The pandemic fostered telecommuting and opened up a host of telecommuting jobs. Companies and employees are accepting this as the new normal, sparing activities which would hamper work.
Statistics show that around 50% of the workforce in America are working from home in 2021. This figure was only 3.2% back in 2018.
What is Telecommuting?
Telecommuting is working outside the boundaries of a company’s office by leveraging technology. Telecommuting doesn’t have to mean only working from home, it can be any location. These could be a coffee shop, library, or co-working space as well. In essence, the reference is to any location not existing within the office of an organization.
Telecommuting is an example of flextime, and teams collaborate using different software. Technological advancements are the only reason that telecommuting has been able to gain adoption the way that it has in the pandemic. Telecommuting isn’t the right mode of operation for all jobs. Some do require being on-site due to the physical limitations of the role.
But in the pandemic, even industries like finance, customer service, and business process outsourcing have embraced it. In fact, during the peak of the pandemic, in some COVID wards, nurses were taking care of patients while doctors were providing telemedicine consultations.
Telecommuting Tools or Communication Set-up
Telecommunication tools used to connect with coworkers and employers can range from the telephone, online chat programs, video meeting platforms, and email. Slack, Zoom, Google Meet, and MS Teams are some of the common team collaboration software used by companies of all sizes.
With the use of such tools, there are additional permutations and combinations of flextime that can be provided to employees. Now organizations are even open to offering partial remote work during the week to employees looking to have a more flexible work schedule.
Pros and Cons of Telecommute Jobs
With restrictions easing up, there are endless debates about what working style should organizations opt for. HR needs to answer if telecommuting empowers working structures or if it is best to revert to the post-pandemic status.
In such a situation, it makes sense to weigh the benefits of telecommuting against its disadvantages.
Pros of Telecommute Jobs
- Telecommuting prevents rigidity in work hours or location, perceived as a productivity trait. Employees get the liberty to work from any place and anytime, allowing them to have work-life integration.
- Challenges related to commuting and large office rentals are nipped at the bud.
- Statistics point employees are happier working from the comfort of their homes. Companies that provide the option of remote working have a demonstrably higher employee retention rate.
Cons of Telecommute Jobs
- One disadvantage of telecommuting is feeling socially isolated. A feeling of loneliness creeps in because of the work pressure and lack of social interaction with peers.
- People who share their homes with family, friends, or even have pets are more prone to constant distractions.
- Although there is work-life integration, there may sometimes be no balance. Employees may feel that they have no clear demarcation between work time and personal time. This situation can lead to burnout and dissatisfaction even in the most dedicated employees.
How to Telecommute Effectively?
Here are five strategies we would want you to understand if you are managing a socially distanced team:
The principal factor managers and HR need to consider is connecting with employees during work hours. Efficient communication is indeed the differentiator here. Irrespective of the issues, employees need to be kept in the loop.
Periodic Manager-Employee Catch-Ups
Connecting with your employees daily would ensure that everyone knows what needs to be done and doesn’t feel isolated. This doesn’t need to be a video call, even a Slack standup would work. But ensure that the check-ins aren’t so frequent that your employees feel micromanaged. Your employees should feel that they are trusted and respected every step of the way.
Weekly/Bi-Weekly Team Meetings
Team meetings every once in a while helps in improving collaboration across teams. Getting in touch with your colleagues once a week ensures that employees don’t feel disengaged from one another.
Rewards and Recognition
Telecommuting can make employees feel that their work isn’t being recognized. Ensure that you have some form of peer recognition initiative in place. That way when employees see colleagues going above and beyond, the whole team is notified. Offering monetary rewards and even swag bags can help too.
These types of morale-building initiatives can help create a strong team.
Initiate Log Off Times
Managers should monitor employee log-off timings to ensure that they aren’t pushing themselves to exhaustion. It is very easy to become workaholics while telecommuting either due to a sense of responsibility or the lack of boundaries.
Flexible working culture should endorse a work-life integration that still gives employees free time.
Telecommuting v/s Remote Work
A common perception of telecommuting jobs is that they are a synonym for remote working. We get to know the key differences between them only when we analyze them closely.
Since there are a few minor differences, managers must master managing both setups.
Remote work implies individuals who are away from the company’s office location. A remote workforce consists of employees who need not be situated in the same city, state, or country as the organization’s location. It also is used to refer to employees who are traveling and are working remotely.
Managers looking to ace this work setup management need to establish firm rules and introduce strategies for remote cohesion. In a remote work setup, it is integral to have collaboration software and cloud storage.
