Successful Telecommuting

Attracting and keeping employees is a central goal for any organization. As stated in our previous blog, How Employee Experience Can Attract and Retain Talent, “location” is one of the three factors that determine how happy an employee will be or will continue to be within an organization. Location is not always physical; it includes the option to work remotely. Therefore, to stay competitive and recruit and retain the best talent, companies must offer flexible work options.

However, is there a flexible work option that can make both the employer and employee happy? Yes. This is where telecommuting can be utilized, bridging the gap between collaboration and productivity.

It is Not Teleworking

There are many types of flexwork: job sharing, part-time, compressed workweeks, teleworking and telecommuting, to name a few. However, teleworking is not telecommuting. Although these terms are used interchangeably, teleworking means the worker works off site, often in their home, full time.

Although this option is good for workers with disabilities, according to The American with Disabilities Act (ADA), not all jobs are suited for this exclusively remote form of employment. Teleworking would not work for jobs where the worker:

  • Must have physical contact with goods (retail or transportation)
  • Requires a public presence (cashier or reception)
  • Relies exclusively on classified data

These limiting factors are self-evident for remote work. When the job does not depend upon these stipulations, telecommuting can be utilized, providing a flexible option beneficial to both the employer and employee. The best policy is to determine the terms of telecommuting collectively, however.

Collaboration Debate

Telecommuting means working remotely for part of the work week, providing autonomy for the worker and face-to-face interaction with peers and management. Perfect solution, right? Not all employers agree.

Whether or not to allow workers to telecommute has opened the door to a fair amount of debate. In the early 1980’s companies like IBM implemented telecommuting as a cutting edge perk of the job. However, companies are now dialing back and requiring workers to come back to the office. The reason cited is lack of efficient collaboration when needed.

When innovation and/or problem solving requires successful teamwork, telecommuting tools (e.g. instant messaging, video/mobile conferencing) cannot match the benefits of human interaction. Companies have noted that some situations require face-to-face communication where team members can draw upon body language and nonverbal cues from coworkers to accomplish tasks or brainstorm effectively.

But, what organizations forget when eliminating telecommuting in all instances is the undeniable demand of the potential recruit or worker who relies on this flexible type of work environment to be productive. The solution? Control when workers telecommute by establishing policies and/or procedures ensuring everyone is on the same page.

Dial it Back, Don’t Eliminate

According to Gallup’s 2017 annual report on The State of the American Workforce, flexible scheduling and/or remote work opportunities play a major role in an employee’s decision to accept a job offer or seek employment elsewhere. Organizations must offer flexible work options to stay competitive to attract and retain talent.

Telecommuting does not need to hinder collaboration. Even members of a tight knit collaborative team can benefit from solo work time. Too much group interaction can stall productivity, giving way to “analysis paralysis”. A combination of both face-to-face meetings to discuss issues/challenges and telecommuting to conduct heads-down task completion is a realistic solution. However, to be successful, teleworking policies must be co-created by the entire team and not determined by management alone.

Employers can establish and implement successful telecommuting by drawing upon suggestions and/or input from the employees themselves. Telecommuting should be limited to two to three days maximum, to ensure ongoing face-to-face collaboration with peers. The team will be invested in the success of telecommuting if they are included in establishing the rules. This makes telecommuting a win-win for both employer and employee.

Need Help Establishing Telecommuting Policies?

SACS Consulting & Investigative Services, Inc. can help your organization establish steadfast policies and procedures for telecommuting. Make sure your employee handbook is clear about acceptable remote situations  to attract and keep quality talent. Contact or call 330-255-1101 today and speak with one of our HR specialists for more information.

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