Michael Carey, owner of Carey Contracting Corp. in Iron Mountain, Mich., says, “We believe we're only here to make a living so we can live life. A solid family life is first.”

With those principles in mind, Carey decided five years ago to make sure that each of his five office employees had a VPN (virtual private network) connection to the company's server from his or her home computer. He also purchased two laptops with the company's software and files installed. This way, employees can access work materials if they're home with a sick child, for instance.

What Carey discovered about use of the flexible system was different from what he expected. “Whether it's the estimator or the office crew, the ringing phone in the office is more of a distraction and stops you from doing your work,” says Carey, who sees employees opt to work from home most often during crunch times when they need focused concentration.

The system has worked well, and Carey trusts his employees to know that if they work from home they will get their work done. “If you need a day to play and work at night, that's all right, too,” he says. “You can continue to make a living and have a home life.”

During the recent avian flu scare, local papers were suggesting that employers set up staff with home computer use to maintain business operations. Thankfully, that need never materialized, “but,” Carey says, “it's in place if anything like that ever arises.”