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August 8th, 1995

Telecommuting Panel

08/08/95 RMIUG Meeting Minutes - Telecommuting Panel

The August, 1995 RMIUG meeting was held Tuesday night, August 8th at the NIST auditorium. Approximately 110 people were in attendance, with Randy Holt (rholt@rmiug.org) as emcee.

There were several announcements:

  • Alek Komarnitsky (alek@rmiug.org) mentioned that next month's meeting on September 12th will be a Internet Service Provder (ISP)-Fest. This will feature a number (hopefully not too many! ;-) ISP's who will talk about what their company can do for you.

  • Alek also mentioned that we currently have 929 members on the rmiug-announce Email list ... we're closing in on 1,000! ;-)

  • Jeff Nieusma runs a consulting firm specializing in UNIX sys admin, network consulting, Internet security and corporate firewalls. He has some on-site UNIX consulting work for people willing to subcontract part time. If you are interested, contact nieusma@FirstLink.com.

  • Bill Moninger (moninger@stripe.colorado.edu) has a class coming up that he'll be teaching on "Technology and Modernization: Computer Technology and Human Values" that is every Thursday evening starting August 31st. More info at: http://stripe.Colorado.EDU/~moninger/Announcement95.html

  • Trudy Leonhard and her brother Woody have collaborated on a book for Addison Weseley which is just coming out. It is on telecommuting and includes "hard" topics like software and network access. The book is geared towards non-technical people.

We had a panel of 5 people discussing telecommuting comprised of:

Dave Brady (dobrady@ingr.com)
Dave is a Special Projects Manager with Intergraph Electronics and telecommutes between his home and the Boulder office.

John Hardt (hardt@vartec.com)
John is a systems type person that telecommutes a couple days a week from Colorado Springs to Denver.

Paula Ferguson (paula@ora.com)
Paula works from her Boulder "office" telecommuting to O'Reilly & Associates' Cambridge, MA. office. She has been doing this for about one year after working in MA. for two years.

Dennis Martin (dmartin@sweng.stortek.com)
Dennis work with Storage Tek and is the founder of Rocky Mountain Windows NT Users Group. Dennis is currently involved with setting up a telecommuting program for Storage Tek.

Judy Rapp-Guadagnoli (judyrapp@aol.com)
Judy puts together seminars for telecommuters to be and had some interesting materials to present about work she has done.

In his opening comments, Dave mentioned a number of things for tele-commuters to be aware of and challenges in making it successful. He thought that the growing need for 24 hour/day business (as problems are handed off around the globe) would lead to more tele-commuting, as is better technology (Internet Phone is neat, and he predicted major movement in video-conferencing in the next 6-12 months). Although he was originally a big fan of Voice-Mail, he now thinks it is slow and inefficient compared to Email - difficult to scan. He felt there is a big responsibility on the employee to make it work ... and keeping management folks posted is important - a weekly work log is very useful. Some of the challenges were measuring results of employees - most managers like to have meetings and examine body language/build relationships/etc. It's also a challenge because many managers (and employees!) don't know how to estimate the time it takes to complete projects very well. Corporate Culture plays a big part; are employees/management receptive to Tele-commuting.

John recently switched job from Lockheed-Martin to a small company (also in Littleton) called Vartec. He continues to tele-commute three days/week, and this was part of the requirement for them to recruit him away. As a Sysadmin, Email is part of the culture, so John is able to operate as if he is on-site. However, since he is *the* sysadmin at Vartec (whereas at LM he was part of a team), he has some concerns about having someone around to help with hardware problems if they occur while he is at home.He likes being able to catch up on stuff at home, and being on-site a couple of days/week allows him to stay in touch with his fellow employees; so his 3 days/week is a nice balance.

Paula (rock-climber studdette! ;-) is a full-time telecommuter in Boulder who talks to associates on both coasts. She moved to Boulder about a year ago to be closer to "real" mountains - she knew three people when she moved here ... and working from home can add to that isolation. She tries to break up her a day, and go for a bike ride, mountain climbing, or other activity either solo or with friends. It can be lonely - she talks to her cat & dogs a lot! ;-) One issue is lack of access to the "grapevine" for what's happening and possible positions up the Corporate Ladder - she feels her remote location may have contributed to her not getting a plum assignment.

Dennis had about a dozen slides that showed how the STK tele-commuting program is working/will be working (he is managing one aspect of it). They are working on a phased approach (it's been done mostly ad-hoc in the past). He defines Telecommuting as "working remotely some of the time in the right situation" and that it is a business option (rather than an employee benefit). Several other companies have put together Sample Policies (TI, DEC, City of Denver) so he encourages you to check those out rather than re-invent the wheel. He had several video's that he also recommended - you can get a complete outline of his talk by sending him an Email.

Judy is a telecommuting advisor for the City & County of Denver, but on her own time and outside the City & County of Denver boundaries, she works as a consultant. She described the efforts of the City of Denver and its rollout plan (involve all employees), and also described how numerous clients of hers have enjoyed her classes. Among the statistics she presented was that there are 9,000,000 telecommuters in the US ... but only 53% use computers (some people taking reading home, just use the phone for voice, etc.). Another stat was that 2% of the workforce telecommutes, and this is growing at a rate of 20%/year and that the average is 1 1/2 days/week. She also talked about how it is difficult to get a tax break from working at home; you have to have a designated spot in the house and also have clients visit you there. Interestingly enough, insurance (via workman's comp) isn't really much of an issue; you are pretty much covered wherever you are if you are "working." She also mentioned that in perhaps 15 years, they will be teaching classes on how to work ... if you *have* to drive into an office!

After the above comments, all of the panalists took the stage for Q&A: (Alek's note taking got a bit weak here ... ;-)

In answer to what equipment where people using, there was a variety of software/hardware platforms (Windows (95), NT, UNIX) and mostly 14.4 and 28.8 modems. Nobody was using ISDN yet. At least one person has a second phone line at their house (Comment from Alek: yea, this would be nice for me - bummer to have to dis-connect when you call someone!)

Several people said it is tougher to stay in touch with the main office, but that Email (especially if the culture is used to it) and calling people seems to work OK. However, it's easy to be labeled a "virtual hermit" since people don't see you very often ... especially if you are hard-core person who does this 5 days/week. One profession that has always had this problem is salespeople ... and it is especially important for their managers to try to foster a sense of teamship through things like weekly conference calls.

One RMIUG'er thought that the future would be "virtual companies" where people are paid for the value they bring, rather than the face time they contribute to a single employer. In addition, companies would form for certain projects, and then disband and reform for other work ... and you'd be paid as you delivered. Interestingly enough, most of the panelists kinda liked a steady paycheck ... and so weren't too keen on this idea.


We will have an ISP-fest at the September 12th RMIUG meeting. Bring your questions/comments for the various Internet Service Providers. If you have a particular question you would like to see posed beforehand (or are an ISP that hasn't heard from us yet), pls send an Email to alek@rmiug.org.

Officially submitted by your humble minuteman, alek

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