If you look at telecommuting with a utopic eye, you’re doing it wrong. The same is true otherwise. What you need to do is to weigh the telecommuting pros and cons so you know how far down the road you want to take a remote work setup.
There are several reasons why companies may decide to adopt telecommuting. Traffic, as well as other transport-related challenges, are just some of them. And then in 2020, we saw how the COVID-19 pandemic take the world by surprise. Telecommuting became popular all the more as community quarantines, and lockdowns forced most businesses to halt their on-site and in-office operations indefinitely.
In this article, you will read the merits and drawbacks of telecommuting. It will guide you on formulating the right remote work setup policy for your team.
Telecommuting has been steadily growing in popularity recently, but it has actually been around since the 1980s. Over the years, people came to use different terms to refer to it: teleworking, remote working, mobile working, distributed working, smart working, and work shifting. Regardless of how you choose to call it, telecommuting is bound to continue growing.
If you come from a purely office-based organization, it’s highly likely you still consider telecommuting merely as a special privilege for select employees. However, you might be surprised that among the American workforce, at least 40% already works remotely in some manner. After all, there are different types of telecommuting. An employee may work outside the office one or two times a week, or enjoy a full-time remote work arrangement.
Remote work trends and forecasts point toward greater post-pandemic telecommute adoption. As the Global Workplace Analytics puts it, the longer employees work from home, the more they will be inclined to enjoy the setup. Furthermore, more companies may also continue to recognize telecommuting benefits.
With the availability of essential remote work tools, it has become easier for many teams to make the transition. However, there are still executives who are wondering if telecommuting is viable for their business model and culture, and if the benefits outweigh the potential risks.
There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of whether telecommuting will work for your team. However, the process of finding the answer is practically the same for every organization. We’ll help you in that process with this summary of telecommuting pros and cons.
Letting employees work from home could mean significant savings for companies. For employers, these savings can be largely attributed to minimized overhead costs.
Fully distributed companies, for instance, companies do not need to pay for expensive office rentals. They also don’t have utility bills to worry about. Meanwhile, hybrid companies have reduced operational costs as well. The purchase and upkeep of in-office workstations and equipment are usually kept to a minimum.
Furthermore, companies that allow some form of telecommuting have lower labor costs as well. Many employees would gladly take a pay cut in exchange for the benefit of working remotely. Telecommuters have also been found to be generally healthier, and they can work wherever they are in the world. As a result, they may not use as much paid sick and vacation leaves.
All in all, a company can save around $11,000 per employee annually if they allow working from home at least half of the time.
Moreover, employees can also save as much as $4,000 a year while working from home. Most of these savings are due to reduced work-related travel expenses, which include gas, toll, parking, and car maintenance. Remote workers may also save on food and clothing expenses. They also won’t have to buy or rent a place to move closer to work.
According to OWL Labs’ State of Remote Work 2019 report, remote workers work over 40 hours a week 43% more than office-based employees do. As telecommuters don’t have to travel to and from the office on a daily basis, they can spend more time on work. Those who truly enjoy what they do and are allowed to render overtime can choose to do more than what’s expected of them.
However, you should note that there are different reasons why remote workers work longer, and not all of the reasons are positive. While some work over 40 hours per week because it is required of them or they simply enjoy what they do, some tend to do so to catch up on work.
Longer manhours may also have negative implications. It could mean that tasks are done beyond the duration allotted for the task and submitted late. When remote employees work longer, it may also indicate that they were somehow distracted and unable to maximize their work hours.
To help ensure that your remote staff stays productive during their prescribed shift, you can utilize any of the top remote monitoring software and employee accountability solutions. These online tools give managers insights into how their people use company time. They also help employees become more conscious of their productivity and accountability.
Need to support their teams%
They simply enjoy what they do%
Required by their role%
To catch up on pending work%
To meet unrealistic work expectations%
Source: OWL LabsDesigned by
In a rigorous study conducted on remote and office employees, researchers from the Stanford Graduate School of Business found that remote workers are 13% more productive than their office-based counterparts. The researchers attributed this difference to two things. First, remote workers simply work their entire shift. Meanwhile, several things may keep office workers from maximizing their shifts. These include delays due to traffic and taking longer breaks.
