A CEO went to a board meeting assuming it would be the typical review of the numbers and a discussion about the future. Instead, he was terminated. It was revealed that he had spent more time on his computer doing non-business tasks (news, shopping, games) than he did working on the business. When presented with the data from his own computer he could not believe it.

A business associate wanted to be introduced to a contact of mine. We arranged a breakfast meeting and at one point my associate excused himself for the rest room and was gone more than 20 minutes – and did not realize it! What was going on? In the car afterwards he admitted to using his smart phone while on the throne. Time got away from him.

The CEO of Yahoo has cancelled telecommuting for their employees. Best Buy has done the same and we can expect even more organizations to follow suit. Telecommuting has outlived its usefulness; it is the product of a bygone era. Does this mean that people can no longer work from home? Are we forcing people to sit in traffic when they could be making sales, writing code or designing the next new thing?

Actually, no. Working from home is not out; telecommuting is out.

The term telecommuting comes from the concept of allowing people to work from home via telephone. If telephones were the only means of communication or even the primary means of communication, telecommuting might still be viable. There are too many access points for communication now and too many message channels for the work-at-home model to survive.

But there is an alternative: e-Commuting. It is not a new name for an old process; it is a new mindset that takes into account the advantages and disadvantages of working remotely and working in a traditional office environment.

Here are the “Cliff Notes”; the full information is available in a White Paper at www.SaleSSuiteS.com/Telecommuting.pdf.

The decline in productivity is driven by three types of distractions: ActivePassive and Home.

An active distraction is the alert that lets us know an email has just come in. A growing number of users also have their social networking sites set to alert them to changes there as well. When an alert comes in we jump to our mail client and check the email – it could be important, after all. And something on Facebook might need our immediate attention as well, or so we have begun to think.

Remember the adage about the immediate taking the place of the important? It plays itself out regularly in telecommuting.

passive distraction is one that sits and waits for us to embrace it. Examples of passive distractions are games, news sites, sports sites and even some business-oriented sites Like the attractive person sitting at the bar, it winks and entices us to spend a little time with them.

Home distractions come in cycles. When we first began working from home, we had the office work ethic. So we punched an imaginary clock and went to work as if we were in an office. Over time, home events began to creep into the work day. Errands, children’s events, medical appointments and other “important” tasks took more and more of our productive time from us. We had every intention of making up the lost time but procrastination afflicts us more than we would like to admit.

None of these distractions are intentional for most telecommuters. In fact, game playing and shopping online are common pastimes in the office environment as well as the work-at-home model. Without the traditional oversight and accountability, however, it is easier than we think to fall into production-robbing habits.

What Is The Cure?

There are two options: 1) return to the traditional office environment or, 2) embrace e-commuting. You are already familiar with the traditional office approach so let’s look at E-Commuting.

Think e-Commuting, not telecommuting. It is not semantics. E-Commuting takes into account all of the existing influences the work-at-home employee is encountering and addresses new influences as they emerge. Understand the principles of e-commuting and you will know how to address the influences.

Principle #1: Diagnosis

Begin with an audit. How much time is really being spent on work and how much has been lost to distractions?

  • Shopping, news, sports, etc. – twice a day open your browser and look at the history of internet usage. How many sites and how many pages on each site were visited? Print out the list and then mark each site as an “A”, “B” or “C” priority.
  • Games – begin each day by checking the statistics of the games you play. Write down, yes write down, whatever information is there like the number of games played, the amount of time spent, etc. At the end of the day write down the new stats and do a little arithmetic.
  • Email – again, print out the list of emails received during the day. Some will be in your inbox and others will be in the Deleted Items. If you did not click on them, skip over them or draw a line through them. If any time was spent on them, mark them as A. B or C priorities.

Principle #2: Prescription

Once we know the areas that must be addressed, we formulate a process for changing our behaviors. These must be defined and a commitment must be made to implement them. Otherwise we will gradually work our way back into the old habits.

  • Shopping, news sports – disconnect from the internet for 55 minutes each hour. The world will not come to an end without you knowing it in advance. You really will not miss much. If someone needs you in that period of time, you have a phone. Are you using wireless internet connection? Switch off the modem. Are you using an Ethernet connection? Unplug it.
  • Games – give yourself permission to engage in your favorite game during your morning and afternoon breaks. You are not being deprived of your right to game, you are merely rescheduling it. Set two timers: one for fifteen minutes and one for twenty minutes. When the fifteen minute timer goes off, stop playing. If you are still playing when the second timer goes off, the next time you will have to set the timers for ten minutes and fifteen minutes respectively. The goal here is to see how much time is actually being spent on this diversion.
  • Email – make two changes in how your email is delivered. Reset when your email is delivered and only have it arrive every twenty minutes or when you click. Then change your viewing pane to allow you to see the first lines of the email. That way, if the message is important you will know it at a glance; if it can wait you will know that too. Messages will come in less often and can be evaluated more quickly using these two adjustments.

Principle #3: Accountability

We all need to be held accountable. Left to our own devices we will fall back into familiar patterns of behavior known as habits. Habits creep up on us so we need a continuous monitoring process that is complete, firm and carries ramifications.

Some people can hold themselves accountable without falling into a pattern of overwork. Most of us need to have an accountability partner who helps us stay focused on the work to be done. Either will use rewards and punishments to drive behavior.

That is the overview. The twelve-page White Paper is available to readers of this newsletter at www.SaleSSuiteS.com/Telecommuting.pdf. It will be available to the general public in the CSO Library at SaleSSuiteS before long.