March 17--Telecommuting isn't a new term, but it is being used more often.
Work-from-home professionals made headlines earlier this year when Yahoo's chief executive officer, Marissa Mayer, nixed the idea. Starting in June, employees will be required to work in the office.
Trista Davies did just that for eight years as a paralegal for a Platte County judge. After he left, Ms. Davies moved on to another judge, but felt she was missing something.
"I'd been thinking of making a change for a while," she said. "Unfortunately, working for the state is not a well-paid commodity. I stayed out of loyalty and enjoyed my work environment."
In 2010, the Weston, Mo., woman changed her environment permanently. She quit her 9-to-5 office job and started looking for jobs in her field that would allow her to work from home.
"My experience was that my mom was allowed to telecommute one day a week," Ms. Davies said. "I watched how she worked with logging into her desktop remotely."
Off the bat, she received an "amazing" job offer from Kansas City attorney Pam Palmer. Ms. Davies said she mentioned the idea of working at least part time from home.
The Census Bureau estimates that 5.8 million Americans -- men and women -- worked from home in 2010. While that's only 4.3 percent of the work force, the number of home-based workers increased by 3.4 million in 1990.
"For what I do, I could do that from home," Ms. Davies said. "And (Ms. Palmer) was receptive. She made me an offer I couldn't refuse."
In no time at all, Ms. Davies was working 20 hours a week, making what she had been at her full-time office job.
And there were a lot of bonuses. She could volunteer more at her children's school and have more time with her family. She and her husband welcomed a daughter while she worked from home.
That new baby, Chloe, who is now 18 months, only goes to day care five hours a week when Ms. Davies has work-related meetings. Her three other children are in school, but the work-from-home mom still drives them to and from school every day and manages their after-school activities.
"I was spending almost $10,000 a year on day care when I worked," she said. "It's like getting a raise."
While working from home has amazing perks, there are still some drawbacks -- benefits. A majority of work-from-home employees are considered contract employees. There are no retirement plans, 401K matches or health insurance. As for dental and vision coverage, forget it.
The job works best for those with a spouse who has outside employment for insurance and other benefits.
But there are some employers who look at their telecommuting workers as in-house employees.
"All our staff are actual employees," said Ellen Ellis, enterprise team leader of health information services at Heartland Regional Medical Center. The 50 telecommuting employees cover both coding and medical transcription and are full time, part time and as needed statuses.
Internet connectivity plays a role in that decision. Some don't have the highest speed Internet, she said.
"We have been able to work the flexibility," she said. "Once they are home, they usually like it."
How it works
Advances in technology, such as high-speed Internet and Skype, are making it possible to choose between career women and stay-at-home moms. Ms. Ellis said a stable IT department plays a huge role in the five-year success.
"I think when you work from home, there is more trouble-shooting involved," she said. "But at this point, that is worth it."
Unlike Ms. Davies' work situation, Heartland's employees are more structured and monitored. The telecommuters basically work an eight-hour day with different start times, clocking in and out. They all have productivity goals.
There also is the requirement that information is kept private and secure as well as the biggest rule: Employees are not allowed to care for others during working hours.