The trend of telecommuting and remote working is impacting today’s workforce phenomenally—that any employer or recruitment firm would be wise to consider offering this option. In fact, a Gallup report shows that the option to work from home or telecommute plays a crucial role in an employee’s decision to take or leave a job.
Telecommuting is pushing employers to break down age-old office traditions and structures to accommodate employee needs and workforce trends. 85% of millennials, the largest generation in the workplace, claim that they want to telecommute 100% of the time. This is probably why more employers and recruitment firms are starting to offer the option to work remotely. In the U.S. for instance, 40% more employers offer flexible working conditions.
The Benefits of Telecommuting
By far, the biggest advantage that telecommuting offers employers and business owners is cost-effectiveness, which is especially helpful for startups and small to medium-sized companies.
When employees work from home, you don’t have to worry about space and utility costs associated with an in-house employee. These can include their office space and facilities, desk, computer and hardware, software, internet connection, electrical consumption, not to mention the free coffee, water, and snacks you may need to provide in-house employees. These may seem like trivial supplies, but in the long run, you can spend the budget on office supplies on something more profitable like the innovation of your product.
91% of telecommuters believe that they are more productive when working remotely. They are also more likely to work more than the required 40 hours a week.
Another benefit of telecommuting is that it empowers your employees, as their immediate supervisors do not micromanage them. In effect, there’s ownership of one’s output, and employees are accountable for their own work.
This is highly advantageous to employees who are suffering from disabilities or parents who need to care for young children. They can manage their own time and create a workflow that’s most convenient for their situations.
The Disadvantages of Remote Working
While telecommuting allows employees to manage their own workflows and achieve a sense of fulfillment from their work, it can make them feel isolated. They don’t have regular human interaction, as opposed to the traditional office situation where they see and collaborate with their colleagues every day. For some telecommuters, this can hinder their productivity.
While most telecommuters claim that they’re more productive working from home (or anywhere else they prefer), there are a plethora of distractions that can prevent them from maximizing their time. These distractions may include young children or pets needing immediate attention, chores around the home that take up time, or friends calling on them for a fun activity.
When it comes to collaboration, nothing beats face-to-face meetings and brainstorming sessions. As such, some remote workers may feel detached from the in-house staff, the company, and the brand in general. Team spirit isn’t instilled in remote employees as much as the in-house staff, making them feel alienated and unsupported.
How to Leverage Telecommuting for Your Organization
A lot of organizations have successfully implemented telecommuting for their employees, but a few have failed. While telecommuting offers cost-efficiency and convenience for both employer and employee, there are potential challenges that come with this work practice.
So, weigh the pros and cons. Be sure to study the advantages and downsides of telecommuting before rushing into important business decisions.
Set rules and policies clearly and discuss them with your employees. Figure out the best way they can report their working hours, the methods of feedback and communication, and the hardware and software they need to deliver high-quality work.
Most companies heavily rely on collaboration and productivity tools such as Jira, ActiveCollab, Trello, Asana, and other platforms to better visualize each team member’s work processes and align them with the rest of the organization. Video conferencing and messaging tools such as Skype and Slack are also necessary to keep communication lines open between in-office employees and remote workers.
Identify the positions that can be performed outside the office and the roles that need to be fulfilled in-office. Select qualified employees who can work independently in a remote setup. Be sure that your selection criteria are clear to all concerned.
Once you’ve decided to start implementing telecommuting, start small. You can start with a few employees first and carefully transition to more. You can also start by making it optional, with some of your employees working from home a few days a week.
This will help you assess and evaluate the various shortcomings in your policies and workflow. Be patient. It’s a new work practice for your organization, so expect an adjustment period for everyone.
Author’s Bio: Carmen Booth is the CEO and Co-Founder of Booth and Partners located in the Philippines. The company specializes in Staff Leasing, Managed Services, and Legal Outsourcing.
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