Technology is more pervasive than ever and now gives businesses options that might have been inconceivable only a decade ago. Technology has changed the modern working arrangement by creating the option for employees to telecommute and perform many tasks remotely. What are the pros and cons of employing telecommuters, and does it make sense for your business?
What is Telecommuting?
The Business Dictionary website formally defines telecommuting as “A substitution of telecommunications for transportation in a decentralized and flexible work arrangement which allows part or full-time employees to work at home via a computer attached to the employer’s data network.”
In other words, employees can work from a remote location and perform their duties just as they would if working from a brick and mortar environment. While there may have been inherent limitations to this working arrangement in the past, technological advancements and an increasingly globalized workforce have made telecommuting a completely viable option for many of today’s businesses.
The Global Workplace Analytics website provides statistics to give perspective on the current state of telecommuting:
- Regular work-at-home, among the non-self-employed population, has grown by 103% since 2005.
- 3.7 million employees (2.8% of the workforce) now work from home at least half the time.
- The employee population as a whole grew by 1.9% from 2013 to 2014, while the employee telecommuter population grew 5.6%.
These stats clearly indicate that telecommuting is on the rise and is a trend that’s likely to continue.
The Pros of Employing Telecommuters
- Aids in Recruiting – With tech-savvy millennials accounting for a significant portion of the workforce, offering telecommuting options can be a major selling point when recruiting. Because many younger workers value a healthy work-life balance, allowing them to telecommute at least a portion of the time can make your company more appealing than competitors who do not.
- Higher Productivity – When employees work remotely, it eliminates several productivity killing habits such as water cooler gossip, colleagues being distracting and spur-of-the-moment meetings. In turn, employees can focus wholly on their tasks.
- Lower Overhead Costs – According to data from Talent Culture’s website, a typical employer saves $11,000 per person annually even if they only telecommute half of the time. This is primarily due to the diminished need for computers, phones, paper and so on.
- Increased Retention – Research found on Telework! VA’s website states that teleworking “Decreases employee turnover by 20 percent,” which is likely due to the healthy work-life balance it creates.
- Potential for Disconnect – Relationships and team chemistry are often considered important parts of running a successful company. When employees work remotely, it could potentially create a disconnect that takes a toll on your company culture.
- Potential for Misunderstandings – No matter how well organized or efficient your communication system is, the odds of misunderstandings increases considerably when there’s no face-to-face interaction.
- Inability to Closely Monitor Employees – It can be tempting for employees to slack and not give as much effort as they would when management is directly observing them.
- Security Issues – Sharing sensitive data can lead to complications because you don’t have the same level of control when information leaves the relative safety of your company’s immediate network.
Employing telecommuters is an option that you should definitely take into consideration if you haven’t done so already. Weighing the pros and cons should help you see it in an objective light and determine whether or not it’s right for your business.