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					Montrose becoming more appealing as a home base for telecommuting
Mary Ann Lopez
MONTROSE -- Leaving work behind at the end of the day, most workers head home
ready to relax. Although many people try to forget about work when they are home, for a
growing number of employees and business owners rolling out of bed into the home
office and onto the computer is becoming the norm.
With technological advances in communications, the Internet and e-mail, a growing
segment of the American workforce is telecommuting from home.
Adam Renfrow works from his Montrose home for Catapult PR-IR, a public relations
firm based in Boulder. Renfrow worked for the company for three years before he chose
to take time to travel and eventually settled in Oregon, where he also did public relations
work.
Renfrow chose to return to Montrose with the idea he would start his own firm. After
realizing the difficulty in starting his own business he contacted Catapult and began
doing contract work for the company in January. In March the company hired him again
as a full-time employee.
"I proved that I could work without supervision," Renfrow said of the first few months
doing contract work. "My results started to speak for themselves. It was how I had
worked previously because they (the owners) were out of the office frequently."
A study conducted in 2001 by the International Telework Association & Council (ITAC)
and AT&T found that 28 million Americans telecommuted, a 17 percent increase from
the previous year. Of those responding to the survey, 24.1 percent work on the road, 21.7
percent work from home, 7.5 percent work at telework centers and 4.2 percent work at
satellite offices. Half of those responding said they work in more than one location.
It is expected there will be 30 million teleworkers in the United States by the year 2004,
according to ITAC.
Although he communicates over the phone and through e-mail with the company's
employees in Boulder, Renfrow said he does make a trip once a month, spending a week
in Boulder working at the company's office. He is able to have personal interaction and
keep a quality working relationship with the other employees.
Through the use of a computer program connecting Renfrow's home office with the
Boulder office while he works on his computer in Montrose, a remote computer in
Boulder types along, he said. He can also print material in Boulder from his home.
"I love it," Renfrow said of working from home. "I guess for me it's the flexibility it
offers. I think when you are in an office environment you feel the need to look like you're
working."
Even when there is a slow moment and employees may talk to one another there is a
feeling they should look busy, he said. Working from home with fewer distractions,
Renfrow said he feels more productive.
Since Renfrow works from home he does not have to deal with some of the politics that
can cause problems in an office, he said.
It took some time for him to get settled into telecommuting because he had to get his
office put together, but Renfrow has managed to remain focused and organized, working
like normal. Because it can be easy to get distracted noticing the things that need to be
done around the house, such as mowing the lawn, Renfrow said he has a to do list he
follows.
"I realize this is my job. I even have a bronze plate on the door (to his office) so it's as if
I'm going into the office," he said.
Fred Matheny was an editor for Bicycling magazine from 1994 to 1999 and during that
time worked from his Montrose home.
A former English teacher at Montrose High School, Matheny also worked over the years
for several dot.com companies from his home. Now he works with partner Ed Pavelka for
their company roadbikerider.com and RBR Publishing Co. Matheny handles the writing
aspect of the business and works from Montrose, while Pavelka manages the Web site
from the East Coast, where he lives, Matheny said.
While employed with Bicycling it was beneficial for Matheny to work from Montrose
and Colorado where he could meet and talk with cyclists who train here, he said.
Since the magazine was based in Pennsylvania he worked on the same time schedule,
starting at 7 a.m. so that when people called they knew he would be at his desk, he said.
With roadbikerider.com, Matheny sees his partner twice a year at special conferences.
The rest of the time they communicate through e-mail and by telephone.
"The major benefit I see first is that you can live where you want to live," Matheny said.
"We've been here for 32 years and recognize the benefits of the Montrose area and living
near the mountains. You can have the lifestyle you want and still work where you want."
Working on his own was never a problem for Matheny, although he said he did miss
interacting with other people.
"You need to be a very organized, goal-oriented person," he said. "If you need other
people there to make you work and to get you to sit down and want to work it might not
be the right choice. If you're self-motivated it can work."
