Letters to the Editor
Congratulations on the inaugural publication of UConn Business. I consider it a valuable asset and excellent learning tool for senior alumni like myself. As a retired IBMer who started in the Electric Typewriter Division and concluded my career with the IBM Personal Computer, I found the article on telecommuting most interesting.
From a retired manager perspective, I want to offer my thoughts, hopefully of interest to the debate on the sociological issues of telecommuting.
First, let's examine some of the prime motives for companies permitting or encouraging telecommuting. Office space costs money. I was told my office expense in my final years cost IBM $17,000 per year. This can be a powerful motive for encouraging telecommuting. There are also other motives such as lack of space or lost productivity due to commuting delays.
My concern is the sociological impact of telecommuting on employees who work at home with little or no social interaction with peers and little or no supervision. From my experiences in over 30 years of sales at IBM, I firmly believe that sales people get maximum value out of learning from peers who are successful rather than from routine sales training courses. By keeping employees separated and alone in their homes, many of the day-to-day opportunities to learn from peers are lost. Many new employees can be overwhelmed by being alone with little or no peer assistance available. This can be detrimental and cause serious morale issues for new hires.
Then there is the normal interaction at breaks and meals. The ability to sit in on group discussions can be very powerful for sales personnel. Good sales people form positive bonds with administrators, system engineers, and service personnel. They become a team that supports each other resulting in superior service to customers and clients. Telecommuting stymies much of the team building that can occur in an office or branch.
Lastly, there is the issue of supervision. As a sales manager I can attest that telecommuting can be a severe productivity drain. How does the manager know the telecommuter is working rather than babysitting, or watching TV, or playing golf? Sure, some of these hazards exist in an office where most sales and support people are in the field; however, I contend the telecommuter is far more exposed to productivity issues by simply being at home, rather than by working out of an office.
I firmly believe that the costs of housing employees in an office are worth the expense. It is the age-old question of revenue versus expense. My experiences told me that the productivity gains of bonding your team by having them work side-by-side, far outweighed the expense of the office.
It would be interesting to compare a sales productivity and morale index of similar companies that have telecommuters versus in-house employees.
Robert K. Blair '61
THE GENEROSITY OF THE SEARFOSS FAMILY
Thank you for the article "Investing in the Future" (UConn Business, vol. 1, issue 1) that featured the Searfoss family.
The article gave a very nice overview of the Searfoss family's commitment to the business school. Their commitment is also being carried on by the family's younger children (Erol Searfoss, who is a Design Engineer, and Rana Searfoss, who recently graduated from Yale University).
The entire family, Selma, Cengiz, Erol, Rana and their cousin, Shebna Olsen, are to be applauded for their foresight by establishing an important legacy supporting business students for generations to come.
As the University continues its commitment to educating the best and the brightest students, the generous support of the Searfoss family has greatly enhanced the experience for these students at the School of Business.
Diana L. Timlin, CFRE
Director of Development
UConn School of Business
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The opinions and perspectives expressed in published letters to the editor do not necessarily represent the views of the UConn School of Business.