Telecommuting is the term for working from a remote location, usually an employee’s residence. Workers are connected to employers and company servers via the internet and are able to communicate regularly in real time using email, instant messaging, webcams and conference calls. Telecommuting can range from working exclusively from a home office to only working at home a few hours every week.
Pro and Cons
Telecommuting brings advantages and disadvantages to the way companies do business.
Here’s a look at some of the advantages:
Increased productivity. While it’s easy to imagine workers shirking their duties at home more readily than in the office, numerous studies show that workers who telecommute are 15 to 55 percent more productive. Two-thirds of employers report increased productivity among their telecommuters.
- Additionally, AT&T reports that employees work an extra five hours per week when telecommuting versus when they are at the office, and Sun Microsystems’ data shows that employees spend 60 percent of the time they would have used commuting working for the company.
Fewer costs. Over half of all employers reported cost savings as a significant benefit to telecommuting. By allowing workers to telecommute, companies reported big savings on real estate, absenteeism and relocation costs. In many areas there are also grants and other financial incentives for companies that offer telecommuting.
Increased employer flexibility. Telecommuting gives employers the option to hire from across the country without worrying about relocating workers to a central location. Employers can also more readily hire part-time, semi-retired, disabled or homebound workers.
Healthier employees. Telecommuting relieves the stress caused by commuting and other issues related to the workplace or being away from home. Telecommuters eat healthier and exercise more than their office-bound counterparts, and are less likely to get sick from contagious germs.
Potential disadvantages of telecommuting:
Disengagement. Many employers say that telecommuting interferes negatively with the relationship between workers and management, and can foster jealousy and rivalries between telecommuters and non-telecommuters. Staying connected and supervising employees who work from home can also be a challenge for managers.
Lack of collaboration. Innovation can be stifled when workers are not physically interacting with each other. This is the main reason cited by Mayer for the discontinuation of Yahoo’s telecommuting policy.
Technology and security concerns. Not all employees are tech-savvy, and there can be problems trying to remotely access an office network or set up remote meetings. Sensitive company information carries the potential for greater risk of being compromised through unsecure home computers. Additionally, 59 percent of telecommuters do not use their company’s data backup system, risking the loss of hard work and valuable information.
Telecommuting is not the right fit for every company, but it has a decades-old record of being positive for many organizations. As the business world becomes more ensconced online than ever before, and a younger, more internet-connected generation moves up the ranks of the workforce, telecommuting may become far more common than it is today.
Before your company decides to embrace telecommuting, you should carefully weigh the risks and benefits of instituting a telecommuting policy to ensure it will be an asset to your organization.