Revised November 11, 2013

Telecommuting/Cloud Commuting & Virtual Teams:
Advocacy & Resources

I've been working with online volunteers since 1994, and researching and advocating the practice of online volunteering / virtual volunteering since 1996.

When I started, there was no research regarding online volunteering, so I used a combination of traditional volunteer management research, resources and publications and telecommuting manuals to come up with the original suggestions for how to work remotely with volunteers using the Internet, promoted via the Virtual Volunteering Project. By the time the 1990s were ending, I had managed hundreds of volunteers online, people working a few miles or hundreds of miles away from my geographic location, on long-term projects and byte-sized/micro-volunteering tasks, and worked on projects together with dozens of paid staff in remote locations, relying on a variety of communications tools and methods to collaborate successfully. Of course, now, it's impossible for me to count how many online volunteers and remote, paid staff I've worked with.

Also, during my first year at the Virtual Volunteering Project, I worked from home. I telecommuted (or, using the latest jargon, cloud-commuted or was engaged in work shifting). My supervisors were in Washington, D.C. and California. I adhered to those telecommuting manuals in putting together my home office, defining my work day, providing my supervisors with regular updates and creating a balance between my home and work life (which were just inches apart). And from 2009 to the present, I'm working from home (and the road) again, now as a consultant. 

Through these experiences, I became an advocate for telecommuting/cloud commuting. I don't advocate that we all give up onsite office work and onsite face-to-face meetings entirely. But I do believe that workers can be more productive, cut down on travel time and reduce fuel costs, and that the environment can be made much cleaner and our roads less congested, if more workers were given the option to telecommute part-time.

Sadly, the vision many managers have of telecommuting/cloud commuting staff is someone sitting at home, surfing YouTube on their computer or continually raiding the refrigerator while their kids run around the house and need attention, with neighbors at the door ready to visit, etc. Or the telecommuter runs errands all day outside the home. But for most telecommuters, this is NOT the case. In fact, telecommuters are notorious for overwork, for not knowing when to quit their workday, for taking time away from family and social activities to work, and always being "on call" out of a sense of guilt for not being in the office.

How to combat telecommuting/cloud commuting misconceptions your company may have?

First, accept that telecommuting/cloud commuting is not for everyone, nor for every job.

If you want to telecommute, you have to be able to well communicate the following to your employer, or your potential employer, in clear details (not just verbal affirmations):

If you want to telecommute, you also have to decide with your employer There is extensive information online and off about companies who have instituted successful telecommuting programs, as well as guides on how to start a program. There's also a growing number of guides regarding working in multi-cultural teams and working with virtual teams. Below is a list of such resources that I'm particularly fond of, and that I think, together, counter any remaining arguments against telecommuting. These resources are compiled for various audiences: workers who want to convince management to allow telecommuting, managers who are skeptical of telecommuting, workers and managers about to embark in a telecommuting relationship, and people who want to work with others (whether paid staff or volunteer) in remote locations. Please note that this is not a comprehensive list - just my favorites.  

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