The ongoing pandemic has resulted in an increase in the number of employees who telecommute.
Telecommuting has been a gradual upward trend the past several years.
This increase has been a result of employee demands at home increasing and the pandemic simply launched more people into a work-from-home situation.
There are more and more employers offering telecommuting as a flexible work option.
What is the definition of telecommuting?
The term telecommuting was coined by Jack Niles in 1973 and is basically an arrangement with an employer and employees in which employees are allowed flexibility in where and when they perform their job tasks.
There can be many strategic implications of telecommuting. Senior leaders need to determine the business case for creating an employee telecommuting program.
There can be many benefits of telecommuting, but there can also be disadvantages and problems that need to be managed.
As employers expand non-traditional work options, there needs to be thought, preparation, and policies put into place in order for telecommuting to be a win-win for both the employee and the employer.
It is imperative to create a system and structure to manage employees (while away from the office) so that your telecommuting model works.
A poorly designed (or managed) system can have a negative impact on the organization.
This makes it important for employers to ensure that a telecommuting program fits their particular business model – as not every job is appropriate for virtual work.
Making a business case for and doing the research before implementing a program can save headaches and unforeseen issues down the road.
Advantages Of Telecommuting
There can be many benefits with telecommuting but some of the common ones are:
- Improved recruitment and retention. A telecommuting option is a considered a great benefit for employees who work in an industry that can be mobile.
- Increased employee satisfaction scores. A survey by Great Places to Work, shares that 91% of employees enjoyed working at home during the pandemic.
- Improved employee work-life balance. The pandemic has given employees the opportunity to work from home. Many of these employees have expressed how their work-life balance improved during the pandemic shut-downs.
- Increased productivity (if managed properly). Companys with a strong culture and leadership can see an increase in productivity of remote workers.
- Reduced costs on office space and utilities. Many companies are considering downsizing office space post-pandemic. This reduction in space will save on buiding, maintenance and utility costs.
- Employee availability on snow days or other low attendance workdays. Companies that have figured out a workable telecommuting program can offer work-from-home options now that were not available in the past.
Disadvantages Of Telecommuting
While there are many advantages of telecommuting, there are a few disadvantages that you should consider as you finetune your program.
- Difficulty in keeping employees connected to the culture of the organization. One of the biggest challenges businesses face is keeping employees connected. There are definite benefits that come from in-person work. In person collaboration and networking are one of the reasons many employers are eager to bring employees back to the office.
- Costs for technical support can be higher because of employees working in a less controlled environment. For example many employers had to sruggle during the pandemic to make sure that employees had working equipment that was protected from family members with access to work equipment.
- Staying connected and supervising employees who work from home can be a challenge for managers. Great managers understand the importance of daily interaction with staff. The challenge for managers who manage remote work is to consistently interact with employees during the work day.
- Capitalizing on lulls in job tasks in between big projects is more difficult to manage when an employee is working from home than when a worker is in the office. I recently had a conversation with a manager who shared his frustration with not being able to delegate work during down time of remote workers. His view was he needed to get employees back in the office so he could better utilize employee down time.
7 Tips For Creating An Effective Telecommuting Program
1. Choose The Right Technology
Technology has come a long way and there are many tools that you can use to manage employees from anywhere.
2. Provide A Clear Job Description
Employees need to have a good understanding of their job and what is expected of them.
Job tasks are constantly changing so make sure you review and update job descriptions at least once a year.
3. Clearly Communicate Expectations
Employees need to know what is expected of them and have a clear understanding of any boundaries when working from home.
Share these expectations first verbally and then follow up with written communication.
Expectations should be discussed frequently and also be revisited during performance appraisal time.
4. Create Specific Job Measures
Management thinker Peter Drucker is often quoted as saying that “you can’t manage what you can’t measure.”
Drucker means that you can’t know whether or not you are successful unless success is defined and tracked.
It is important to be able to monitor performance and create measures to track productivity.
There are many software programs available to help you measure productivity. Spend the time to research according to your specific industry.
5. Provide Detailed Training
I’m a firm believer that employees can never receive too much training, especially if someone works somewhere other than the office.
A thorough training program would require all new employees to spend time learning and performing the job at the office before being released to work from home.
6. Communicate and Communicate
Effective and constant communication is key to managing employees who telecommute.
Communication needs to be a priority when managing a virtual workforce.
Help your managers to put communication systems in place to ensure consistent and thorough interactions with employees.
7. Develop Reward Systems
Every performance management system needs to have a good reward structure but this is even more important for a workforce that is virtual or one that telecommutes.
Create rewards that are tied to result-driven goals to ensure corporate objectives are met.
Which Employees Should Be Allowed To Telecommunte?
When deciding and selecting which workers should telecommute, look for employees who are self-disciplined, self-starters, take initiative, and have good written and communication skills.
Employees who need to be told what to do or the antisocial introvert who you would expect to be the logical fit is often not the best candidate for a telecommuting position.
Virtual work and telecommuting is expected to become the norm post-pandemic.
Organizations should take the time to create a system and process that works within their industry and create the policies and procedures to ensure a happy – yet productive workforce – regardless of where they perform their job.
Does your organization have a telecommuting program?