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What Is Telecommuting And Its Pros And Cons?

With more and more new workers asking for flexible work arrangements, businesses are now considering how remote work can fit into their culture. As of 2017, 97 percent of U.S. companies offered some type of flexible work arrangement. Here’s how to tell if this may be an option for you.

What Is Telecommuting?

Telecommuting is the arrangement between an employer and an employee that allows the employee’s work to be done in a location outside of the office. The work usually occurs in a home office, but it can be done anywhere the tools and environment are suitable for the task. The word “telecommute” infers that digital and communications tools will be used to bridge the distance.

Types Of Telecommuting

Several words are used interchangeably with “telecommute,” but not all of them mean the same thing. For example:

  • Remote work implies that there is a telecommute arrangement with the work taking place offsite.
  • Virtual job means the same thing.
  • Work-from-home job specifically mentions a home office space.
  • Teleworking is the same as telecommuting.

Someone working from home would still get the benefits of a full-time, onsite employee. Telecommuters shouldn’t be confused with independent contractors or self-employed business owners who often work through remote arrangements.

What Types of Companies Offer Telecommuting?

Telework may be appropriate for a variety of job types and industries, but it’s not a solution for everyone. Jobs that work best through face-to-face interactions and in-person assessments won’t always be appropriate for a telecommute arrangement.

Some of the more prominent telecommuting jobs include:

  • Customer service and call centers
  • Sales, marketing, and brand engagement
  • Information technology and programming
  • Education, classroom, and higher ed services

Even healthcare has been able to utilize telecommuting to better service patients. In rural areas where long drives to the nearest provider have made it difficult for some patients to travel, telehealth has helped keep healthcare accessible. It may also become the future for the containment of certain infectious diseases.

The Pros Of Telecommuting

Aside from hearing from your employees that they want to work remotely, what’s the incentive for a business to embrace the trend? There are some notable benefits of telecommuting to consider, including:

  • No cap on growth. As your company hires more workers, there’s less stress on your infrastructure to accommodate them in-house. Moving to a bigger, more expensive building, for example, is a thing of the past when your new hires are working from home.
  • Cut costs. In addition to a decrease in rent, building maintenance, and some of the insurance and liability costs that go along with it, you save on some of the day-to-date costs of in-house workers.
  • Environmentally responsible. The back-and-forth of a typical commute can cost communities in pollution and traffic congestion. With fewer vehicles on the road, there’s a larger benefit to consider.
  • Improved employee retention. With millennials estimated to make up 50 percent of the workforce, employers would be wise to offer benefits that reflect what this group is asking for. Telecommute options are a top request from millennials and the upcoming Gen Z workforce, and they can help you keep good employees.
  • Better productivity. It may not seem that letting workers out of your sight would lead to better work outcomes, but the stats show otherwise. Giving employees more control over their day, providing fewer distractions, and entrusting them to manage their own work-life balance can create the best environment for getting more work done in the same 6 to 8-hour session.

The Cons Of Telecommuting

Telecommuting won’t be the end-all, be-all solution for all of your productivity and budget woes. Here are the downsides that come with offering flexibility in work location:

  • Workers feeling lonely. Many employees look to the workplace for social gratification, with company friendships being attributed to better work performance. It can be difficult for telecommuters to forge these friendships.
  • Productivity dips. Remember how we just said that productivity could improve with telecommute options? This is only true when you hire the type of worker who can handle independence. It puts more pressure on HR teams to hire workers who can get everything done in a day, regardless of where they work.
  • Privacy issues. When working in the same building as legal and IT teams, there’s less concern that proprietary information will be leaked—even accidentally. Your security software is always up-to-date, and logins are protected. When working from home, there’s a greater chance that everything won’t be as tightly secured.

How To Create A Telecommuting Policy

There’s no one-size-fits-all telecommute company policy that you can copy and paste for your business. By thinking through the following questions and developing a policy that’s catered to your brand, you can ensure you are meeting the needs of your unique workforce and culture.

1. Who Is Eligible?

Will you only allow certain job descriptions to work remotely? If so, will it be a blanket policy that lets every worker in that category telecommute? Think through all of the jobs that you can grant this flexibility.

2. What Will Your Approval Process Look Like?

Once certain jobs are flagged as “telecommute eligible,” how will a worker request this arrangement? Is it an application process? Make sure there is a well-documented plan for how an employee can petition their boss for this arrangement.

3. How Flexible Will You Be?

Working from home can take on a variety of scenarios. It could have identical hours as those working in-house. Or, you could consider something completely flexible that lets salaried workers take whatever hours they need as long as work goals are met.

4. What Equipment And Support Will You Provide?

Depending on if the employee works 100% remote or on a part-time basis, you may decide to buy them identical equipment to what they have at the office. Set out guidelines for who owns the computers and phones, and for what happens if they no longer work from home.

5. How Will You Secure Your Information?

Along with equipment, consider how you will handle cybersecurity and confidential information. Do home workers get the same level of tech support? What should they commit to ensure your data is safe?

6. Where Can They Work?

Is it enough to allow them to work anywhere, such as coffee shops and when traveling overseas? Or will you recommend they stay at a secure home office location? Work through what parameters you want to set and how strict you’ll be on location-dependent tasks.

7. How Will They Communicate?

Working from home doesn’t mean teleworkers won’t have to check in. Think about what technologies are available to keep tabs on your employees and consider how often they should communicate with their managers and teams.

8. What Expectations Will You Set For Dependent Care?

If your employees imagine their remote work schedule as a way to reduce daycare costs, it’s important to set boundaries. Achieving their workplace goals needs to remain their number-one duty. Talk through their expected work schedule and how they can maintain it, even with personal conflicts.

Best Practices For Remote Team Management

When starting telecommute arrangements for your business, consider these best practices:

  • Harness the power of communication platforms such as Skype for Business, Slack, or Google Hangouts. Use them for essential tasks, as well as team-building.
  • Be accessible. There’s a fine line between hovering and abandoning your remote teams. Encourage them to take advantage of open office hours when needed. Look into offsite events that get everyone together.
  • Host your data on the cloud. Use tools like Google Drive to keep everyone on the same page to limit frustration related to shared files. This can also help keep everyone organized.
  • Encourage them. Don’t hesitate to frequently let remote workers know how they’re doing and celebrate their wins. Use video conferencing when available to keep them feeling like part of the team.

Are you looking to hire workers who will thrive in a telecommuting arrangement? Consider incorporating an applicant tracking system like Comeet into your hiring process. Learn more about how we can help or try our free two-minute demo today!

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Adrienne Smith

Adrienne Smith

Adrienne Smith is a content strategy consultant working with high-growth businesses on their brand messaging, content strategy, and content creation. A digital nomad, she's exploring the world's cultures and cuisines as she works.

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