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Dress for Success -- In Your Pajamas

Sky-high fuel prices accelerate the trend toward telecommuting.

A couple of years ago, when Lynne Varney asked her boss if she could work at home occasionally, she got a quick no. But with gas prices at $4 a gallon and an 80-mile-a-day commute between the Maryland and Virginia suburbs, Varney, 46, finds her supervisor more sympathetic.

"Now, telecommuting is more accepted," says the Department of Agriculture program analyst. At home on Thursdays and alternate Mondays, Varney saves $100 a month.

A 2007 survey by Hewitt Associates found that 38% of employers allowed some form of telecommuting, up from just 14 companies surveyed ten years ago. James Ware, a consultant with The Work Design Collaborative who counsels companies on telecommuting, predicts that five years from now some 40 million workers will telecommute at least part-time, up from between 20 million and 24 million now. "The combination of gas prices and climate-change issues is going to push a lot of people in that direction," he says.

If you're a knowledge worker whose tasks can be done remotely without disrupting clients and colleagues, your career needn't suffer for lack of face time. Suggest telecommuting a day or two per week for a trial period, and then get feedback halfway through the test.

Practice remote-meeting etiquette: Speak into the speaker, always announce your name before talking, and resist the urge to put your phone on mute so you can multitask. Never use working at home as a substitute for child care. And above all, be reachable.