Around the world, more and more companies are adopting a more flexible type of workplace. In an infographic titled Death of the Office from Intuit, they have shown in their studies that just in 2011, there were already 2.8 million workers in the UK that were telecommuting at least part of the time.
And why not? There are so many benefits for both the employees and the employers when they adopt a telecommuting setup. In fact, a recent study from Stanford University economics professor Nicholas Bloom says that employees who work from home are actually more productive than employees who are working in the office.
This result runs contrary to the common belief of many traditional managers that a telecommuting setup will decrease productivity and efficiency because of lack of direct supervision. It turns out that employees on a work from home situation thrive in a results based environment. They are no longer concerned about giving the impression that they are always working, which is common when people are in a traditional office. Instead, they do the job they need to do as fast as possible and relax in the comfort of their home, standing by for more instructions or other duties.
The benefits of telecommuting
And the benefits do not end there, either. Companies who adopt telecommuting policies also enjoy big cost savings. First, with fewer employees reporting in the physical office, the company no longer has to get a very big space. They also save on office furniture and utilities as telecommuting employees usually just use what they have at home.
Employees, obviously, do not get the short end of the bargain either. First, they do not have to commute to work anymore. They wake up, eat breakfast, and proceed to their ‘office’. This gives them more time to rest and they no longer have to experience the negative effects of commuting like traffic and pollution. In terms of the work environment, they do get to work independently and with minimal supervision. This gives them a results-based work setup where they can work at their own pace.
The downside of telecommuting
Of course, while there are a lot of positives, there are also some downsides to telecommuting. It is not as simple as allowing your employees to work from home and expecting them to be effective immediately. You also have to know the risks of having your employees away from you doing their own thing. First, not all employees thrive in work-at-home situations because there will be a lot of distractions like the TV, the bed, and even the kids. You also remove the social aspect of the workplace and there will be little interaction between your employees; this could make it difficult to implement a company culture. Last, it will also be difficult to see if your employees are actually doing their jobs; you might just get surprised that your employee is not able to deliver on the deadline and you are left scrambling.
It is not all sunshine and rainbows for employees as well. While a results-based environment is great, that is the only aspect of your work you can be evaluated on because they would not be able to evaluate how you are as a colleague when you barely have any interaction with other employees. It can also be difficult to get a promotion because it will also be difficult to evaluate your leadership skills when you are always working on your own.
That is why it is important that companies take measures to keep their telecommuting employees both effective and happy. The key here is a good communication line.
Here are some tips:
- Make sure your managers and supervisors are in constant communication with employees. While telecommuting employees work best independently, their supervisors should still be able to know where they are at for specific projects to make sure that deadlines can be met. They also should always be available to instantly answer queries of remote employees even if they are not in the same office.
- Use video conferencing to get the team in a meeting. There are many online meetings you can use; Bluejeans video collaboration UK can get the team face-to-face with each other and inspire them into a collaborative state even if they are physically miles apart.
- Schedule smartly. While you want to keep their schedules as flexible as possible, it will still be smart if there will be hours where the whole team are all present online. This is when you can schedule team meetings or if something is urgent, get everyone on the same page as quickly as possible.
- Do not forget their career path. As said above, telecommuting employees tend to get stuck in their current position because it will be difficult to promote them to a leadership position when they rarely interact with other employees. Address this by defining the career path that they can follow within your company and how they can achieve that. This way, your employees can look forward to something in the future while working for your company.
Telecommuting is the future of the modern workplace, but like any other work related matter, it should be handled the right way or your company will not reap its full benefits.