Mention the word, “telecommuting,” and it conjures up images of employees dressed in pajamas lounging around in a cozy nook of their homes. With a hot cup of coffee in one hand and their laptop sitting on the nearby table, they furiously type away on keyboards, Skype with clients during web conferences, and get their deadlines finished before noon so they can head to the bank and the grocery store later on. This type of work-life balance is one that many employees are interested in having for a wide range of reasons.
Yet, as a business owner, you still have reservations in allowing some of your employees telecommute. Many businesses simply aren’t suited to allow employees to work in remote locations. Also, you have to take into consideration on whether you will allow all of your employees this option or just a few, and how your selections could affect the moral of your employees. Understanding the pros and cons of telecommuting can allow you to understand the advantages, the risks, and whether it is an option that will work for your business.
Pros of Telecommuting
For some remote workers, telecommuting provides them with a better way to be productive during their workdays. They are not stuck in traffic trying to get to the work site, as they can easily interact with you and other employees over the phone and through email. While you may not see them face-to-face throughout the day, they are still available for meetings and brainstorming sessions set by your timeline.
There are also several cost factors that you can take advantage of to keep your operational costs low. Many of these workers purchase and use their own equipment, which cuts down on the amount of office supplies, computers, printers and fax machines you have to get for the office. You also don’t have to invest in parking spaces and passes for employees while the employees can save money on clothing, food and daycare expenses.
Lastly, if your business decides to allow employees to telecommute, you have the opportunity in increasing your talent pool and retain talented employees. Ideal workers may not be able to relocate closer to your business location. Allowing them to telecommute allows them to better manage their work-life balance while still giving your business their expertise during operations.
Cons of Telecommuting
While the benefits of allowing your employees to work from home and other remote locations may sound appealing, there are still several disadvantages that could cause severe issues with your business. Since employees are working out of the office, you lose your supervisory role. You can’t catch your workers who may be shirking in their duties when deadlines are looming. This problem can also lead to payment issues. Employees may over-report their working hours so they can get paid for time not spent helping your business.
Employees also risk the possibilities of burnout. Since they are working from home, it becomes harder to separate their work hours from their free time, as they are always on-call or putting in some extra time to get work finished. They feel obligated to complete everything that hits their virtual inbox as you may fail to monitor just how overburdened their workload is until the quality of their work output becomes affected.
Another detriment to telecommuting is that employees are using computer systems that may not have adequate security controls. Unless there are security best practices and protocols in place, you can risk the chance of business data and customer information becoming compromised if the employee has their laptop or other mobile device lost, stolen or hacked.
Decide What is Best for Your Business
Some companies may benefit from having their employees telecommute while others must deal with problems they never expected. Whether you end up taking this route with your employees, you need to sit down and draft actionable guidelines. Outline how employees will document their work time, how you will measure their performance, and how everyone will ensure sensitive business data is kept secure. Then decide how many hours in the week you will allow them to telecommute to create a productive work environment both inside and outside the office.
MAP Communications offers some very useful employee management solutions like employee check in hotlines that can make telecommuting a successful arrangement for people who are part of your team.