Interview with Robert Moskowitz of the American Telecommuting Association

interview-with-robert-moskowitz-american-telecommuting-association-photoOriginally published in November 1995. This is an organization that is still around.

Robert Moskowitz is a pioneer. As head of the American Telecommuting Association, he is working to make the next wave of employment opportunities home or remote based instead of site based.

You can contact Robert at

PG: The American Telecommuting Association is catching a new wave. When did the organization start and how?

RM: The organization was conceived during 1991 and 1992, and formally launched in February of 1993. It accepted its first members in August of 1993.

PG: What are some of the benefits available to members of ATA?

RM: Members receive the ATA newsletter, plus a free copy of either Volume 1 (How To Increase Your Personal Effectiveness and Job Satisfaction By Telecommuting) or Volume 2 (How To Increase Your Effectiveness and Satisfaction As a Telecommuter Through Advanced Techniques) of the Official ATA Handbook. Members also receive a coupon which enables them to purchase the Handbook’s second volume at a 60% discount. If you pay $10 extra when you join, the second volume will automatically be included in your Handbook binder when you first receive it.

Members automatically receive the loose-leaf directory of services and benefits to which they are entitled, plus regular packets of  service updates, information on  telecommuting, and ongoing developments at the American Telecommuting Association.

As you can imagine, the best way to keep in touch with the ATA and to remain ab breast of all our services, information, benefits, and activities is to become a member. Employers are also finding it valuable to join the ATA directly or to subsidize the ATA memberships of their telecommuting employees.

PG: What are ATA’s main goals?

RM: To provide whatever information, services, and products our members and potential members will find most useful to make telecommuting a better, more productive and enjoyable experience they can maintain for a lifetime, if they wish.

PG: Relate your own telecommuting experience.

RM: My last “commute” ended in 1970. I began working as a writer for various magazine nes and other publishers, doing as much of my work as possible without going in to their office. As a “time management” consultant I spent a lot of time and energy finding ways to make people more productive, and traveled all over the US and Canada giving seminars and doing consulting engagements. Th ats just how my mind works. Eventually, I tired of it and developed a computerized “audit” that would do much of my work, but at a distance, and also wrote a book published by Doubleday: “How To Organize Your Work and Your Life.” Later, when I became interested specifically in telecommuting, I realized that all my thinking on how to be more productive as an em employee applied even better to telecommuters. Now I avoid travel whenever I can, but I still find that meetings and conferences require personal attendance. So I’m traveling more than I wish, but consider it an investment in future non-travel opportunities. I have even been asked to speak in Europe t wo or three times a year, and in fact I just returned from a speaking engagement in Austria.

PG: What are some of the issues corporations address when deploying Telecommuters?

RM: There are too many to list here, but top motivations to accept telecommuting by employees include recruitment, retention of key employees who are tired of commuting, productivity, dramatic savings in “bricks and mortar” investments and expenses. Main anxieties include fear of employee isolation, management’s fear of malingering by telecommuters, concerns about data security an d insurance issues, and just not knowing much about it. A practical concern is that once a few people begin telecommuting, others want to do i t, also. There’s usually a groundswell in favor of it, but from the bottom, not from the top — not until management sees the financial analysis. Then they want it, too.

PG: What are the necessary hardware components needed to be a telecommuter?

RM: All you really need is a pad, a pencil, and perhaps a telephone. Telecommuting is not really about technology. But of course if you use any technology to do y our work in the office, that same technology would be a help to you when telecommuting from home or a nearby telework center.

PG: What do you do for fun when you aren’t working?

RM: My work is fun. But I like hiking in the woods, taking vacations by car with my family, reading, and just sitting in the sun if it’s not too hot.

PG: What do you see as the future of telecommuting?

RM: Inevitably, all of us will become comfortable with telecommuting. If you think about it, dragging people to a centralized place of work is a relatively recent and short-lived phenomenon, mainly since the Industrial Revolution, although there were earlier “pre-factories” where people came to get raw materials and deliver finished piecework. But most work has always been done at home, on the farm, in decentralized settings. Telecommuting is simply a return to a lifestyle that makes more sense, and it’s inevitable because use we can no longer afford to costs of centralizing labor and equipment.

PG: What is your personal computing environment like? What type of machines, peripherals, etc.

RM: I use generic clones most of the time, but I just got an IBM “butterfly” portable that I think I like even more. Computers tied to desks are a bit clumsy, don’t you think? As long as the keyboard and screen are acceptable to me, a computer should be no bigger than a calculator, or a wristwatch. I’m online a couple of hours a day with various Internet connections and online services, and then I spend more hours responding to material I get from others via online connections, and preparing materials to send to others via online services. My phone bills are astronomical, even though I try to make local calls as often as possible.

PG: What is the key for total acceptance of telecommuting?

RM: Give it a fair trial, and youll never go back. When you stop, step back, and really think about all the lost time, energy, money, trouble, agitation, inconvenience, pollution,waste of non-renewable resources, and everything else required of a lifestyle where you’re dragging yourself to a distant location to work, and dragging yourself home again, it’s ridiculous. I have a ten second commute, and I can work any hour of the day or night th at I have something useful to contribute. And I can stop any time and help my kids with homework, or drive them to an appointment. It’s the most natural and productive lifestyle you can imagine. Why would anyone do it any other way? The only answer is they just don’t know any better. But they will learn.