More than 400 Merrill Lynch employees have completed the firm's telecommuter-training curriculum. Here's what two of them have learned.
Michelle Durst 37, vice president of human resources
Durst had worked in New York City for 10 years when she decided she needed a change of scenery. So she moved to St. Petersburg, Florida - and took her job with her. She works full-time out of her home and manages the company's human-resources Web site.
"You need a solid network at the office - people you can rely on for information. I've never felt isolated, even though I'm all the way down here in Florida."
"Keeping track of what you do is much more important than I'd expected. Not long after I moved, I started a daily diary of my work. It helps my manager, and it keeps me focused from day to day and from week to week."
"I never realized how nice it is to work one, two, even three hours without a single interruption. In the office, I couldn't go 20 minutes without an interruption."
Randall Thiel 24, manager of organizational development
Thiel was an associate at a Chicago-based consulting firm until he joined Merrill Lynch in 1996. Within six months, he entered the company's telecommuting program.
"Telecommuting fits my work habits, but it isn't for everyone. It takes lots of self-discipline - and the ability to communicate well."
"Success is in the details - understanding the little things that you need to do at home to perform the same as you would at the office."
"After a while, work becomes a seamless combination of being at home and being at the office. For me, it's no longer about telecommuting or not telecommuting. When I'm at the office, I'm a telecommuter. And when I'm telecommuting, I still work as if I were at the office."
A version of this article appeared in the April/May 1998 issue of Fast Company magazine.