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Lift, Inc. - “Telecommuting: Is it for you?”

05.10.2006

By Carrie Smoot

When Jeff Mayer of Whippany, N.J., discovered Lift, Inc. at a disability employment job fair several years ago, he realized information technology would be his new career. To be successful in IT, he says, you need a logical mind and to be very detail-oriented. He thought he possessed those qualities, and was eager for change.

Working with Lift, Inc. gave Mayer expertise in mainframe and C++ programming along with experience in business and systems analysis. As his employment needs changed, Mayer returned to Lift for two more job opportunities. The most recent is NECA, the not-for-profit organization that manages the pool of access charges that long-distance carriers pay to local companies for connection. Since each position required new training, he began as a contractor. “Lift was like a middleman, helping to resolve issues as they came up,” Mayer says.

But he didn’t expect telecommuting. Since this small, national nonprofit corporation in Warren, N.J. began hiring, training and placing people who have physical disabilities in IT and information management positions, telecommuting has always been part of their services. Most offices simply weren’t accessible in 1975. Now telecommuting has become mainstream.

Mayer says working at home two days a week causes less stress on his body, and that’s made him more productive. He appreciates that Lift and his supervisors recognize the value of working at home. “I have non-degenerative ataxia. I don’t use my wheelchair at the office, so having a home office conserves my strength. When I don’t have to drive to the office, I start work earlier. With my wife at work and son at school, it’s just the cats and me. They really don’t care what I’m doing as long as they can occasionally sit on my lap and watch the cursor go up and down on the screen.”

Mayer says people have the wrong idea about telecommuting. “Most people think of sitting around in your underwear while working; surrounding yourself with cookies and snacks; sleeping late, quitting early or sneaking naps. For most people it is none of these things. A successful telecommuter gets up early and does the things non-telecommuters do to get ready for work. I tend to put in more hours during the day working from home than in the office because it’s easier and less stressful. There are fewer interruptions depending on your situation.”

He says that with today’s technology, working from home is exactly the same as going to the office. High-speed Internet access, virtual private networking (VPN), fax machines, teleconferencing, videoconferencing and e-mail allow a home office to be indistinguishable from a corporate office.

Debbie Schaub is the director of applications and data management at NECA. “The IT department doesn’t usually telecommute because historically, the cost of development tools have been too high,” She says. “We made an exception in Jeff’s case because we felt he would be more productive if it weren’t necessary for him to commute in each day. The costs to have these tools at his house — including a high-speed Internet connection — were reasonable. It’s worked out well for everyone. Jeff has further developed his skills in SQL Server, Visual Basic and ASP for our new business area — Web environments for customer-facing applications.” Mayer was promoted recently to application developer analyst.
Mayer points out the best reasons to telecommute. “Today, many employers are relying on telecommuting to lower costs,” he says. “Increased telecommuting can have a cost-saving effect on fuel, electricity, physical space, traffic, employee tardiness and absence, parking, maintenance, food and water. How can any employer refuse?”

To all prospective telecommuters out there, he says: “Get out there and stay home! Just make sure your underwear is clean in case of a videoconference.”

Tips:

1. Create a separate work area. Plan your day. Use calendars, checklists and so on.

2. Be a self-starter. Communicate daily and frequently with bosses and co-workers. You won’t have time to feel isolated.

3. Stay up-to-date on technology. Keep learning.

4. Clearly articulate why you need to telecommute. Write a business proposal on telecommuting for bosses. Be ready with solutions to their concerns. Some jobs don’t fit the flexibility of working at home. Managing teleworkers effectively is still a big concern.

Carrie Smoot is the Christopher Reeve Intern for Communications and Outreach for Lift, Inc.

By Carrie Smoot

When Jeff Mayer of Whippany, N.J., discovered Lift, Inc. at a disability employment job fair several years ago, he realized information technology would be his new career. To be successful in IT, he says, you need a logical mind and to be very detail-oriented. He thought he possessed those qualities, and was eager for change.

Working with Lift, Inc. gave Mayer expertise in mainframe and C++ programming along with experience in business and systems analysis. As his employment needs changed, Mayer returned to Lift for two more job opportunities. The most recent is NECA, the not-for-profit organization that manages the pool of access charges that long-distance carriers pay to local companies for connection. Since each position required new training, he began as a contractor. “Lift was like a middleman, helping to resolve issues as they came up,” Mayer says.

But he didn’t expect telecommuting. Since this small, national nonprofit corporation in Warren, N.J. began hiring, training and placing people who have physical disabilities in IT and information management positions, telecommuting has always been part of their services. Most offices simply weren’t accessible in 1975. Now telecommuting has become mainstream.

Mayer says working at home two days a week causes less stress on his body, and that’s made him more productive. He appreciates that Lift and his supervisors recognize the value of working at home. “I have non-degenerative ataxia. I don’t use my wheelchair at the office, so having a home office conserves my strength. When I don’t have to drive to the office, I start work earlier. With my wife at work and son at school, it’s just the cats and me. They really don’t care what I’m doing as long as they can occasionally sit on my lap and watch the cursor go up and down on the screen.”

Mayer says people have the wrong idea about telecommuting. “Most people think of sitting around in your underwear while working; surrounding yourself with cookies and snacks; sleeping late, quitting early or sneaking naps. For most people it is none of these things. A successful telecommuter gets up early and does the things non-telecommuters do to get ready for work. I tend to put in more hours during the day working from home than in the office because it’s easier and less stressful. There are fewer interruptions depending on your situation.”

He says that with today’s technology, working from home is exactly the same as going to the office. High-speed Internet access, virtual private networking (VPN), fax machines, teleconferencing, videoconferencing and e-mail allow a home office to be indistinguishable from a corporate office.

Debbie Schaub is the director of applications and data management at NECA. “The IT department doesn’t usually telecommute because historically, the cost of development tools have been too high,” She says. “We made an exception in Jeff’s case because we felt he would be more productive if it weren’t necessary for him to commute in each day. The costs to have these tools at his house — including a high-speed Internet connection — were reasonable. It’s worked out well for everyone. Jeff has further developed his skills in SQL Server, Visual Basic and ASP for our new business area — Web environments for customer-facing applications.” Mayer was promoted recently to application developer analyst.
Mayer points out the best reasons to telecommute. “Today, many employers are relying on telecommuting to lower costs,” he says. “Increased telecommuting can have a cost-saving effect on fuel, electricity, physical space, traffic, employee tardiness and absence, parking, maintenance, food and water. How can any employer refuse?”

To all prospective telecommuters out there, he says: “Get out there and stay home! Just make sure your underwear is clean in case of a videoconference.”

Tips:

1. Create a separate work area. Plan your day. Use calendars, checklists and so on.

2. Be a self-starter. Communicate daily and frequently with bosses and co-workers. You won’t have time to feel isolated.

3. Stay up-to-date on technology. Keep learning.

4. Clearly articulate why you need to telecommute. Write a business proposal on telecommuting for bosses. Be ready with solutions to their concerns. Some jobs don’t fit the flexibility of working at home. Managing teleworkers effectively is still a big concern.

Carrie Smoot is the Christopher Reeve Intern for Communications and Outreach for Lift, Inc.

www.lift-inc.org/

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