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.
Telecommuting Advantages and Disadvantages
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:
- Increase in productivity. Distractions at work may be costing you more than any perceived productivity loss if you offer telecommuting to your employees. At home, they can focus on their tasks because there are no distractions like overlong meetings and other office distractions.
- Less overhead costs. Allowing employees to telecommute for some of the time or even offer full-time remote positions means less spending on office space and utility costs. These savings can add up to $11,000 per employee for U.S. companies. It also enables your company to have a greener work culture.
- Improved employee retention. Sudden life changes or even an unprecedented global pandemic could prohibit your top talent from coming to the office every day. You can ensure they remain working with you if you offer flexibility that will allow them to keep their job and address their changed circumstances.
- Bigger talent pool. Along with being able to retain your best employees, you’ll be able to tap highly skilled candidates for positions regardless of their physical location. You’ll also attract individuals who might not have considered you before.
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.
- Diminished work culture. It will be challenging to build and improve your overall company work culture if most employees are isolated away from the organization. This can also decrease their sense of identity with your company.
- Challenging performance monitoring. Telecommuting makes direct supervision nearly impossible. The telecommuting employee’s productivity will also be dependent on their self-discipline and ability as they’re no longer in a strictly professional work environment.
- Less security. It will be challenging to guarantee whether or not your employees are accessing company data over their secure personal WiFi connections, or perhaps working with shared networks in public spaces like coffee shops. In fact, 90% of IT professionals have said remote work poses risks to company data. Without the necessary protections in place, it could pose significant risks to your data.
- Less communication overall. 17% of employees say collaboration and communication are their biggest challenges when working out of the office. Despite a plethora of tools available, that will make telecommunication seamless for your employees, face-to-face interactions have benefits that virtual communications cannot replicate such as brainstorming or collaborating with colleagues over different projects.
3 Signs Telecommuting is Right for Your Business
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.
1. Your Current Business Model
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.”
2. Responsibilities of 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.
3. Employee Feedback
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.
Telecommuting Best Practices
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:
1. Clearly Define Your Telecommuting Policy
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.
2. Provide Your Employees with the Right Tools
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.
3. Set Communication Guidelines
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:
- Identify which communication channels your employees should use. For example, which online tools to use for virtual conferencing or project collaboration.
- Define common availability hours. This can range from a few hours a day to even just a few hours a week. This will help in efficient communication and collaboration.
- Be specific when it comes to response times to eliminate the guesswork. Specify that messages be replied to at the end of the day, or first thing the next morning, for example.
Having these guidelines allow you and your team to communicate effectively and efficiently regardless of location or even timezones.
4. Schedule Time for Your Employees to Socialize
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.