Lack of a high-speed Internet connection in Montrose has been one drawback to working
from home, said Karen Nicholson, a tech editor for two contractors that work for
Microsoft.
Nicholson moved here from the Front Range about two years ago after she was married.
Initially, she telecommuted for a Loveland publishing company. Now she is working as a
freelance editor for the Microsoft contractors and a local publishing company. She also
works part-time for the Montrose Regional Library.
While working for the publishing company Nicholson said miscommunication created
problems, at times leaving her and her employer feeling misunderstood. How well the
communication flows between the two offices depends upon the employee and
supervisor.
Working from home for the publishing company created problems for Nicholson because
companies often want to make their employees feel they are a part of the organization,
which is harder to build with an employee working remotely.
As a freelance editor, Nicholson has flexibility to work when she wants, sometimes at
odd hours, she said. Driving to and from work is no longer a time consuming part of the
day and she doesn't need to worry about clothing.
New to the area and to have more interaction with people Nicholson began working part-
time at the library, she said.
In 2001, Rosemary Reed moved her financial planning business, Delta Financial Group,
to Ridgway from the Front Range because she wanted to live in a mountain town.
With a base of about 50 clients located in the Denver area and around the country, Reed
said she felt she could move and still provide the service her clients needed. Reed started
working from her home in Boulder in 1998, so telecommuting with clients from home
was something she was used to doing.
Once a month she makes a trip to Denver to see clients who need to meet to discuss
financial issues, she said.
Most of Reed's clients use the Internet, allowing her to communicate with them through
e-mail, she said. She also has an 800 number so clients can call toll-free.
The only problem Reed has encountered working from home in Ridgway has been an
inability to have voicemail service, but her clients are understanding and many have
expanded their use of e-mail.
When she worked in the Denver Tech Center, Reed said she would need to be careful
about setting up appointments with clients because if an accident happened on I-25 and
she were late it could create an inconvenience.
Now her schedule is flexible and she works when she needs to, Reed said. Her workload
fluctuates and she is busiest during tax season, when she tends to work more.
"The biggest difference for me (working from home) -- I never really enjoyed office
politics, although it was nice to be able to sit down and talk with a co-worker," she said.
"Not having to deal with people's issues has been a great benefit."
Terri Douglas, co-founder and principal with Catapult, was herself a telecommuter and
still works from home on occasion.
As a telecommuter, Douglas said it allowed her to be much more comfortable having
employees work from home.
"For me it really comes down to the person. For some people telecommuting could be
difficult," Douglas said. "After a while, if you're driven and passionate about what you
do, it's not an issue at all. And it actually can be more effective because there are fewer
distractions.
"With Adam (Renfrow) we had the opportunity to know what kind of a worker he is.
(Telecommuting) wasn't even an issue in our minds. ... He has made a tremendous impact
on our business."
From the business perspective the out-of-pocket costs are not much different than they
would be if Renfrow worked in the office, she said. Working from home does put more
of a burden on Renfrow to do bookkeeping and keep records.
"I think as an employer we've gotten more than our money's worth because he can focus
on the priorities we care about," Douglas said.
In the future, Douglas said she sees the workforce evolving as more employers become
comfortable with having employees work from home. With proper business management
and employee screening, telecommuting shouldn't be an obstacle.
For some fields the choice of telecommuting is more feasible, she said. Douglas' husband
works in human resources and tried to work from home. Because he was used to
interacting and counseling others in person, working remotely didn't provide satisfaction
and he returned to an office environment.
Depending on the market and industry a company is involved in, allowing employees to
work from home can make sense, Douglas said. More companies may look to allow
telecommuting because of the benefits it creates in terms of corporate overhead for
leasing space and office equipment.
"There are too many advantages for companies," Matheny said. "People that are more
focused and organized are more productive at home. You don't have the commute and
you don't have the people popping in to talk."

				
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