Telecommuting has risen in popularity with both employees and employers in recent years. Telecommuters complete assignments usually performed at their worksite at their home or a local telecenter near their residence.
Telecenters are equipped with both office equipment and other kinds of support which can be leased for the day. Contrary to popular belief, telecommuting is not synonymous with working from home fulltime or a home business.
The large majority of telecommuters do so only one or two days a week on average which allows them to interact with other employees, perform administrative tasks and attend meetings on the days they work at a central worksite.
Telecommuting doesn’t always require advanced equipment. In fact, a national survey shows that only 32 percent of telecommuters use a personal computer and many only need a phone.
How can telecommuting benefit employers and employees?
While telecommuting differs from the traditional way to conduct business, it has many potential benefits, such as:
When can telecommuting work well?
- Increased autonomy and flexibility in doing work
- Greater comfort
- Opportunities for those with mobility impairments
- Lower office expenses due to the reduction in work space
- Increased employee productivity and morale
- Retention of valuable employees who desire/need more flexibility in their schedules
- Improved balance between work and family issues
The success of telecommuting depends on employees. Candidates for telecommuting opportunities should be productive workers, with strong time management skills and little need for supervision.
They should also have work that requires little contact with other employees, modest equipment needs and access to support services. Supervisors of telecommuters must be able to delegate work easily, require little face-to-face interaction and manage by objective as opposed to time.
How can employers institute telecommuting?
When planning for telecommuting, employers should contact their local Transportation Management Association (TMA) for help to:
- Identify jobs compatible with telecommuting
- Resolve work rule and productivity issues with managers and unions*
- Resolve liability issues with legal and risk management staff*
- Select telecenters
- Determine equipment needs, and help with purchasing or installation*
- Establish policies regarding eligibility, equipment use, etc.
- Review procedures with telecommuters
- Develop a system for monitoring work performance
*Some, not all, TMAs can help with these issues.
What about a pilot telecommuting program?
Employers who may be hesitant about introducing telecommuting may prefer to try a pilot program with a small number of employees. If this trial results in employee satisfaction and productivity, it can be made available to others.