Telecommuting: What It Is and How to Make It Work


Thanks to numerous technological breakthroughs and the growing role of technology in our lives, the way we work has been changing at a rapidly increasing pace. Companies worldwide have been steadily moving away from the standard 9 to 5 in favor of more flexible working arrangements like telecommuting.

Once dismissed as just another millennial fad, telecommuting has now become a widely accepted practice and arguably one of the most significant changes to the traditional workplace structure.

In this post, we’ll explore the basics of telecommuting, go over some of its biggest advantages and drawbacks, and offer some helpful tips on how to make it work for your business.

Telecommuting 101

Telecommuting essentially means remote work. It’s an arrangement between an employer and an employee where the latter can work from any location outside of office, usually from home or another convenient location (coffee shop, libraries, etc.) and “commute” to work via telecommunication channels like phone or email instead of actually traveling to the office.

A recent report by Global Workplace Analytics has revealed that it is by far the fastest growing workforce trend that has seen an impressive 115% increase since 2005. The research also shows that half of employees work at a job that is at least partially compatible with telecommuting while around 25% of the workforce work remotely on a regular basis. As much as 90% of the employees who participated in the study have expressed the desire to telework at least part-time.

According to another study published by the Integrational Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans, telecommuting as an option is now offered by at least 74% of employers. Many estimate that at the current rate traditional commuting will become a thing of the past within the next 15 to 20 years.

These are some pretty convincing numbers, but before you decide to take the plunge and adopt teleworking at your company, let’s take a closer look at its benefits and potential downsides to see if it really is the best choice for your business.

Best Jobs for Telecommuting

As great as it may sound, telecommuting is not a universal solution. Jobs where face time and physical contact are a necessity don’t translate very well to remote work.

On the other hand, jobs that heavily rely on online are usually the ones that lend themselves best to teleworking. Software development and IT, customer service, administration, sales and marketing are some of the most remote-friendly industries.

The Pros of Telecommuting

Implementing telecommuting can have numerous advantages for both your company and your employees.

Benefits for Employers

  • Cost Efficiency. Providing remote work opportunities will save you up to $11,000 on office space per employee per year, leaving you with more money to invest in other key areas of your business.
  • Better engagement. Offering the telework option is a fantastic way to keep your top talent engaged. With more flexibility, your engaged employees are a lot more likely to stay onboard longer and perform better.
  • Bigger talent pool. Finding an employee with a specific skillset in your local area can be tough. With telecommuting however, you no longer have that restriction, and can hire people from another part of the country or even halfway across the world.

Benefits for Employees

  • Saved time. Getting to and from work eats up a significant portion of a person’s time every day, and working from home will allow employees to avoid a lengthy and often stressful commute entirely.
  • Saved money. Whether you drive a car or use public transportation, the costs associated with travelling to work can add up to a hefty sum. Working from home even one or two days per week could go a long way in making travelling costs a bit more manageable. Plus, it’s good for the environment.
  • Less distraction. Office environment is hardly conducive to great performance, with its ringing phones, constant chatter and the sound of doors being opened and closed. Telecommuting gives employees the freedom to work in a comfortable noise-free environment, where they can better focus on their immediate tasks and have more control over their work.
  • More flexibility. Working remotely means that employees no longer need to conform to the typical office 9 to 5 schedule, which allows them to be a lot more flexible when it comes to personal commitments and maintain a healthy work-life balance.

The Cons of Telecommuting

At the same time, telework is not a perfect solution and does have a number of distinct disadvantages.

Drawbacks for Employers

  • Lack of supervision. Having remote employees can make it difficult for managers and executives to have control over what their subordinates are doing. Some business may find that to be too much of a risk.
  • Miscommunication. Even with the multitude of available communication channels, with no ability to have immediate face-to-face time, information is more likely to be lost in translation, which can cause misunderstandings and unnecessary frustration.
  • Company culture takes a backseat. Having a sense of shared values and goals is essential to the success of any company, but when a large number of employees work remotely, developing and promoting those goals and values among the team members becomes a lot more challenging.

Drawbacks for Employees

  • Lack of social interaction. While many people find working from home to be a refreshing break from the usual office distractions, those on a more extraverted side might find not having their coworkers around a bit lonely and isolating.
  • Vulnerability. Dealing with any technical issues or work-related emergencies can be especially frustrating as a remote employee. Most of the time you are essentially on your own, and this lack of immediate support coupled with greater accountability can be a bit too much for some people to handle.
  • No work-life boundaries. In most cases, the flexibility that telecommuting offers does make for a better work-life balance. For some people however, the opposite can be true. Those prone to procrastination may find it especially tough to combat distractions that keep them from doing important tasks, while workaholics may struggle to pull themselves away from checking one more email, or looking at one more task.

Tips for Successful Telecommuting

Now that we’ve discussed the benefits and drawbacks of telecommuting, let’s take a look at a few ways you can make it work for your team.

  1. Constant communication. Lack of proper communication can be one of the biggest hurdles in the way of your remote team’s success. Consider using web conferencing tools like Skype for regular meetings involving your telecommuters, or setting up dedicated chats with the help of tools like Slack. Not only will this help with collaboration, but it will also allow you to build trust and personal connections within the team.
  2. Regular updates. There’s no need to monitor your remote employees’ activity 24/7, but it’s a good idea to check in every now and then to track their progress and keep them in the loop. Availability is key here, so make sure that your remote folks can reach you whenever they need your feedback or support, and in turn remain available themselves should you or their coworkers require their assistance.
  3. Better collaboration. Keeping up with all of your projects when you have a remote team is no easy task. Fortunately, there are plenty of excellent project management tools out there that can help you keep your team organized and on track.
  4. Face time. When you have telecommuters on your team, it’s extremely important that they don’t feel isolated or disconnected from the rest of the company. Scheduling one-on-one time with your remote staff or regular meetings and activities that involve the entire team are both great ways to make sure that they don’t lose touch with the rest of the crew and feel like an integral part of the organization.

In Conclusion

Telecommuting is not a one-size-fits-all solution and has its drawbacks, but in the right hands it could have tremendous benefits both for your employees and your company. From happier and more engaged staff, to improved performance and significant financial benefits – it’s absolutely worth considering if you’d like to stay relevant in this rapidly changing business landscape.

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