Train for Home – Merrill Lynch telecommuting traing

Train for Home – Merrill Lynch telecommuting traing – Company Operations

Phil Albinus

Before sending workers home, Merrill Lynch sends them to school

TYPICALLY, WHEN SENDING EMPLOYEES home to telework, most companies provide little more than the necessary computer equipment and perhaps some general guidelines for getting started. Not Merrill Lynch. A longtime proponent of teleworking, the financial giant has established three specialized home office simulation labs–in Jacksonville, Fla.; Somerset, N.J.; and the World Financial Center in Manhattan–where it trains about 150 employees each year. Students learn how to troubleshoot their high-tech equipment, connect to the corporate server to retrieve e-mail and transfer files, and how to work productively with coworkers back at the office.

As a way to improve his concentration on the job, Tom Reed, a Merrill Lynch program analyst, recently requested to work from his Lawrenceville, N.J., home two days a week. “I think it’ll be a more productive environment,” Reed says. His supervisor, who had begun teleworking one day per week a few months prior, agrees, and has signed Reed up for Merrill Lynch’s six-day Work at Home training course.

Back to School The lab classroom can hold up to 12 students. A glass wall looks out onto a main hallway and the mailroom, providing distractions that “teleworkers need to learn to deal with” after being accustomed to an office environment, notes Merrill Lynch spokesperson Eileen Keyes, also a part-time teleworker.

On the first day of class, each student receives a notebook computer, docking station, and accessories for dialing in to the corporate server. Trainees “learn about their hardware, how to take it apart and put it back together,” says Kemiko Lawrence, a senior technical coordinator for Merrill Lynch and the home office lab simulation instructor for the Somerset lab. “They learn how to connect remotely [and] plug the monitor into the docking station along with the power cords and the UPS [uninterruptible power supply]. We also teach them to save their work as part of a disaster recovery mechanism,” she adds.

The classroom’s PC expertise runs the gamut. “Being a programmer doesn’t mean you know everything about a PC,” Lawrence explains. Reed agrees: Even with more than 10 years of software programming under his belt, he admits he found the crash course on computer maintenance helpful.

During the remainder of the week, students work in the lab as if they were at home. If Reed or another trainee needs to speak with a coworker, for instance, he isn’t permitted to leave the lab and visit the person in their office, but instead must make contact via e-mail or phone. However, students aren’t allowed to come into the simulation lab in sweats and a bathrobe, adds Keyes: “We’re trying to dispel that image.”

Last, when it comes time for system or software updates, the Merrill Lynch teleworkers bring their notebooks back to the office for “wellness checks, preventive maintenance, and antivirus updates,” Lawrence explains. “We do a complete oil change.”

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