What is telecommuting?

You might have heard that an increasing number of employees telecommute. But, what is telecommuting? Also known as ‘telework’ or ‘work from home’, telecommuting is an arrangement that allows employees to work away from the company’s offices. 

This telecommuting definition refers to working from an employee’s own home, but also includes remote work from suitable and secure workspaces, such as libraries or other private premises. Some employees telecommute full time, while others have the chance to telecommute certain days per week or on special occasions (e.g. during pregnancy, health issues, etc.). 

Telework is becoming more and more popular recently as, for a great many jobs, the majority of resources and tools needed to complete daily job activities are online. Telecommuters connect with their coworkers via online platforms and visit their offices occasionally if needed. 

Here are a few examples of popular telecommuting jobs: 

Despite the rising popularity of work-from-home opportunities offered by employers, telecommuting is not an option for every type of job. There are job duties that require physical contact – for example, counseling, welcoming guests or meeting with customers. Usually, people who work as Office Managers, Security Guards, Sales Associates, etc. aren’t able to telecommute. 

The pros and cons of telecommuting

Many companies increasingly craft work from home policies recognizing the benefits of telecommuting. These are the most important ones:

  • Telecommuting boosts productivity. An employee’s home is a quieter place, allowing them to focus on the task at hand for longer periods. Employees also feel comfortable at home and this may boost their efficiency.
  • Telecommuting increases general well-being. Work from home enables more flexible scheduling and a better work-life balance. Commute often increases stress levels as it exposes people to extra noise and fatigue. Allowing people to work from home reduces these effects and adds to overall productivity. Also, if employees come down with a cough or other contagious symptoms, they can choose to work from home so as not to infect others in the office. 
  • Telecommuting reduces material and environmental costs. Telework saves some office costs (such as the costs of lunches or free snacks) and may reduce the environmental impact of commuting (e.g. car fumes). 
  • Telecommuting increases employee retention. Most employees who telecommute are happier at their jobs and less likely to change companies. This is because they feel more autonomous, less stressed on a daily basis, and overall trusted by their managers.

But, there are two sides to the coin. Telecommuting has drawbacks, too, both for employees and employers:

  • Telecommuting might affect productivity. Employees may sometimes find it hard to set clear boundaries between job duties and other responsibilities (e.g. taking care of children, cooking lunch) that occur when they telecommute. This means that they might get distracted from job tasks, which has a negative effect on their productivity.
  • Telecommuting can create a feeling of isolation. Some employees may feel left out when they are away from their office since interaction with their colleagues is limited. They may feel they’re missing out on the chit-chat and fun during breaks. These feelings of isolation might have a negative effect on morale and performance.
  • Telecommuting may cause problems with communication. Relying only on technology to communicate with managers and co-workers can be challenging at times, no matter how tech-savvy a company is. Employees might miss out on important information that is vital in understanding a project or incident. Differences in time zones can also create problems. 

Despite the disadvantages, many telecommuters discover effective ways to remain productive. For example, some create small workspaces in their house with limited distractions or complete their personal errands before the start of their working hours.

Having explored the definition of telecommuting and its pros and cons, we can conclude that telecommuting adds good value to the labor world. It has created many flexible working opportunities, both for employees and employers, with better work-life balance. By preparing a detailed work from home policy, companies and workers will be able to reap the benefits of telecommuting and avoid blockages in productivity or effective communication. 

If you are interested in creating telecommuting job opportunities in your own company, check out our work from home policy.

See also our comprehensive library of company policies.

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