How to manage the phenomenon of telecommuting
You’ve probably noticed an increasing number of people in coffee shops with laptops open and earbuds in place. It’s a common sight everywhere with access to wi-fi and an electrical outlet. But what are they all doing? Most likely, they’re hard at work.
“Telecommuting” used to be a buzzword. Now it’s used as commonly as “email.” Telecommuting – where employees use their computer to work outside of the traditional office environment – is becoming commonplace.
According to Global Workforce Analytics, telecommuting has grown by more than 115 percent since 2005. Fully 3.7 million employees now work remotely, representing 2.8 percent of the workforce.
For companies with 100 employees, odds are that three of them are working off-site today. The trend is only gaining steam, so in the coming years, that number might be 10, 20 or even 50.
Telecommuting offers benefits for employees and employers, including:
- Remote employees tend to be more productive and less likely to take time off work, according to the Society for Human Resource Management.
- Sick employees can still work from home if they feel up to it.
- The telecommuter is never late.
- Saves money on expensive office space.
- Allows workers greater freedom regarding work hours and a flexible work-life balance.
There are some downsides to telecommuting, however, which include:
- You can’t stand over a remote employee’s shoulder and make sure he or she is working as directed (not that you manage that way, of course).
- There is no way of knowing if the telecommuter’s actively working or taking a cat nap.
- You can’t stop them for a quick chat or ask them on a whim to join you in a client meeting.
- They may not have the same team building experience as those who regularly work in the office.
- Social isolation.
So how do you manage the employee who’s not there in front of you? Telecommuting requires managers to find new ways to oversee and develop staff, with no definitive right or wrong answers. Here are a few things to consider with telecommuting:
Productivity and quality of work are the key objectives for any employee. If they’re producing at a high level and completing their tasks on time, then where they work should matter less.
Group e-mail and chat features such as Slack or Stride have become commonplace in many offices, replacing older forms of interoffice communication. Many of these tools allow you to actively see which employees are currently online and their time away, allowing employers to track hours spent on a project. Mix in an occasional phone call, Skype, in-person meeting or company outing to keep relationships intact and telecommuters engaged with the team.
Telecommuting boosts employee performance and satisfaction, lowering employee turnover and eliminating the cost of training new staff. The occasional face-to-face meeting or company gathering can negate some of the cons involved for these workers and keep your employees engaged and on task. By properly managing telecommuters, you can gain a competitive edge in your industry and get ahead of the competition.