- “Branch offices and telecommuting are similar.”
I’ve run into some of these things first hand; “I can’t see you, so I can’t manage you.” That sort of thing.
I once even got a telephone callback by one company that I’d responded to, who was a software vendor, but who’s ad was very vague about the actual kind of software they sold. Once I got on the phone and realized they made, essentially, spyware that would track websites you visit, keystrokes, time spent in particular applications, etc, I closed out the conversation quickly, turned and didn’t look back.
Their idea was that, along with a timesheet, you’d turn in this encrypted report of the log that this application generated. As the employee, you couldn’t alter the log, though you could view it. They argued that such software would encourage employers to support more telecommuting, because it would make the telecommuter’s day transparent, and it would be a “good thing” for telecommuters because it allows them to “prove” they’re doing the work they say they are. Mr. Nilles’s comments, or a good sit-down with Steve Maguire’s “Debugging the Development Process” should be proof enough that such thinking is so utterly wrong it makes the Flat Earth Society look like geniuses.
I’m sure they’ll sell the hell out of that app .
Employees have to be judged by their work, not how long they’re in their seats, or how much time they spend with Visual Studio loaded. Successful development shops (telecommuters or no) understand this.