Can Telecommuting Really Replace Office Work?
Telecommuting isn't perfect there are still issues that need to be dealt with. This article discusses the pros and cons of both being a telecommuter and using telecommuting in your business.
More and more businesses are turning towards telecommuting to help cut costs and improve employee performance. Working from home might seem like a great idea to some, but others just aren't cut out for it. However, in most instances a switch to a telecommuting work model rather than a traditional office model does mean that companies become more profitable and workers become more productive.
Telecommuting generally works in one of two ways. Sometimes all work is done off site, meetings are held over video conferencing software such as Skype, and assignments given and delivered by email or through a company server. More commonly, telecommuting is part time, and employees spend several days a week working off site and the other days in the office, or are required to come in for meetings.
The question is whether telecommuting can ever really replace the traditional office work model, and given the reasons outlined below, it looks like it may be able to. Telecommuting isn't perfect though and there are still issues that need to be dealt with. This article discusses the pros and cons of both being a telecommuter and using telecommuting in your business.
Cost is an important factor in telecommuting for a couple of reasons. The first is that the overhead costs for businesses are obviously lower if they don't need to maintain a full office. Paying office rental and utility charges to run an office can make up a huge part of any business's expenditure, and having employees work from home means that companies get savings, it's as simple as that.
Another cost factor though is that for the employee himself. It used to be that working from home and having the kind of communication necessary to do a job well and in co-operation with others was expensive. However, the advent of faster internet connections and LLU have meant that the price of running a fast home internet connection has lowered dramatically over recent years. What is LLU? Local Loop Unbundling, which means other companies can now rent space in BT phone exchanges so they can offer faster Internet conmectioms, creating more competition and therefore lower prices.
In fact, working from home can save money for both employees and companies. You might need to pay for an internet connection, or phone bills as a worker, but you're not paying for petrol or public transport to get you to work. Things as simple as being home for lunch, rather than having to leave the office to buy lunch can significantly cut down your monthly spending.
Then there's the question of employee feelings and productivity. The truth is that the majority of workers are simply happier when working from home, and happy workers mean productive workers. Being able to work on your own schedule, without someone looking over your shoulder, often means that you're just better at your job.
One of the early reasons why companies refused to let employees telecommute was simply that they were afraid that left to their own devices, employees wouldn't work. The opposite seems to be true though, and many studies have shown that telecommuting workers actually end up accomplishing more than those in an office.
Why is this? That's a tough psychological question, but it seems to be a combination of satisfaction (again, happier employees are more productive) and a kind of guilt, the idea that working from home is such a great thing that people must work harder to feel like they deserve it.
That's not to say that telecommuting is perfect though. As easy as it is to do business and run a company online these days, there are still those that don't prosper. One of the main complaints about working from home is lack of socialisation. Simply put, people get lonely. Building team morale is tough when your team don't see each other every day.
Then there is the matter of supervision. As an employer it can be difficult to make sure that a job is being done well and on schedule when your worker is living on the other side of town. Particularly for new employees this can mean taking a risk on someone's ability to complete the task at hand.
Finally, there can be somewhat of a creative block when it comes to telecommuting. Bouncing ideas off each other and brainstorming is possible online, using messaging systems, but it doesn't carry quite the same dynamic as having people together in the same room. This can mean that for creative industries such as advertising in person meetings are still a necessity.
Is it Right for You?
As a company you will need to decide whether it's possible for your workers to telecommute. Obviously, there are some professions where working from home is just going to be impossible. For many though, at least some form of telecommuting is possible, and it may significantly cut your company spending to have employees work from home. You may, however, lose a certain amount of control over jobs and projects, and may still need to have personal meetings.
As a worker, working from home can be a good choice. However, you will need a home office with the appropriate equipment and internet connection. You'll also need the kind of discipline that it takes to get your work done, despite not having someone watching you do it. You may find that you miss the office dynamic, or that you can't readily get the kind of help that you need when you need it.
It does look like telecommuting is the business model that many companies are beginning to turn to. As more people become used to working from home rather than in an office, issues such as socialisation and effective online brainstorming are going to become less usual. Will we miss working in an office? Maybe; more importantly though, if we're going to be working from home, will we be able to draw a line between our personal and professional lives? When both are taking place in the same location, this may prove the biggest obstacle to telecommuting.
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