Telecommuting: Smooth Sailing Into Shabbos

Are Friday’s hectic at work? Do you have a hard to get out of the office on time? Does your boss demand a full day of work even when shabbos is early in the winter? Do you rush home from work to make it home on time for Shabbos? Here’s an idea how to get rid of the Friday dash.
Now that the summer is over and sunset comes earlier, the memories of rushing home to make it on time for Shabbos start coming back. If you act now, those Friday evening sprints can be a thing of the past.

The solution is working from home or to use the popular term, telecommuting. Telecommuting gives you many advantages including saving up to two hours a day or more on the commute, easy access to kosher food and the independence to get your work done without co-worker or external interruption.

But before you rush out and ask your boss, there are a few issues to consider. The first question to ask yourself is: “do I have the discipline to work from home?” Sure the possibility of working from home sounds intriguing, but will you get stuck tidying up around the house or spend all day on the phone with Chana Yenta? Another issue is the environment- how will the people around you react? Are your children home during the day? Is finding an isolated space a problem?

When I started telecommuting on Fridays seven years ago, my wife would say, “Now that you’re home today, you can do some errands…” I had to explain, “I’m not home, I am working- I just have a short commute.” Sure there were times when I would run an errand or peel potatoes for the shabbos kugel, on my “lunch break”, but I made sure to give my boss a full day of work, even if it meant working on Sunday to make up for lost time. This is where self-discipline comes in; you can’t take advantage of your telecommunicating situation because it can put your telecommuting, or even your job, at risk.

The final aspect stopping you from Friday freedom is equipment. You must have the proper computer setup, calculator or papers/files that is needed to do your work. If you can’t get this from your company, this may mean laying out your own money for it. You may decide you need a computer anyway and the $3.00 you save by not taking the subway will slowly (very slowly) go toward subsidizing your extra equipment.

Now that you’ve convinced yourself, it’s time to convince your supervisor. You must convince him that it is beneficial to him and the company. You can point out that you will be more productive at home, if this is the case. You may need to make some guarantees that you will complete your work. For example, you may promise, “I will review at least seven files…” Your supervisor needs to know that he can trust you. You can offer to write status reports for each day that you telecommute. If your supervisor still isn’t convinced, you can offer other perks to the company by splitting the two hours you gain from not commuting and give work an extra hour.

In any negotiation, the key is to think creatively how each party can gain. The best way to initiate a telecommuting program is to begin it on a trial basis. You or your manager may not like the results, so this will give you an easy way to get out.

One final tip: make sure that you make yourself visible when you’re not in the office: Reply to emails or leave some voicemails for co-workers because even if you are more productive than ever, if no one hears from you they will assume you’re goofing off.

Now that you’re prepared to telecommute, let me give you one warning. One of the biggest problems people face when they telecommute is isolation. Suddenly those pesky coworkers who tell the same story everyday don’t seem so bad. On the other hand a quiet, non-rushing day on Friday will make a good transition to your yom menucha.

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