In our ever-advancing world filled with all kinds of technology, the previously impossible is now possible, the impractical now practical. Teleworking comes in all shapes, sizes and varieties of arrangements. Teleworking employees may work from home 100 percent of the time, across the globe from their employer or just one or two days a week in the same community.
According to a 2012 poll conducted by Reuters, approximately one in five workers, globally, works remotely on a regular basis. With high-speed, reliable Internet available at home and a plethora of toys, gadgets and resources to facilitate working remotely – tablets, smartphones, video-conferencing, as well as Internet-based document sharing, meeting space and timekeeping systems – teleworking is easier than ever.
Could it also be better? Is it preferable to the traditional onsite office space everyone reports to from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday? The answer depends largely on your type of business and the nature of the work of your employees. Assembly line workers in a factory certainly cannot work from home but what about a communications specialist or an analyst? If your employees spend the great majority of their time on a computer, then maybe you should consider a teleworking policy.
There are a lot of reasons to consider a teleworking policy. It can be used as an employee incentive or perk, making you more attractive to employees than your non-teleworking competitors and improving employee satisfaction and retention. Comprehensive teleworking programs can decrease overhead by reducing the need for office space, utilities, parking and other costs related to managing a facility. It reduces traffic, congestion and the negative impact of burning fossil fuels on the environment.
Still not convinced? If teleworking is new to you, maybe you are afraid that the cons outweigh the pros. You may be inclined to think that allowing employees to work from home is giving them permission to slack off, that productivity will decrease. But consider that if your employees primarily work on the computer, they must be producing something on it. You can see how much they are producing and review the quality of their work from your computer. This is how you would be reviewing their work if they were in the office with you.
So, is it really any different than if they are in the room next door finding ways to slack off by surfing the web, texting their friends and checking social media sites? Haven’t we all, at some point, turned that five-minute coffee break with a colleague into a 30-minute one, catching up on the kids or your latest vacation?
I have worked in a variety of teleworking arrangements, as an employee and as “the boss,” for over ten years. I have done it in the big corporate setting and as a business owner. What I have found is this: Whatever your working arrangement, you as are likely to encounter the same number of slackers and stellar performers in a teleworking environment as you do in a traditional one.
If someone wants to find a distraction, they will. If someone is serious about getting business done, they will. Make your expectations known and put controls in place, like check-ins and deadlines. Set the tone and the culture just as you would onsite and I think you will find the benefits to your employees and your bottom line far outweigh the drawbacks.