Telecommuting is a work option where knowledge workers perform their job outside of a traditional office space.
It’s also known as telework, remote work, mobile work and work from home, but telecommuting isn’t limited to working at home. Telecommuters also work while traveling, at coffee shops, rental office spaces and other company-approved places of their choice.
In fact, the definition of telecommuting is a somewhat undefined but evolving concept as more workers employ this work method full-time, part-time or on entirely virtual teams. It is part of the broader category of flex work—flexible work options that give employees control over their schedule.
Telecommuting cannot happen without the right technology, and advancements in the virtual work environment have supported the rise and acceptance of telecommuting.
Telecommuters have to use a variety of communication and collaboration tools to complete their work and stay connected to supervisors and teammates, including:
- An Internet connection, typically Wi-Fi;
- Audio, typically VoIP or cell phone;
- Instant messaging;
- Social business tools such as intranets or social media;
- Online forums and communities;
- Video and web conferencing;
- Online meetings; and
- Online team workspaces.
The Benefits and Challenges of Telecommuting
For workers, the benefits of telecommuting include:
• Work-life balance (or integration): The flexibility to work from home aids in better health and less absenteeism. Employees can focus on wellness while still working and avoid the stresses of commuting and in-office politics.
• Enhanced productivity: Employees are empowered to employ their own workstyle while telecommuting, collaborating only at their most opportune times and avoiding office distractions.
• Less travel: The ability to skip the commute helps employees not only go green but also save on the time and monetary costs of travel.
Companies also reap the benefits of:
• Increased productivity: Since employees have the flexibility to choose where, when and how they want to work, they have more potential to reach their highest levels of productivity, increasing output.
• Cost savings: Telecommuting also saves companies money on business travel and large office costs, and telecommuting aids in globalization as companies expand their reach.
• Employee retention: As an employee perk, telecommuting helps companies better compete for (and retain) talent among a wider pool of candidates, as well as retain the talent of happier workers.
• Availability: During severe weather, telecommuting allows companies to continue work when travel is too dangerous. Additionally, telecommuters typically use fewer sick days.
Despite the numerous benefits, telecommuting is not without challenges for both employees and companies.
Telecommuters must learn how to better establish working relationships, maintain transparency and make ongoing communication a top priority. They also face misconceptions that telecommuters are unproductive, sometimes penalized in terms of promotions.
Meanwhile, companies must learn new management styles for telecommuters, find out how to cultivate company culture and innovation within a telecommuting workforce and identify the most efficient means of tracking accountability.
To learn more about telecommuting and its impact on workers and businesses, check out these additional resources:
- Learn more about the pros and cons of telecommuting in PGi’s free eBook, “The Yin + Yang of Telecommuting.”
- Discover the best productivity tips for your telecommuting personality type in PGi’s free eBook, “Which Type of Teleworker Are You?”
- Keep up with PGi’s latest telecommuting blog posts at The Future of Business Collaboration.
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