Secondly, people who work from home can focus on work better. Contrary to what many may think, an office is generally not any less noisy than an employee’s home. A lot can happen in an office—there’s the officemate who would ask another to go out for coffee or the enticing smell of popcorn cooking in the pantry’s microwave.
Remote workers’ productivity is also linked to how they tend to work longer hours. They can choose to spend the time they would have otherwise wasted traveling to work on their tasks.
Additionally, remote employees also enjoy a better work-life balance. This may motivate them to stay productive so that they can show their managers how the arrangement works well for them. Furthermore, the ability to work anywhere also benefits employees who like to travel. They can harbor their passion while still taking care of their assignments.
Studies also report that remote workers use fewer sick days. Because they stay at home primarily, they are not as exposed to pollutants and allergens, and they can rest longer.
As mentioned earlier, remote workers are more productive because they seldom use their sick leave credits. It’s a general assumption that remote workers are healthier in general because they are not exposed to germs that may be lurking in the office. They also avoid exposure to pollutants on the road.
Indeed’s Remote Work Survey revealed that 50% of their respondents who work from home had reduced sick days. Meanwhile, 56% had fewer absences. Flexjobs’ Work-Life-Relationship Survey also showed that 86% of their employee respondents believe that having a flexible work arrangement can possibly help reduce their stress, and 89% think it will help them take care of themselves better.
Aside from affecting an employee’s health, telecommuting can also increase their job satisfaction. A study by Amerisleep revealed that 57% of remote workers are more likely to be satisfied with their jobs. Almost 80% of the respondents also consider themselves only moderately stressed or not stressed at all during a workweek.
OWL Labs’ research also showed that 71% of remote workers are happy with their jobs, while only 55% of office workers state the same. Additionally, the research also reported that over 50% of remote workers would either look for another job or ask for a salary raise if employers stop allowing them to work remotely.
Source: IndeedDesigned by
Telecommuting is nothing new to those who have already worked remotely in some manner before. However, those who don’t may find themselves facing some form of culture shock, with their routines changed in an instant.
The challenges of remote work include loneliness and collaboration with workers. Employees who are naturally sociable may find the sudden isolation demotivating. Meanwhile, those who are used to face-to-face collaboration may feel like something is missing, with some wondering whether everyone working from home is pulling their weight.
Now, this is where online collaboration tools come in. Most of these software already come with project and task management functionalities. They also have communication capabilities. Remote work surely requires huge change, but utilizing these tools can help your team adopt a new culture that will make them more flexible.
At the time of writing, the global pandemic COVID-19 continues to be a threat. Nobody knows when it will be entirely safe for people to go out without worrying about being infected. Those who work from home don’t have to go out often. They also have a better sense of job and financial security, as they can continue working and earning while at home.
Furthermore, even when the dust settles on this pandemic, working remotely can still be considered generally safer. Remote workers can enjoy the comforts of their home, safe from travel risks, for instance.
Because they are generally happy with their jobs and they cherish the benefits of the remote work setup, telecommuting employees stay longer. In FYI’s Remote Work Report, 42% of people who work remotely full-time have been doing it for over five years. Meanwhile, 28% have been at it for 3 to 5 years and 19% for 1 to 2 years. The remaining 11% had been telecommuting for less than a year.
Furthermore, OWL Labs’ Report also showed that remote employees are likely to stay in their current company and job for the next five years, 13% more than office-based employees.
Source: FYI's Remote Work Report
If you are looking to expand your team, now is a great time to consider offering flexible working arrangements. According to the Global Workspace Survey 2019 of the International Workplace Group, 80% of US workers would choose a job that offers telecommuting benefits over one that doesn’t. They might even reject a prestigious position just to have the privilege to work from home.
