The ability to telecommute is an enviable perk. Some workers dream of the day that managers announce that they can begin working off-site. The internet, email, telecommunication software have made it far easier for companies to facilitate employee collaboration and interaction over vast distances. The days where all employees must congregate in a central location has become an archaic piece of the past for some industries.
Due to technology making telecommuting easier, companies should at least consider—either from a case by case basis or from an overall company policy basis—if there is a circumstance were telecommunication could become a productive aspect of the company’s infrastructure. Don’t just rush the decision. Telecommuting, when set-up in a half-hearted manner without any checks or balances, can lead to a sharp decrease in overall productivity and communication.
Why Allow Telecommuting?
Not hog-tying employees to a central location can directly and in-directly benefit companies. Below are six central benefits that can arise from telecommunication:
- You can keep talented, experienced employees who may not be able to come into work regularly or may need to move out of the area due to family, educational, or personal obligations. Maintaining good employees can decrease the amount of money the company needs to put into hiring and training new employees.
- The ability for employees to work while traveling is known to increase creativity due to the brain needing to engage with new surroundings and cultures. An increase in creativity can lead to brilliant ideas that lead to game-changing innovation. Inspired employees are the difference between a good company and a great one.
- The fluid structure of choosing when and where you work can lead to increased happiness. How? Dr. Jeroen Nawijn explains that much of the increases happiness before and during vacation is the prospect of a temporary decrease in structure. Increased employee happiness encouraged has been linked to higher productivity.
- Telecommunication can be a cheap way to offer additional perks to employees. It’s no longer enough to simply allow employees to work for you. You need to be offer benefits that improve their lives. If you’re perks fall short, employees are more apt to look for a company who will offer the amazing perks their looking for.
- Employees working from home can decrease the amount of funds the company needs to spend equipping a central location with office equipment. Telecommuting will place the duty of buying computers or laptops on the employee rather than the employer. This can allow you to utilize those funds to continue grow your company.
- The ability to work from home can significantly help the environment by decreasing the amount employees telecommute each year. While this will not significantly aid your company in the short-term, decreasing the amount of environmental pollution will ensure the earth continues to be a place your company can keep functioning.
The Pitfalls of Telecommuting
Telecommuting does have a few significant pitfalls that companies should keep in mind when analyzing whether telecommuting is right for their company or their employees. Many of the pitfalls can be avoided with proper planning and monitoring. Below are four pitfalls that should be avoided:
#1. Start a pilot telecommuting program by allowing inexperienced or inefficient employees.
The company I work with started their telecommuting experiment by allowing an inefficient friend of a manager telecommute. I don’t think I need to tell you how bad that went. Bottom line: If the employee is lacking the knowledge, the skills, or the will power to work efficiently on-site, they aren’t going to magically become a great employee when they telecommute. Let the experienced employees test the telecommuting waters. That inefficient friend can be allowed to telecommute after the experienced workers iron out any problems.
#2. Social Isolation.
While working from home can increase happiness, it can also lead to less social interaction in introverted employees. Management can:
- Set up a system where employees chat via skype, phone, or chat with each other on a regular basis.
- Encourage employees to pursue out of work social interaction
- Teach employees the danger of not having a social support group.
#3. Errors in communication.
Companies who allow remote work need to be more diligent in what, how, and when they communicate with their employees. If a manager or team member forgets to inform the group about a change, client or project errors can be made. Management can solve this problem by:
- Making regular status updates from all employees a requirement.
- Allow employees to work from home, but require them to work the same hours. This can also help alleviate the lag-time between communication that could make putting out fires a slow and painful process.
- Only allow employees to telecommute part of the week.
#4. Lack of efficiency.
Even the most efficient worker can fall prey to an inefficient day. Working from home offers far more temptation to stray from work tasks. Inefficiency can be decreased in a variety of ways:
- By evaluating employee productivity on a task-based system. If employees knows they will be required to write two articles every day or seven articles every week, they will be less likely to allow distraction to rule their life.
- By utilizing business intelligence to analyze data on how much employees are accomplishing based on how much time they have worked. The data analysis will look different based on the product or service your company is providing. Generally, the managers would analyze hours worked and compare it to tangible employee accomplishments and goals to determine who might not be performing how they should.
The ability to telecommute is a perk that many employees want on some level. Companies who give employees the ability to prove they can succeed working remotely (at least part-time) can reap direct and in-direct monetary benefits. Employees released from the structure of a formal work environment are often more creative and happier while maintaining efficiency. Telecommunication can transform a
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