Telecommuting, also known as remote work or working from home, is a type of flexible work arrangement in which employees do not have to be physically present in an office to perform their job duties. Instead, they can use technology such as computers, smartphones, and video conferencing to communicate and collaborate with colleagues, access company resources, and perform their work tasks from a location of their choosing.
There are many benefits of telecommuting for both employees and employers. For employees, it can provide increased flexibility and work-life balance, as well as the opportunity to save money on transportation and other costs associated with commuting to an office. For employers, it can lead to increased productivity and engagement among employees, as well as the potential for reduced overhead costs.
Examples of jobs that can be done remotely include many in the technology and communications industries, such as software development and customer service. Other examples include writers, graphic designers, and other creative professionals who can easily work from a home office. Some companies also allow employees in non-remote jobs, such as sales or administration, to occasionally work from home.
Telecommuting requires management by objectives whereby employees are given goals and evaluated according to their performance in achieving these goals. There are no points for showing up. This can improve productivity if implemented well.
Some employees view telecommuting as a benefit. This is a benefit that is no-cost. In fact, it is likely to reduce the employer’s costs.
The ability to work from anywhere with an internet connection increases resilience to disasters and other work disruptions. This is particularly true where a firm has highly resilient IT infrastructure that supports telecommuting tools.
Eliminating the culture of meeting in physical rooms can improve flexibility. For example, it may encourage employees in different cities and countries to cooperate as they are just as easy to contact as coworkers in the same city.
Employers often incur significant costs to provide office space and services. The costs of electronic tools for working at home are far less. In theory, employers could pay employees more to compensate them for providing their own office space, equipment and supplies.
By asking employees to work from home, employers are requiring employees to provide their own office space. In principle, this should be tax deductible for the employee. Likewise, any office equipment and supplies purchased by the employee should be deductible. This isn’t tax advice, as different tax authorities have their own rules regarding this deduction.
Telecommuting reduces or eliminates commuting. This can dramatically boost productivity and employee morale. It also reduces their transportation costs. For example, a telecommuting family may only need a single car as opposed to two vehicles.
Reductions in commuting translate to decreased energy use and other benefits such as improved air quality in a city.
Telecommuting is likely to completely change cities as workers can live further from work and roads become less busy. This may have both advantages and disadvantages. For example, it may greatly increase land use as people move to large houses in the suburbs or countryside. Telecommuting may allow roads to be repurposed for recreation, walking, cycling, small electric vehicles, community environments and beneficial commercial use such as cafe terraces.
Telecommuting increases the pool of talent that can be recruited for a position. For example, a bank in New York that begins to recruit software developers from any state without having to relocate them.
Being close to home allows employees to more easily balance work with life demands such as parenting. For example, a parent can more easily take a child to a doctor’s appointment or sporting event when they work from home.
Reduced absences due to transportation conditions such as snow or transportation strikes. Employees are also be likely to work when they have a mild illness such as a cold that may not be acceptable in an office environment. Another common source of absences is employees who need to take care of a sick child at home. Such employees are likely to continue to work where given flexible telecommuting working conditions. Telecommuting employees are also more likely to accept requests after hours and on weekends in exchange for more flexibility during core hours.
In some cases, telecommuting increases employee satisfaction due to factors such as increased flexibility and elimination of their commute. This isn’t always the case as some employees will begin to feel isolated at home.
There are also some potential disadvantages to telecommuting for both employees and employers. For employees, it can lead to feelings of isolation and disconnection from their colleagues and the company culture. It can also make it more difficult to draw clear boundaries between work and personal life, leading to potential burnout.
For employers, managing a remote workforce can be challenging, as it can be difficult to maintain consistent communication and ensure that employees are meeting their performance goals. It can also be more difficult to provide the same level of support and resources to remote workers as those who are in the office. Additionally, some jobs simply cannot be done remotely, and require employees to be physically present in an office or other work location.
Some industries have inherently lower productivity without people in the same room. For example, there is no known way to implement a complex and efficient production line with telecommuting. Other disadvantages are related to implementation. For example, there is nothing inherently less secure about telecommuting but if implemented poorly, it may greatly increase information security risk. Firms implementing telecommuting for the first time should expect challenges as efficient implementation requires a culture shift whereby norms, expectations and habits need to change.