More and more companies are allowing employees to work at home . Do you think this is a positive or negative development?
And here are some useful ideas about the pros and cons.
Telecommuting can increase employee satisfaction and save your company money on utilities. It is not a perfect solution, however: Although telecommuters may be happier, the process can negatively impact the company. As you consider whether or not to allow your staff to work from outside the office, consider the potential negative impacts to determine whether they outweigh the benefits.
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If your clients are accustomed to a high level of face-to-face contact with the employees that handle their business, a move to telecommuting can reduce in-person interactions. For some companies, less contact might not be an issue, but clients that require more hand-holding might feel neglected. To solve the problem, implement technological solutions that will promote collaboration and regular review over the Internet: Screen-sharing programs or video conferencing can allow dispersed employees to interact with a client to go over projects in real time.
When a portion of the workforce moves out of the office, it can increase the stress for non-telecommuting workers. The employees that remain in the office can feel left out of the telecommuting benefits, like flexible hours, and resent that their co-workers have the option to work in a more comfortable location. Also, if the company's communication systems are not updated to reflect a dispersed workforce, the office staff can experience an increased workload and the bulk of the client communication burden. Prevent that sense of imbalance by requiring telecommuters to have some in-office time or by giving your office staff more autonomy.
For companies that rely on strong team collaboration to complete client projects, telecommuting can damage teamwork. Employees who are used to working together in person will need to find new ways to review and present work, especially on an informal level. As a result, there may be a dip in productivity while the team learns to work within the new framework. To make the process easier, you can implement strategies like instant messaging, web meetings, regular morning phone sessions, or a company intraweb; the ease of informal communications can facilitate the maintenance of a team atmosphere.
Staffs who communicate only online and by phone may have a harder time retaining and building relationships with their colleagues, which can sabotage overall productivity and job satisfaction. Because relationships often lead to trust and effective collaboration, telecommuting can weaken the overall atmosphere. To keep your staff connected, plan retreats, meetings, or social events and require in-person attendance. If possible, require that all staff be in the office at least one or two days each week to maintain regular contact.
1. Conserving Energy
Although energy utilization will continue to grow as we expand our industry and improve our standard of living, efficient use of energy will always be of prime importance. By telecommuting to work instead of using more conventional methods, there is a great potential to save energy. The three major areas where energy can be conserved are:
A. Vehicle-related materials and resources;
B. Highway-related materials and resources;
A tremendous amount of energy is required to produce transportation equipment such as automobiles, buses, trains and jet aircraft. If telecommuting is promoted, there will be less use of this equipment and less energy will be required for production, maintenance and repair of this equipment. Fuel resources needed to operate this equipment will be reduced, as well The building and repair of highways and maintenance requires a large consumption of energy, not only in the operation of the highway construction and repair equipment, but also in the manufacture and transportation of the required materials. An increase in the percentage of people telecommuting to work will decrease the need for expanded highways and associated road maintenance.
2. Preserves Our Environment by reducing land use requirements for highway expansion and by reducing slow-moving automobile emissions. Highways and parking lots are continuing to consume large quantities of our land surface area. If a larger percentage of people telecommute to work, existing highways could be reduced in size and parking lots could be converted to parks. One of the largest sources of pollution is the automobile. This is especially true of slow-moving automobiles that often exist in heavy, congested rush hour traffic.
3. Promotes Safety by reducing highway use by people rushing to get to work. There are thousands of traffic-related deaths every year and thousands more people severely injured trying to get to work. In addition there is substantial property loss associated with traffic accidents that occur as people take chances in order to make the mad dash from home to the office. Often times, people have made the trip so often that they are not really alert, often fall asleep and frequently become impatient by traffic jams and slower travelers. More and more people are becoming frustrated by the insistence that they come into the office every day, when, in fact most, if not all of their work could be accomplished from their home or sites much closer to their home.
4. Improves Health by reducing stress related to compromises made between Family and Work. The stress associated with commuting back and forth to work away from the home is real, and telecommuting offers a renewed opportunity for workers to rediscover the joys of working from their homes. This is a rediscovery, because centuries ago it was commonplace for "cottage industries" to exist where work was produced in one’s home, often times incorporating the talents of the entire family in producing a product. With advanced telecommunications technology a large segment of our workers can return to this mode of "work-at-home" productivity not compromising either their family living or their job productivity.
5. Allows closer proximity to and involvement with family. Working in the home offers people a greater opportunity to share quality time with family members, to promote family values and develop stronger family ties and unity. Also, time saved through telecommuting could be spent with family members constructively in ways that promote and foster resolution of family problems. The strength of a society derives from the strength of its individuals and the strength of its individuals often times derives from the strength of their families.
6. Allows employee freedom to choose an environment that is more suitable from a social and economic standpoint and to live in an area with people of common interests. For couples as well as singles, people who can telecommute do not have to quit their jobs and move, when they determine they are not compatible with the town they are living in. This occurs often, following a divorce or when a single person discovers an incompatibility with the area surrounding his or her employers business. Telecommuting affords an employee the freedom to look for another place to live, where he or she can feel comfortable both from a social, as well as an economic standpoint and live near people that have common interests. All this, while remaining loyal and productive for their employer.
7. Improves Productivity: Time saved can be used to improve productivity. Much time is spent on unnecessary activities by people who commute back and forth to work in the conventional manner. Time is wasted from the minute one gets up to go to work until the minute one goes to bed after returning from work. With telecommuting, one no longer needs to be always preparing for the commute and for being "presentable". One can go to work simply by tossing on a robe and slippers, grabbing a cup of coffee and sitting down to the terminal. And you no longer are interrupted by all the idle chatter that inevitably takes place at the central work place – some of it useful for your work, but a lot of it just a waste of time and a perpetual interruption. For persons with health problems or handicapped persons, working from home may offer some comforting and productive opportunities, as well.
8. Reduces number of people "job hopping"; decreasing training requirements. Many people job hop each year, and much of this "job hopping" is because people want to move to a new location. They enjoy their work, and they would keep working for their present employer, but they do not like their present location. If people could move without losing their jobs, because they could telecommute, the amount of retraining would be reduced substantially. This would increase overall employee productivity while keeping loyal and productive employees on board.