Based in Denver, CO, Agile Ideation collects the thoughts and experiences of Ed Schaefer. His posts explore agile and devops related topics as he works to maximize team effectiveness and minimize waste through continuous learning, coaching and empowering teams.

Telecommuting: Considerations before Implementation

 

Telecommuting has been used by corporations for years, but it is still a relatively new concept. Companies and individuals reap many benefits when telecommuting is utilized, but there are issues that must be evaluated and addressed as well. Benefits primarily revolve around cost cutting and employee satisfaction, two things that could improve an organization's bottom line. Issues must be evaluated from two perspectives - employee issues and managerial issues. This paper will briefly discuss the benefits of telecommuting, provide a basic overview of employee issues and finally address managerial issues.

There are some substantial benefits of telecommuting for corporations, employees and our world in general. A corporation should consider telecommuting for significant cost savings and employee satisfaction. Money is saved when office space is reduced or eliminated completely. This also allows companies to stay in operation in the event of a natural disaster or emergency. Employees are able to save money that would have been spent on gas, and may lead to a better work-life balance. A corporation may also be more competitive at recruiting by offering telecommuting as this is appealing for many employees. Many employers and employees feel morale and productivity are increased by telecommuting; additionally there is a reduction in absenteeism and improved employee retention. Employees believe their productivity goes up as there are less distractions, they feel more motivated with the extra flexibility, eliminating workplace distractions like meetings, and gives them the flexibility to work during the day when they are most productive. Employees also reap work-life, family life and social life benefits related to being able to spend more time at home. Telecommuters feel there are typically fewer distractions at home and experience less stress from the increased flexibility. Finally, a reduction in the number of commuters can result in lower carbon emissions, lower transportation costs and fewer traffic accidents.

Based on the benefits, it seems obvious that companies should utilize telecommuting in their organization, but potential issues must be considered and addressed. This must be done by both employees and from a managerial perspective. First employees must consider their situation, as it may be no less distracting than work if family is at home, or even the television draws you away. A bigger concern for employees is feelings of isolation or being left out. Even with instant messaging, VoIP and video chat communication with co-workers may decrease and a telecommuter may be overlooked for projects or promotions because they do not interact in the office. On a more personal level telecommuters must consider safety and health. If they were to be injured at home it may not be considered to have occurred in the workplace. There may be poor lighting or non-ergonomic seating that lead to health issues. Lastly, the previously mentioned feelings of isolation can cause stress or even more significant mental health issues in certain circumstances.

Aspects which must be considered from a managerial perspective are vast and much more daunting. The risks of telecommuting from a security perspective may be astronomical if the lines of communication to the outside are being established for the first time. Management must take time during planning to determine exactly what access is needed and evaluate the risk of an intruder gaining access, then do everything possible to mitigate the risk as best as possible. Perhaps even go so far as to not implement telecommuting if the information is highly confidential and the risk is too great. Another consideration relates to the employee at home – looking at both other aspects of security and employee accountability. If the computer being used is accessed by other family members, highly confidential information may be accessed inadvertently. A company must decide if they would hold the employee accountable for the integrity and safety of the data – is the risk of a data breach really offset by the benefits of telecommuting. Finally, managers must consider employee engagement. Employees with reduced communication may be less engaged, thus less productive, so effective leadership is imperative when managing telecommuters.

Telecommunications provide the ability to recruit, interview, hire, train, employ and supervise an employee without ever physically interacting with them. As technology continues to progress the experience of a working in a virtual office will become more engaging and effective and will likely see increasing use in the future. Many employees and their employers may see the benefits of telecommuting and want to implement it right away, but many issues must be considered before taking steps to do so. The potential risks from security breaches to employee disengagement must be considered, evaluated and addressed in order for a company to use telecommuting successfully.

 

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