Telecommuting is the practice of working from home. Some businesses might call it “e-commuting.” It is an arrangement that is agreed upon by the employer and employee which allows work to be completed outside of the office.
In a 2017 survey of American workers by Global Workplace Analytics and FlexJobs, there are about 3.9 million workers who are telecommuting at least 50% of the time for their job. That equates to about 3% of the total labor force in the United States. Since 2005, there has been a 115% increase in telecommuting.
Half of all workers who telecommute are above the age of 45. More than half hold a Bachelor’s degree in their career field, with those who are able to work from home earning about $4,000 more per year than those who go to the office.
Since 2010, 40% more employers in the United States offer flexible telecommuting options.
If you’re thinking about becoming a telecommuter, then here are the critical advantages and disadvantages to consider.
List of the Advantages of Telecommuting
1. Employees that telecommute stay engaged with their work.
People who are able to work from home are more productive when compared to workers who head to the office every day. They are less likely to take time off from work as well, even if they are sick. According to information published by the Society for Human Resource Management, even working remotely a few times per month pays off. 77% of workers say they were more productive, with 30% saying they did more in less time.
2. It helps an organization retain critical employees.
Providing the option to telecommute allows a company to retain their critical employees who might otherwise leave because of a personal reason, such as moving somewhere that would require a longer commute. Workers who can eliminate a long commute to work experience less stress, which helps them stay more productive because they have a better balance between life and work.
3. Everyone saves money when telecommuting is available.
Stanford University published a study which tracked a travel agency which allowed their workers to telecommute. The results showed that the employer was able to save an average of $2,000 per telecommuting employee. When workers are permitted to telecommute, it reduces all their expenses. There are fewer office supplies, furniture, and security needs for the employer. Workers get to eliminate their fuel expense for commuting. In most cases, it’s a win/win scenario.
4. Workers’ compensation is still available to telecommuters.
If you telecommute and you are formally employed (not a self-employed contractor), then workers’ compensation coverage typically extends to your home office. That means if you have an accident for some reason while you are working, then the mandated insurance may help to cover the costs of the injury. You must still fill out the required paperwork, see the doctor mandated by policy, and meet the other stipulations of coverage, however, and that can sometimes be difficult to do when you telecommute.
5. You get to work in what is comfortable for you.
Most businesses require their workers to follow some type of dress code. If you’re a telecommuter, the only dress code you must follow is one when you’re required to appear on camera or make an appearance at the office. For the days when you get to work on your own, you can work in your bathrobe if you wish. It is that level of comfort which allows workers to be more productive as they are working.
6. There are fewer work-related restrictions to worry about.
If you work at an office, you might find limits placed on certain behaviors that you find are helpful for staying product. At your home desk, you can listen to whatever music you want. If you work better with the TV on in the background, then you can make that happen. You can put whatever you want on your desk because it is your space. There aren’t the same restrictions on using personal devices at work to worry about either.
7. Some employers allow telecommuters to work when it is convenient.
If you’re not the type of person who enjoys the daily 8am to 5pm grind, then your employer may give you some different options. Some telecommuters might be able to get up early to work, starting as soon as 4am if they wish. Others might be able to work a second-shift schedule, from 2pm to 11pm, when that structure is more productive for them. Parents might be able to work a split schedule that accommodates what their family requires for school, medical appointments, and similar needs.
8. There is less lost time when telecommuting is properly arranged.
Even if a worker commutes 15 minutes one-way to the office, that is 30 minutes of lost time for them. Employers lose time during transitions upon arrival, breaks, and when workers leave. Telecommuting eliminates all of these hassles. When workers are ready to be productive, they log into the system to start working. They log out when their finished. Even with the potential lack of creativity or collaboration, this reduction of down time can offset many of the negatives found with this working structure.
List of the Disadvantages of Telecommuting
1. It only works when employees are self-disciplined.
Telecommuting does not always promote extra productivity. Working from home offers many distractions that can take people away from their job. If the kids need something, parents may be forced to stop working to address that issue. The television and Internet will become major distractions. For many families, the boundary between personal and professional responsibilities are blurred for telecommuting workers, which may create internal conflicts that are difficult to resolve.
2. There is still a cost element to consider for the worker.
Some employers offer the necessary equipment to telecommute to their workers. Others do not, expecting the employee to use their own computers, phones, and technology. For some workers, they may not be able to afford the cost to purchase what they need to work from home, which then forces their decision to go to the office. You might save money in the long run, but it may require an investment to telecommute in the first place.
3. Workers are often left on their own when telecommuting.
When you work from home, there are fewer social activities for you to enjoy with your co-workers. People who are able to socialize at work help to build an environment of understanding, trust, and support that is beneficial to the workplace. Because telecommuters are not part of that environment, they may be excluded from collaborative projects where their expertise would benefit the company. There are typically fewer networking events for those who work from home as well.
4. It can be a drain on individual creativity.
Many moments of creativity are sparked by conversations that people have with others. Without these conversations, there are more difficulties when finding a bit of needed innovation. Although telecommuting employees are more productive, they may not be as creative. Without a meaningful presence at the office, those who work from home could be left behind when it comes to promotions, raises, and other benefits that are tied to individual performances in creativity.
5. Employers don’t know about the working conditions at home.
Telecommuters are changing the way traditional protections, such as workers’ compensation, are handled for companies. Unless someone personally inspects the home office of a worker every day, which isn’t feasible, then you do not know what their working conditions happen to be. Some workers might even choose to telecommute in locations that are unsafe. There must be clear guidelines issued by the employer, in writing, which are agreed upon by the worker to ensure all parties benefit from this setup.
6. There is an increased risk of privacy and security issues.
Employers which allow for telecommuting must maintain network protections that are effective and safe. When an employee accesses an internal network from an external location, there is a greater risk that the security measures employed could be breached. It only takes one breach to suffer a data loss that could be costly, which is why company-issued equipment should be used whenever possible. Telecommuters should not be given administrator privileges.
7. Some employers do not experience a cost savings.
To achieve the best possible results from telecommuting, employers should purchase a first-party and a third-party insurance policy. The first-party policy would protect the assets of the company, including internal records, expenses, and hardcopy files. You’d want the third-party policy to cover any defense costs or settlements that would be required should a data loss occurs.
These telecommuting pros and cons show us that there are several benefits that employers and workers both enjoy with this arrangement. There are also specific risks which must be accounted for to eliminate potential risks and unexpected costs. The practice of telecommuting might not be right for everyone, but it could be right for you.
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