A scene of people with various disabilities gathered around a blue lake, enjoying their home, community, the out-of-doors, health, recreation, housing, transportation and education with an accessible path for them to a high mountain and large yellow sun on the horizon.  New Horizons Un-Limited Inc.



Part II: Telecommuting, Establishing the Process

January 31, 2001

How do you telecommute? With the constant advancements in technology, the idea of telecommuting arose. This idea was intended to replace the need for travel to the office or to overcome the time and space barriers that many employees encountered. As we discussed in Part I: Telecommuting, an Option to Traditional Employment for the Disabled, telecommuting allows many companies to overcome certain barriers by allowing employees to work from home or other locations. It is more productive, less expensive, and allows organizations to retain good employees despite these barriers. For employees, it allows them to reduce their stress, to save time and money due to traveling and to free more time for other activities besides commuting. For some individuals with more severe disabilities, in particular, it makes the idea of employment a possibility. The purpose of Part II: Telecommuting, Establishing the Process is to give individuals and organizations the tools to implementing a program and establish the process of telecommuting in your organization. In the following, we will describe the steps establishing the process, including an overview of the content that should be contained in a telecommuting program proposal, the method for deciding who should telecommute and what tasks they will complete, and a discussion on the agreement between the employee and employer before actual telecommuting begins. All of the steps described below will give an individual and an organization the tools to begin telecommuting.

There are various steps that an employee and an employer need to accomplish before a telecommuting program can be implemented into their organization. The first of these steps is for an organization to prepare a Telecommuting Proposal. This plan will be a comprehensive proposal that will explain the various dynamics of telecommuting, organizational objectives, goals and adjustments with the implementation of a telecommuting program, and employee selection and training. This proposal would be similar to any proposal that would be created when a new program or procedures of work were going to be considered for implementation. Many organizations may be reluctant to take the time, money and effort to draft such a proposal. However, being that this type of implementation would benefit great numbers of employees with and without disabilities, we urge individuals to create proposals for their organizations or others that may potentially implement such a program to benefit their employees and individuals with disabilities. Below are guidelines in helping individuals or organizations prepare a telecommuting proposal.

Sample Telecommuting Proposal

Once you have proposed a telecommuting program to your organization or your organization has implemented a telecommuting program, employees need to be screened to decide if they are compatible with being a telecommuter. This will aid your organization in deciding what type of impact, if any, this program will have on employees and the organization. The American Telecommuting Association has derived a Telecommuting Affinity Index. It is used to compare individuals to the profile of a successful telecommuter and evaluate individuals to find the best candidates for telecommuting. It is a survey that measures individual's responses to various statements. Strong agreement would score 3 points, strong disagreement would score 0 points. You can order copies of this survey from the American Telecommuting Association by calling 1-800-ATA-4-YOU or sending an e-mail to YourATA@aol.com. The cost is $2.50 each with a minimum order of $10.00. This price includes shipping and handling. In addition, the American Telecommuting Association offers the Telecommuting Work Suitability Index. This measures what type of work are good for telecommuting. This survey was derived because no matter how skilled an employee is, if they receive tasks that cannot be completed properly by telecommuting, they will fail. It makes the claim that "from the answers, you can make a fairly accurate determination of whether or not a sufficient proportion of the job's normal work can be accomplished via telecommuting." The Telecommuting Work Suitability Index can be ordered using the same process as the Telecommuting Affinity Index and costs the same amount. Below is another example of how to screen or evaluate your employees or yourself for telecommuting. This form encompasses general information on the individual, the task, equipment, communication, commuting, attitudes, social issues and management issues.

Sample Telecommuting Screening Evaluation Form


Have you ever telecommuted?

How often do you expect to telecommute?

What type of work will be done while telecommuting?



___Auditing reports

___Batch work


___Computer conferencing

___Conducting business by telephone

___Contract preparation/ monitoring

___Data analysis

___Data entry

___Data manipulation

___Data processing

___Data programming


___Field visits

Maintaining databases

___Meeting with clients


___Project-oriented work/ management




___Sending/receiving electronic mail

___Spreadsheet analysis

___Support activities



___Using a computer

___Word processing





Do you have a room or an area at home to dedicate to telecommuting?

