If it weren't for telecommuting, Sonya Simmons says she probably wouldn't be a stockbroker today.
Back in 1992, six months before her first child was scheduled to arrive, Simmons decided to move out of Tacoma and back to her childhood home, Whidbey Island, Wash. Although she was enjoying a quick, five-minute drive to Ragen MacKenzie's Tacoma branch office at the time, Simmons ultimately wanted to raise her children in the same peaceful setting that she enjoyed for the first 18 years of her life.
"Telecommuting five years ago wasn't very popular, but Ragen gave me a chance to try it, and it has worked out really well," Simmons says. Four days a week, she works from the lower level of her home, equipped with a computer, fax machine, copier, Internet access and three phone lines, which the firm helps pay for. "They said they'd see what happens, and found out that clients don't even realize when they call that they're talking to me at my office in Whidbey," Simmons says.
Located about 30 miles north of Seattle in the northern part of the Puget Sound, Whidbey Island is remote. So Simmons relies on George Bonney, her partner, who works in the office every weekday. He handles the walk-ins and other situations that demand immediate personal attention.
One hindrance to telecommuting, however, is that many of the documents she needs to access are still on paper, nestled safely in a filing cabinet in Tacoma, Simmons says. So an assistant has to do lots of the legwork--faxing papers, filling out forms and handling mailings. "That's a drawback," she says. "But you learn to work around it, become organized and give yourself lots of lead time so you're not overnighting everything."
For compliance reasons, Simmons also sends orders to the Tacoma office to be filled and receives all her mail in Tacoma. Her home is not registered as a branch office, and she doesn't publicize the fact that she works from home.
As her family has grown (she now has a 5-year-old and a 2-year-old), so has her appreciation for the benefits of telecommuting. A nanny cares for her children while she works, so distractions are minimal.
But Simmons says she's somehow more productive knowing that her children are just upstairs. "I can run upstairs, make a cup of tea and check on how they're doing," she says. "It gives me great peace of mind."