For many companies, telecommuting is a strategy that is either already implemented or at least being contemplated. This article will not address the potential “loss of worker collaboration” component (which will be addressed in our next article), but rather we will speak more directly to the question – “Is it right for your business?”
In the interest of full disclosure, I should point out that I write this post while telecommuting. Yes, I am at home and no one is here to distract me. So count me in among the 86% of telecommuters who say they are more productive, the 73% who claim to eat healthier, and the 80% who claim to maintain a better work-life balance. This, according to data on the Flexjobs.com website in Telecommuting by the Numbers: Gains, Losses, and Everything in Between, reflects the attitudes on the American telecommuter.
However, while telecommuting works for me, I am not sure that asking a telecommuter about their productivity, health, and work-life balance leads to an objective conclusion. It is like asking a restaurant owner what he thinks about the quality of the food they serve. Still, consideration of telecommuting has merit.
Mary Noonan and Jennifer Glass, in an article written for the Bureau of Labor Statistics – The hard truth about telecommuting acknowledge that certain industries (high tech, financial, and communication for example) might be appropriate for telecommuting. However, the preface of the article speaks to the downside of telecommuting: “Telecommuting has not permeated the American workplace, and where it has become commonly used, it is not helpful in reducing work-family conflicts; telecommuting appears, instead, to have become instrumental in the general expansion of work hours, facilitating workers’ needs for additional work time beyond the standard workweek and/or the ability of employers to increase or intensify work demands among their salaried employees.”
Now that we’ve looked at arguments for both sides, a video entitled CSC Town Hall Sound Bites: Does Telecommuting Hurt Productivity?, offers a balanced viewpoint articulated in a town meeting style format.
If you are considering implementing a telecommuting strategy for your business, I suggest that three questions be answered:
- Does my business lend itself to the adoption of telecommuting in some fashion?
- If so, which employees would have the option to telecommute?
- What should the telecommunication policy look like?
Is Telecommuting right for my business?
If the answer to this question is “no”, then there is no need to address the two questions that follow. But if your business is one that uses electronic communication regularly with your employees and clients, a telecommuting policy might work for you.
Which employees should have the option to telecommute?
Generally, employees who work independently for considerable amounts time might be good candidates. However, for those employees where regular collaboration with co-workers is an important component of their workday, telecommuting might not be a good option. Also, given the complexities of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), it is recommended that only those employees exempt from FLSA (i.e. salaried employees) be considered.
What should a telecommunications policy look like?
Since you are electing to pay employees who are not working at your facility, it is important that accountability be measured appropriately. Also, employees should be able to work without distraction from home. (For example, giving an employee the ability to work from home to save on day care expenses is not recommended.) Lastly, your policy should be reviewed regularly to ensure that telecommuting works as you originally intended.