The Coronavirus pandemic has ushered in a new normal, changing the way people do day-to-day activities, especially in the way they do work.
It has also changed the way companies do business, with entrepreneurial success relying on how business owners can adapt to these rapid changes.
Businesses are adapting by shifting their business model to include e-commerce, with online sales seeing exponential growth in 2020 despite the global crisis. Other businesses are also accommodating telecommuting options for employees, with face-to-face interactions becoming near-impossible as social distancing measures continue to be implemented around the world.
When business processes are being disrupted at the drop of a hat in the service of public health, business owners need to implement ways to diminish disruptions to their workflow while ensuring their employees are safe, engaged, and productive even during these challenging times. One way to do this is by offering flexible work options.
But this can be a major shift for you and your employees. Full-time remote work, especially, present challenges that make some business owners search for other alternatives.
Telecommuting, or telework, may be the solution. Employees only work remotely some of the time allowing you and your team to enjoy the advantages of this type of work setup.
In this article, we’ll discuss the benefits and drawbacks of telecommuting, the signs this shift might be right for your business, and telework best practices to ensure a smooth transition for you and your employees.
At first glance, telecommuting offers many advantages, especially for employees. It removes their daily commute, affords flexibility, and increases their sense of work/life balance and general quality of life. It can even be advantageous for the environment and society as it will reduce daily traffic and pollution.
Telecommuting has advantages for your business, too. The benefits it brings your employees may also benefit your company in different ways:
Despite the continued increase of telework, and how it has enabled businesses to move forward despite the ongoing health crisis, this type of work setup presents challenges to any company. Here are some of the disadvantages that may affect your business if you offer telecommuting to your employees.
These days, most businesses in nearly every industry have some positions where employees telecommute for some of the time. Even industries like healthcare and education are increasingly going remote.
Telecommuting and remote work will only increase in the coming years, and while it may not be the best course of action for every type of business, it can be successful with planning.
To determine how well your business will adapt to telecommuting, you need to assess your current business processes, the positions in your company, and your employees to see how they will all fare once the option to telecommute is on the table.
The fewer face-to-face interactions involved in your business, the more flexible you can be in adapting this work setup.
How you have digitalized your systems is also a factor, according to Jamie Sheldon, Owner of the parcel mail forwarding company, MyUKMailbox. “If you’ve adopted cloud services to your processes, you might find it easier to offer telecommuting to your employees.”
Some roles are suitable for telecommuting. Positions that don’t require a lot of collaboration with other team members can be offered as telecommute jobs.
Sales and service rep positions and transcription roles, for example, involve daily self-contained tasks that don’t need much communication with other employees. Top companies from customer service enterprise Sykes to retail giant Williams-Sonoma have remote or telecommute options for these roles.
As you assess the roles that can be appropriate for telecommuting, you also have to evaluate the employees who are currently in these positions as well as those specifically requesting the option to telecommute. You need to evaluate their on-site performance, their circumstances, and even their home office setup.
If an employee historically requires less supervision, has prepared for the transition to telecommute work, and is well-equipped with an office area at home to sustain their productivity, they’re likely good candidates for successful telecommuting.
With so many telecommuting advantages and disadvantages, you can get confused about whether to allow the team to telecommute or not. But preparation is the key to successful telecommuting. You need to equip your employees with the right tools, policies, and guidelines. That will allow them to perform just as well as they do when they’re at the office. When done right, you might find them do even better when they’re telecommuting.
Here are some best practices to adapt set your telecommuting team up for success:
Defining a telecommuting policy will give you peace of mind. Your employees will deliver even if they’re not being directly supervised. Your telecommuting policy should be comprehensive, detailing work hour and output expectations, eligibility requirements, security protocols, and even repercussions for violating these policies.
For example, the City and County of San Francisco have a detailed telecommute policy published on their official webpage. It details the steps and resources employees will need to be eligible to telecommute.
These days, there are hundreds of tools for everything you want to do online. Whether you want to video conference with your large team, collaborate on a single document, or set up online water coolers for employees to converge, there’s a tool for it.
Providing your employees tools to communicate, improve, and be productive will enable them to do their jobs well.
Tools like Time Doctor will allow them to monitor their progress and productivity. This will ensure their success with work even if they’re at home.
Using Time Doctor, you and your employees can set up distraction alerts, keeping them focused and productive during work hours. It also addresses any performance monitoring issues. Time Doctor has time tracking, app & website monitoring, and even offline time tracking. This helps you know they are working even if they’re offline or get disconnected.
One of the main telecommuting disadvantages is the challenge of communication. You can avoid this by setting communication standards they need to meet. Here’s how:
Having these guidelines allow you and your team to communicate effectively and efficiently regardless of location or even timezones.
With limited face-to-face interaction, going the extra mile to boost employee morale and improve company culture is even more crucial. Encourage your team to socialize among themselves, even if they have to do it virtually.
Telecommuting will certainly decrease work interruptions, but it can also be isolating to employees. They may feel far removed from you and their team members. You can facilitate scheduled virtual activities like virtual movie nights where everyone can watch and discuss a film together in the comfort of their homes.
Through these activities, your employees can connect and unwind with each other, even if they’re far apart.
It’s the best time to adapt to telecommute work, with information and communication technologies now advanced enough to make it a viable option most businesses can offer their employees. There’s also no shortage of online tools for virtual communication and collaboration that allow work to be done anywhere and at any time.
Despite telecommuting disadvantages, it offers flexibility that will enable you as a business owner to retain your employees and diminish disruptions to your workflow.
By preparing for telecommuting by assessing your business and your employees, setting up policies and guidelines, and providing your telecommuting employees with the tools they need, there’s no reason for them not to succeed just as well at their jobs, even out of the office.
During these times, it’s businesses who are willing and quick to adapt that survive—even flourish—despite a global crisis.
About the Author:
Kevin Payne is a content marketing consultant that helps software companies build marketing funnels and implement content marketing campaigns to increase their inbound leads.