By Lauren Willoughby

It’s the American dream to be your own boss, set your own hours, do your own thing. It’s also nice to work for a big company and be able to count on having benefits and a regular paycheck.

Somewhere in between sits the telecommuter, who can cash that paycheck but also enjoy the flexibility of working nonstandard hours. This week, let’s wander the Web for sites relevant to folks lucky enough (and disciplined enough) to be able to phone in work from home—in the comfort of their jammies.

Going home now
The International Telework Association and Council (ITAC), which promotes the “economic, social and environmental benefits of teleworking,” offers a resource for both home-based workers and the office-anchored managers who oversee them.

The organization, formed by representatives from the corporate, non-profit, and government realms, offers a primer on the telecommuting movement. Site visitors will find backgrounders and research results.

Workers yearning to break free from the chains of the office should tantalize their employers with an October 1999 article that begins thusly: “Employees who telework can save their employers $10,006 each in reduced absenteeism and job retention costs.” What manager could resist looking into telecommuting after reading something like that?

There’s also a step-by-step guide to implementing a telework program, from planning to monitoring. In addition, a “Telemanager Discussion Group” is in the works, which will allow managers of teleworkers to ask questions and share solutions.

Spreadsheets and diapers
ClubMom, aka Moneymakin’ Mommies, describes itself as “your one-stop place to find work@home jobs from employers across the nation.” All that, it adds, with “NEVER any fees or scams.” The busy-busy-busy front page offers links to work-at-home ideas, freelancer resources, and, of course, job postings.

They’re the kinds of jobs you’d expect to see—Web design, desktop publishing, accounting, data-entry, transcription, and telemarketing. Things that can be done anywhere there’s a computer, time, and talent. The site maintainers apparently find the jobs by combing other job sites and copying the ones that mention telecommuting or working at home. Visitors are invited to join a mailing list to get first crack at weekly postings.

The site publishes success stories from women who’ve built their own businesses at home or who have made the transition from office worker to home-based worker/mother. And it also offers a place where those who work at home can buy or barter products and services from each other.

Fire alarm, false alarm
Businesses need to ensure the safety of the workplace, right? But does a business have the right to inspect a worker’s home to ensure safety there?

OSHA tackled the thorny topic and decided that, indeed, a business should have the right to ensure safety in a telecommuter’s home. But the advisory did not sit well with the nation’s teleworkers, whose hackles rose over the threat of privacy invasion, and OSHA backed down. OSHA’s news release from Feb. 25 gives details of its reversal.

For a more humorous take on the whole flap, check out “OSHA, Telecommuting and Moi,” an essay by teleworker Ethan A. Winning.

The week’s homework

  • Did you know AT&T adopted a corporate telework policy in 1992? Read all about it in AT&T’s Environment, Health and Safety Telework Guide. The site includes a telecommuting calculator designed to estimate the pounds of CO2 you’ll be sparing the environment by not driving to and from work every day.
  • Ever just want to get away from it all? The archived Wired story “Milking the Net to go Back in Time” ponders the question, “What if you could work where you live, instead of live where you work?” You could move to a postcard-perfect fishing village in Maine—or a mountain in Montana—and still make your deadlines.
  • Working at home takes good planning, organization, self-motivation, and lots of discipline. Think you’ve got the right stuff? Check out the “Telecommuter Profile” at ALLearnatives, which also offers tips for telecommuters.
  • Looking for links? Try the Telecommuting Resources page of BizWebPro. Sites are listed; some are rated.

And that’s what I’ve seen worth citing this week.

Lauren Willoughby is a Web editor at The Courier-Journal newspaper in Louisville, KY, where she also writes the weekly “Technophobe” column. At night, she turns into an online auction junkie. When she’s not spotting deals on refurbished 486s, she’s reading a science fiction novel.

If you’d like to share your opinion, please post a comment below or send the editor an e-mail.