Telecommuting ~ The Good, The Bad & The Solutions
by Ken Schmitt and Vicky Willenberg
Does your morning commute seem less congested these days? (Yeah, mine doesn’t either.) Considering the rising popularity of Telecommuting, it really should!
According to Kate Lister, president of San Diego-based Global Workplace Analytics:
- Regular work-at-home, among the non-self-employed population, has grown by 115% since 2005, nearly 10x faster than the rest of the workforce.
- The employee population as a whole grew by 1.9% from 2013 to 2014, while employees who telecommuter population grew 5.6%.
- Forty percent more U.S. employers offered flexible workplace options than they did five years ago.
As telecommuting becomes more of an employment “normal”, new, and innovative solutions have emerged to tackle its most common challenges.
Here’s an overview of the good and the bad of telecommuting for both the employee and the organization.
The Good of Telecommuting
Smartphones and mobile platforms have empowered professionals to take their job “on the go”. The community as a whole has embraced the mobile workforce by making free wifi and workstations commonplace in restaurants, coffee shops, and rent by the hour office space. This freedom has increased job satisfaction and made employment more pleasurable and stimulating. In fact, 70% of telecommuters said they would not move companies for an increase in pay. Only 60% of brick and mortar employees feel the same. Employees are not the only ones benefitting from remote work. Organizations have seen a dramatic decline in their attrition rates, sick leave, and expenses, while noting a strong increase in productivity.
The Bad of Telecommuting
“Work is no longer somewhere you go from 9 to 5. It is something you do.” Subsequently, employees can “do” their job anywhere, including their homes, making it difficult to “clock out” and separate their work and professional lives. Many lack the self-discipline to clearly delineate and stick to set “work hours”. 40% say they work longer hours and note a significant increase in stress while experiencing a decrease in time not thinking about work. Additionally, telecommuters are more likely to feel socially isolated and removed from the collaborative and team building culture found within many of today’s organizations. For employers, a sizeable mobile workforce makes accurately assessing performance challenging, making it difficult to provide relevant feedback which can, in turn, negatively impact an employee’s mobility within the company.
The Solutions: Employees
- Create a routine and stick with it. Organize your day as if you were working outside your home. Establish a consistent wake-up time. Organize your morning with a workout, walk with your dog, cup of coffee, etc. just as you would if you were making a morning commute.
- Schedule a lunch break and take regular breaks. (Actual breaks- not stepping away from your desk to do other chores around the house!) These go a long way toward keeping you focused and productive.
- Establish your “work hours” ahead of time and communicate them to your team and managers. Make it clear when you will and will not answer phone calls and emails- and make no (or only a few) exceptions!
- Avoid isolation. Incorporate video conferencing and Instant Messaging with your co-workers regularly. Schedule weekly or monthly office time when possible. Work in other locations outside your home, such as coffee shops and hourly workspaces.
The Solutions: Employers
- Require “work hours” for all telecommuters and insist they share them with you. Then honor and respect those hours! Just as you wouldn’t chase them through the parking garage after hours, don’t harass them with late night phone calls and emails.
- Facilitate video conferences regularly to connect your team. Do not simply organize them, facilitate them to ensure everyone gets the opportunity to speak and side conversations and decision making is shared with the group.
- Be open to spontaneous calls from your mobile team. Do not automatically send them to voicemail when you are in the middle of something. If they were knocking on your office door, you’d acknowledge them, invite them in, and address the issue at hand. Treat your telecommuting team members the same way.
- Keep the collaborative culture alive. Using Instant Messaging or in-office group chats allows your staff to share ideas and work together as a team.
- Provide your remote employees with the technology and tools they need to be successful. Remember, you are saving on overhead by giving your employees the option to work remotely. Use some of that savings to invest in their success.
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