Making Telecommuting Work
Posted by jorbell on December 4, 2008
Kathy Durfee, founder and CEO of nine-person TechHouse, a Bradenton (Fla.) consulting company, admits that her management style was shaped by stints at big companies such as PepsiCo (PEP) and Accenture (ACN). “I had it in my mind that an office should be very structured,” she says. That meant no jeans in the office, fixed work schedules, and no telecommuting. Four years ago, when several of her employees asked if they could work from home occasionally, Durfee said no. “I didn’t think we could function,” she says. “I was worried things would be dropped.”
But in 2005, a star employee went out on short-term disability. The only way he could stay with TechHouse was to work from home part-time. The arrangement was a bust, and he left. “The fact it didn’t work with him set off alarm bells,” Durfee says. “I don’t want to be in a position where I can’t keep a good employee.” Durfee realized she needed to make telecommuting work. She has since hired two consultants who work from Orlando and Clear- water. Three of the Bradenton staff telecommute, including the chief technology officer. Durfee now thinks her early misfire with telecommuting was due in part to poor communication, so she holds mandatory office meetings and enforces protocols about when employees should use telephone, e-mail, or instant messaging to contact one another.
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