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Telecommuting Can Work!

August 20, 2012

© 2012 by Nick B. Nicholaou, all rights reserved
President, Ministry Business Services, Inc.
Reprinted from Christian Computing Magazine 

Some members of our (MBS’) team have been telecommuting since the 1990s. I’m often asked how I know whether it’s working for us. The unspoken question is, “How do you know you’re getting a full day of work in exchange for a full day of pay?” That is an excellent question, and one every employer wrestles with– whether their staff works in the office, on the road, or from home! And the answer is the same regardless of where employees work: Does the amount of employee output meet or exceed the expectations of the employer?

The Challenge
Let’s face it: even employees who work in offices can under-produce. They can waste time doing things their employer hasn’t asked them to do, and their output suffers accordingly. That can also be true for employees who work on the road or from home.

Studies show that employees spend a high percentage of time on websites that are not related to their job, emailing friends and family, and texting friends and family while at work. Doing so on a break– which is personal time– is acceptable; but is doing so while on “company” time okay? Probably not.

So, I recommend two things to help in this area:

  • Employers, give your team members clear guidance on what you believe they should be able to accomplish in the time they are at work. If they exceed your expectations, reward them for their diligence and capability! If they under-produce, let them find employment elsewhere that is better suited for their skill-set and motivation.
  • Employees— especially those who are Christians– the Bible encourages you to do your work as though working for the Lord himself! Writing to those who were enslaved to their employers (a far worse condition of employment than most of us experience today), Paul said in Colossians 3:22-25: “Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for their wrongs, and there is no favoritism.” (NIV)

And telecommuting has some significant advantages! Studies show that it increases employee morale and job enjoyment. And it reduces employer cost because of the reduction in office space that must be maintained. Some employers also find that employees who work from home are willing to do so for less salary.

The Technology
Mobile devices are the obvious answer to many who think of working from off-site. Notebook computers, tablets, and smartphones are good for this; but they are only part of the answer. And technically, even desktops can be easily set up for remote access.  But what about connecting to the data on your network vs locally stored files?

It is surprising how often I talk with church managers who don’t know they already have the tools necessary to enable telecommuting. I don’t think our firm has engineered a network that didn’t have this free tool configured in a very long time!

Since before the turn of the Century the technology has been freely available in Windows networks to connect remotely, and to do so securely. Originally called Terminal Services, remote access is fairly easy to set up. All that is required is a modern version of Windows Server and Client Access Licenses (CALs) for those who will connect remotely. And the CALs, which can be installed for concurrent access, only cost about $19 each (charity license pricing).

Cross Platform Capable!
I work on a Mac. I access our Windows-only database and accounting system via Remote Desktop. The applications to do so are free (Remote Desktop Connection from Microsoft:, or CoRD:, and they consume very few resources on the Mac. For those on Macs who run a lot of Windows applications, we recommend doing so via a virtual Windows computer in VMware Fusion.

My favorite app for running a remote desktop on an iPad is iTap RDP. It’s not free, but it works well.

Yes, telecommuting can work! It takes diligence and trust on the part of the employer, and needs to be matched by diligence and integrity on the part of the employee. But that’s really true of any employer/ employee relationship, regardless of whether the location is an office, on the road, or at home.

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