What equipment/services do you need to successfully telecommute? What equipment do you currently have?



Currently Have

Additional phone line



Answering machine






Calling card









Facsimile machine



File cabinet



Internet access


















Voice mail








Do you have a separate telephone line at your residence for work-related calling?

Do you use residence or business telephone services for your work-related calling?

Which of the following special telephone services do you use in your work-related calling?

___Conference calls

___Call forwarding

___Voice mail

___Call waiting

___Three-way calling


What additional communication equipment or services would improve your productivity?



___Voice mail




___Internet services


Would you use your telephone more if it cost you less to make the calls?

Estimate the monthly cost of work-related telephone usage for local and long-distance services.

How many hours each day do you use a computer?

Do you use a modem for computer communications?

How long is your average online session?

Approximately how many online sessions do you have each day?

Would you use computer communications more often if the communications cost less?



How do you usually travel to and from work?

___Drive alone



___Public transportation





How many miles do you travel to work each day (round trip)?

How long does it take you to get to and from work (round trip)?

What time of day do you arrive at work?

What time of day do you leave work?



Please indicate, by degree, the extent to which telecommuting has changed your life (Greatly Increased, Increased, Neither Increased nor Decreased, Decreased, etc.):





Assess the following issues by degree, as above:



The following factors should be included in your screening/evaluation surveys for management, supervisors, and control groups, and assessed by degree, as above:

Once you have your program in place and have decided what tasks and individuals are appropriate for the program, an organization will probably want some type of agreement between itself and the employee. This is not necessary, but it safeguards both the employer and the employee. It allows both parties to have an understanding of what is expected from each. It describes where the remote work location will be, whether at home or at another location. It defines what the telecommuting schedule will be and what hours the telecommuter will be working. This leaves no room for ambiguity. It re-affirms to the employer that you will be working at these times, so you are reachable and contracted to work these times, just as if you were physically in the office. This takes some of the ease of hesitant organizations and managers who may be concerned with the lack of supervision. Also, from a telecommuter's point of view, it does not allow you to procrastinate on tasks and it doesn't allow your work to run into or overlap with personal tasks. Next, company assets and company information systems are addressed. What do you need from your company? Your organization should provide most, if not all, of the equipment and supplies that you will be utilizing for work. Finally, the agreement addresses non-company equipment. Also, there is room for other information you or your employer may deem important to the agreement. Below is a sample telecommuting agreement, but agreements are flexible and should be negotiated between you and your employer.

Sample Telecommuting Agreement

I have read and understand the attached Telecommuting Policy, and agree to the duties, obligations, responsibilities, and conditions for telecommuters described in that document.

I agree that, among other things, I am responsible for establishing specific telecommuting work hours, furnishing and maintaining my remote work space in a safe manner, employing appropriate telecommuting security measures, and protecting company assets, information, trade secrets, and systems.

I understand that telecommuting is voluntary and I may stop telecommuting at any time. I also understand that the company may at any time change any or all of the conditions under which I am permitted to telecommute, or withdraw permission to telecommute.

Above we have described each of the steps in implementing a program for telecommuting in an organization. This procedure can be initiated by an individual or by the employer. If you are an individual with a disability and can see the benefits this type of program can bring to you and your employer, please propose this to the management. Many companies are not aware of the benefits and are not made aware until they are approached by an employee. If you are searching for employment with an organization and think that telecommuting would be a benefit for your situation, search for an organization that has a telecommuting program or would be willing to implement one. Also, for organizations that are seeking to employ good workers, want to open up the doors placed upon us by spatial barriers, and reap the benefits of this type of program, we urge you to test the telecommuting program. Finally, because no program is guaranteed to be a success, below are a few helpful hints to make your program a successful one.

Information for this editorial, was obtained, in part, from the American Association of Telecommuting and Workforce Online.

For more on the topic of Employment:

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[Updated January 31, 2001]
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