How to avoid the downsides of telecommuting
A study has found that the prospect of telecommuting appeals to many employees, but presents a mix of pros and cons for employers.
The study, which was developed by Robert Half and conducted by an independent research firm, included responses from more than 2,800 workers employed in office environments in 28 major cities.
Overall, 77 percent of responders said the ability to telecommute would increase their likelihood of taking a job. This was even higher among the 18-34 age group — at 86 percent.
Ryan Gatto, regional vice president for Robert Half, said this is because members of this demographic “are looking for the ability to have a little bit of a work-life balance,” especially the option “to be productive at home, while also hitting guidelines and also completing different projects that are asked of them.”
Gatto said telecommuting can also benefit employers.
“They get access to a broader talent pool, they get increased employee morale because a lot of creative teams are busier than ever, and many value the benefits of supportive of work-life balance," he said.
The option to telecommute can also increase productivity, because “some projects require great concentration, and working at home can be quieter and less distracting than being in the office,” Gatto said.
Another benefit, one that can be enjoyed by both employers and employees, is savings on both time and money. Businesses save on real estate costs, while employees can save time and money by avoiding a daily commute, Gatto said.
There is a downside to telecommuting, though.
“There’s always the out-of-sight-out-of-mind syndrome. Some executives may equate the quality of one’s work with how often they see or speak with that person,” Gatto said.
Gatto recommended several measures for companies that are considering implementing the option of telecommuting, to avoid some of its disadvantages.
“Remote workers may keep nontraditional hours, so reaching them for an urgent project or impromptu meeting may be more challenging,” he said. “Keeping a schedule of workers’ on-site availability and where and how they can be reached when off-site can keep the workflow going smoothly.”
Gatto said another possible problem is “diminished team camaraderie. Remote workers have fewer opportunities to chat with coworkers and may lose a sense of being part of a team.”
To avoid this, Gatto suggests video confrencing or instant-message platforms to keep staff in touch, and scheduling calls and in-person meetings to keep employees engaged.
The study found some differences among regions of the country. The idea of telecommuting was most appealing to employees in Midwestern cities like Detroit and Chicago, as well as western cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles. But the option to telecommute may soon become more common, and seen as more appealing, in New Jersey.
“The Northeast, and particularly on the East Coast, has always had a little bit of a different balance from adopting the work-life balance and the remote accessibility,” Gatto said. “But I do find that more and more companies, especially in a local geography, are definitely looking at the holistic view of their workforce, and how they can adopt some form of work-life balance when it comes to working remotely.”
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