Q: I've been a government contractor for 20 years. For the last nine years, I've had telecommuting privileges allowing me to work from home two days a week. On this contract, probably a quarter of us telecommute at least once a week. There's starting to be grumbling in staff meetings among those who don't have telecommuting privileges, and they are demanding it be offered or discontinued across the board. Managers get the deer-in-the-headlights look whenever the topic comes up. Should those of us who telecommute chime in during these protests with our medical, family and other personal justifications? Or should we say nothing and keep our fingers crossed?
A: I'm guessing your employer doesn't have a clear policy on telecommuting -- hence your managers' stunned silence in response to the have-nots' grumbling.
In recent years, some large private employers and several federal government agencies -- most recently, the Social Security Administration -- have been cutting back on or eliminating telework programs, citing concerns about productivity and creative collaboration.
But while banning telecommuting might seem the simplest solution for your employer, it would damage morale among one-fourth of your company's workforce and, if telework is being granted to accommodate a worker's disability or other medical need, it could create legal problems.
Also, employers seeking to attract and retain talent should be aware that jobseekers increasingly consider telework flexibility a standard requirement -- not just a nice-to-have.
But expanding telecommuting would probably generate some administrative headaches for your employer, especially when it comes to reporting client-billable hours and ensuring adequate on-site staffing and security. You have as much say in this debate as the grumblers, but trying to explain or justify individual arrangements tends to end in a heated debate over whose choices are more deserving: the parent with small children or the long-distance commuter who can't afford to move closer.
Try advocating privately with colleagues and key players for a more productive dialogue: "Telecommuting definitely helps me perform my job better, and I can see why anyone would enjoy it. But I also understand concerns from the employer's side. How can we start a discussion about ways to implement telework for more people, with reasonable and necessary guidelines?"
Q: Two years ago, I moved with my husband from a large metropolitan area, where I was making a competitive salary with annual cost-of-living raises, to a city with a much lower cost of living. I was able to keep my job and work remotely earning the same salary.
I have an opportunity for promotion to a position with more responsibility. I will be asking for more money, but I have a feeling they'll say I'm already overpaid for my location. I'm curious what your take is on this.
A: My take is that you shouldn't do your employer's negotiating for them. They had the opportunity when you moved to cut your pay or say, "We'll miss you, good luck" -- but they decided it was worth it to them to keep paying you the same rate no matter where you're doing the work.
And more responsibility merits more pay -- but once you bring up changing your pay, your employer might reasonably use the opportunity to bring up geographic pay differentials.
Find a cost-of-living comparison calculator online. Figure out what raise you could expect if you were still in Bigbucksville, apply the cost-of-living rate to find out the equivalent salary in the city of Cheapsborough, and that gives you a reasonable negotiating range.
You can always decline the promotion if the raise isn't worth it to you, and the employer can promote someone else if your price isn't worth it to them. Either way, you're no worse off than you were before negotiations.