It may be convenient, even more efficient, for some employees to work away from company headquarters at a client site or from home and communicate by email, phone, texting and Skype.
For businesses, however, offsite workers can present as many challenges as opportunities.
Yahoo made headlines earlier this year by eliminating telecommuting and Best Buy followed soon after by tightening its own work-from-home policies.
While not best for every company or employee, Margie Ahearn, who manages human resources for Warwick-based NetCenergy, which provides IT services for small- and medium-sized companies, has no problem managing personnel details for about one-third of the company’s 35 employees who work offsite – she is one of them.
“My rule is I’m available by phone and email from 5:30 in the morning until 8:30 at night and I always respond,” said Ahearn, who lives in North Easton, Mass., and goes into the office on a varying schedule. “I do think it’s really important to spend time with people in person. I wouldn’t want to work from home all the time.”
Sometimes she goes into the office a couple of days a week, depending on what has to be done to meet company needs and her own standards developed from many years in human resources for several companies. Before her current job, her two previous positions were on a flexible schedule, sometimes three days in the office and the rest of her work from home.
“Telecommuting is a culture more and more companies are embracing – and I think, should embrace. It’s a work-life balance,” said Ahearn.
Her offsite human resources position for NetCenergy, which is officially a part-time consultant, initially did not excite company leadership.
“My first thought was, ‘I don’t’ like that,’ ” said NetCenergy President Don Nokes, who founded the company in 2003. “I like people where I can see them and have hallway conversations. I think there’s a lot of productivity in those interactions, even though some people might call them distractions. When employees are physically here, you can have impromptu meetings.”
NetCenergy began with three people and for the first 10 years, Nokes handled all the human resources functions himself.
“Human resources is one of the most important functions of a company like mine. All we have to sell is a set of skills and the attitude, motivation and commitment of our employees,” said Nokes.