Advantages of Telecommuting
Telecommuting refers to a work arrangement in which employees enjoy flexibility in work location and hours. With modern telecommunication technology, no longer is it necessary for employees to undergo a daily commute to a central place of work. Many telecommuters work from home, while others, who are occasionally referred to as "nomad workers" or "web commuters", work from coffee shops or other locations.
To be successful, telecommuting should incorporate training and development that includes evaluation, simulation programs, team meetings, written materials, and forums. Information sharing should be considered synchronous in a virtual office and building processes to handle conflicts should be developed. Operational and administrative support should be redesigned to support the virtual office environment. Facilities need to be coordinated properly in order to support the virtual office and technical support should be coordinated properly.
Telecommuting offers benefits to communities, employers, and employees. For communities, telecommuting can offer fuller employment by increasing the employability of circumstantially marginalized groups, such as work at home parents and caregivers, the disabled, retirees, and people living in remote areas. Furthermore, working from home reduces traffic congestion and traffic accidents, relieves the strain on transportation infrastructures, reduces greenhouse gases, saves fuel, and reduces energy use.
For companies, telecommuting and work-from-home arrangements may:
- Expand the talent pool
- Reduce the spread of illness
- Reduce costs
- Increase productivity
- Reduce their carbon footprint and energy usage
- Reduce turnover and absenteeism
- Improve employee morale
- Offer a continuity of operations strategy
- And improve their ability to handle business across multiple timezones
For individuals, telecommuting improves work-life balance. Working from home can free up the equivalent of 15 to 25 workdays a year from time that would have otherwise been spent commuting, and save between $4,000 and $21,000 per year in travel and work-related costs.
Environmental Benefits and Government Regulation
Telecommuting gained more ground in the United States in 1996 after the Clean Air Act amendments were adopted. The act required companies with over 100 employees to encourage car pools, public transportation, shortened workweeks, and telecommuting. In 2004, an appropriations bill was enacted by Congress to encourage telecommuting for certain Federal agencies. The bill threatened to withhold money from agencies that failed to provide telecommuting options to all eligible employees. The energy-saving potential of telecommuting from gas savings alone would total more than twice what the U.S. currently produces from all renewable energy sources combined.
Employee Motivation and Satisfaction
Work-from-home flexibility is a desirable asset for employees. A meta-analysis of 46 studies on telecommuting by Ravi Gajendran and David A. Harrison found that telecommuting has largely positive benefits for employees and employers, mainly relating to job satisfaction, autonomy, stress, manager-rated job performance, and work-family conflict. The meta-analysis found generally no detrimental effects on the quality of workplace relationships and career outcomes. Only high-intensity telecommuting (where employees work from home for more than 2.5 days a week) was found to harm employee relationships with coworkers, but this was found to be offset by beneficial effects on work-family conflict.
Potential Drawbacks and Concerns
Telecommuting has come to be viewed by some as more a complement rather than a substitute for work in the workplace. Barriers to continued growth of telecommuting include distrust from employers and personal disconnectedness for employees. Traditional line managers are accustomed to managing by observation and not necessarily by results. This causes a serious obstacle in organizations attempting to adopt telecommuting. The main concern about telecommuting is the fear of loss of control. While 75% of managers say they trust their employees, a third say they'd like to be able to see them, just to be sure.
Managers may view the teleworker as experiencing a drop in productivity during the first few months. This drop occurs as the employee, his peers, and the manager adjust to the new work regimen. The drop could also be accountable to an inadequate office setup. Managers should be patient and give the teleworker time to adapt. Eventually, productivity of the teleworker should climb, as over two-thirds of employers report increased productivity among telecommuters.
From an employee perspective, some believe that telecommuting can negatively affect one's career. A recent survey of 1,300 executives from 71 countries indicated a belief that people who work from home are less likely to get promoted. The reasoning is that companies rarely promote people into leadership roles who haven't been consistently seen and measured.
Another category of people who work from home are those who have a home-based business. Entrepreneurs choose to run businesses from home for a variety of reasons, including lower business expenses, personal health limitations, and a more flexible schedule due to the lack of a commute. This flexibility can give an entrepreneur more options when planning tasks, especially parenting duties.