FYI’s Remote Work Report also revealed that people are now more interested in working remotely. Thirty-seven percent of FYI’s respondents said they would switch to a position that will allow them to work remotely in some fashion.
According to SHRM’s Skills Gap Report 2019, there were around 7 million job openings in December 2018, but only 6.3 million unemployed individuals were on a hunt for work. Furthermore, 75% of HR professionals struggling to find suitable hires report that most candidates lack the skills they are looking for. In all, 83% of HR personnel had difficulty in finding suitable talent for the positions they need to fill.
To bridge the skills gap, organizations are forced to implement smart measures. Among the most effective remedies they utilize are hiring external workforce and enhancing retention efforts.
Organizations that embrace the distributed team culture can hire external remote employees more easily. They can also choose to hire talent outside their country or region. Doing so not only introduces them to a bigger talent pool—it also connects them with highly-skilled workers who may charge lower than those based in their country.
It’s also worth noting that more on-site workers are now considering working remotely in the future. Many employees now also see remote work and flexible schedules as an effective retention factor. Given these trends, adopting a remote arrangement can definitely help your HR department bridge the skills gap and potentially find the right people.
Source: OWL Labs
The growing concerns regarding climate change are one of the reasons why many are inclined to consider remote work as an environment-friendly solution. If environmental conservation is one of your company’s advocacies, you may find telecommuting extra-beneficial.
Telecommuting reduces, if not totally eliminates the need for employees to travel. Global Workforce Analytics estimates that this is one of the easiest ways companies can help reduce greenhouse emissions. Additionally, employees who work from home have reduced gas consumption. They also have less impact on infrastructure. All of these make telecommuting an effective way for organizations to lessen their carbon footprint.
Having telecommuting measures in place allows teams to continue functioning despite challenges and risks that may keep them from reporting to their office. These challenges include anything from personal emergencies to natural calamities. Today, one of the biggest concerns is the coronavirus outbreak. A remote work setup will surely help minimize disruptions and losses, especially with strict community quarantines and lockdowns being enforced in many countries.
Following the footsteps of the 20 biggest remote work companies today, some huge companies have already allowed some form of telecommuting as a response to the health crisis. IBM, for one, gave the go signal for its workers in COVID-affected areas to work from home where and when possible.
It is worth noting that suddenly implementing a work from home arrangement may be easier for organizations that have done it before, which can be said for IBM. However, despite their experience, they maintain that the setup is temporary, and they have yet to consider a broader policy.
There’s no denying that remote work is one of the valid strategies for maintaining business continuity. But for it to work, managers need to devise clear instructions and policies. They themselves need to know how to work remotely from home and learn about the tools necessary for success.
Indeed, working from home is a viable business equity solution for teams and employees whose work revolves around online platforms and functionalities that can be accessed and performed using any computer or mobile device. In general, telecommuting is already being practiced in different industries where some employees perform their duties outside the office.
However, it is natural that working from home is not suitable for all kinds of jobs. Those who work in retail, food service, hospitality, and home improvement, for instance, cannot take their work home save for some paperwork if applicable.
Not everyone can stay at home for days on end as well. Some may feel the need to still go out every once in a while to meet people, get inspiration, and simply take a breather. This can be easily remedied by working out of a coworking space or coffee shop—at least after the COVID-19 crisis ends, of course.
Source: Global Workplace Analytics
Telecommuting pros and cons are generally constant. Now that more organizations realize the benefits of remote work in this time of a worldwide crisis and economic unrest, it won’t be surprising that these pros and cons will become even more pronounced.
Furthermore, post-COVID-19, adopting telecommuting or remote work now will set you up for the future. With more workers gaining interest in the arrangement and some currently having a taste of it, you can find more highly-skilled remote talent to aid in your organization’s progress and success. Even if you are not ready to jump into it right now, it will be in your best interest to explore telecommuting and devise guidelines for the future. You can start with this detailed remote team management guide. After all, the success of a distributed team will largely depend on the clarity of measures, strictness of implementation, and utilization of the right tools.
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