Trust and mutual respect need to be the mainstays of remote work. Setting benchmarks is required, but they mustn’t exceed the expectations of a traditional in-office employee. Managers must refrain from making pointless or unrealistic demands, demands which in-office workers would never tolerate.
It refers to employees who work from home a few days a week or even permanently but live within proximity of the office. Telecommuting is a more temporary version of remote work. Such employees may work from home for a brief duration, but companies can call them in at any time. In fact, their policy may include coming in to work a few days a week. This may be for meetings or activities.
Incorporating an even better policy framework of collaboration, like frequent in-person check-ins and more, helps telecommuters develop a sense of belonging.
The option to telecommute cuts short overhead expenses and allows employees to work from home partially. In general, introducing a telecommuting policy post-pandemic can help employees work comfortably.
Do you Need a Telecommuting Policy Framework?
We have some statistics that signal telecommuting is here to stay, and there is a need for a telework policy. Americans account for around 43% of those who are teleworking and have embraced the culture of working remotely. Also, a higher portion of the workforce, as much as 77%, actually exceeded productivity goals while working out of office.
Since the pandemic has set in, changes in work culture have become more pronounced. With in-office attendance increasing, we need to ease employees back in. A great way to do so would be to introduce a teleworking policy. One that is fair to the business and employees too.
Creating and enforcing a telecommuting policy can help streamline technology requirements, location prerequisites, and schedules for all employees. It would make it easy for managers to manage the workforce and also ensure productivity for both in-office and telecommuting employees.
The Main Categories of a Telecommuting Policy
Companies should deploy agreements and checklists based on telecommuting. Be sure to check the official rules of your state for telecommuting before drafting a policy. These are the taxation requirements for telecommuting employees and should be a key part of your policy.
The catch here is to hire the right candidate for the job, i.e., a person whose morale and working attitude suit the company’s requirements. In some cases, the level of productivity might not align, and the lack of the boss’s physical presence is the cause.
Managers and HR must collaborate to identify the factors which would keep the company and employees working towards a common goal. These requirements can be termed as eligibility criteria, and employees must meet them all. For instance, these can include the nature of a job role, responsibility to be undertaken, communication methods, and internet stability.
The policy of business hours diminished here, and employees should get flexibility in work hours. Employers must trust employees that they would get the work done. Employees, on the other hand, must feel responsible to abide by all deadlines and work requirements.
Security and Tools
A company should pick the tools with care. Tools are a crucial medium of work, and companies must not leave any space for breach via unsecured public networks. Companies should adopt best practices to safeguard data and stay protected. These could include a mandatory VPN. For a more thorough look into what can be done from a security standpoint for telecommuting employees, refer to this article.
Companies must choose communication channels providing easy collaboration and discussions. Priority must be mediums that let team members connect with ease. These can include Slack, MS Teams, GChat, or even Discord.
Employee Monitoring Tools
Policy Negligence Consequences
Any policy needs to include a list of consequences for detractors. Over the past year, many companies have had to take disciplinary actions against employees abusing the remote working policy. It is thus a necessary evil to have a protocol in place for detractors.
Telecommuting Policy Sample
If you wish to use this for your company, just replace “COMPANY” with your organization’s name.
Definition of Telecommuting
COMPANY defines telecommuting as working remotely from anywhere within 50 kilometers of your home on a full or part-time basis. Teleworking is not a right, but a privilege granted to employees with tenure.
COMPANY reserves the right to terminate any teleworking arrangement with a week’s notice to employees. It isn’t mandatory for any employee to telework unless a public health emergency emerges. They have the right to refuse if the option is made available to them.
Eligibility for Teleworking
Teleworking will only be offered to employees:
- Who’s worked with COMPANY for longer than a year
- With a role suited to remote work
- A positive evaluation of them being potentially successful as teleworkers
- With managers who can successfully manage remote teams
COMPANY need not publicly declare the reasons for rejection. Upon acceptance:
- Both the manager and employee seeking telecommuting privileges must complete a training course
- The course is valid for a period of 2 years from certification
- All teleworkers must sign contracts
Compensation and Work Timings
There will be no change in any of the following when employees participate in the teleworking program:
- Work Status
- Work Responsibilities
- Expected Hours Worked
- Pay Period
Telecommuters will be expected to work the same timings as in-office employees.
COMPANY at its own discretion can choose to provide the following to telecommuters:
- A company laptop
- Internet reimbursements
The employee must use the company laptop only for work. COMPANY will continue to provide maintenance for the company equipment.
COMPANY will provide a one-time home office reimbursement of up to $1000. The employee can choose to use it for:
- Power Backup
- Office Equipment
- Additional Office Supplies
If any expense cannot be categorized into any of these, reach out to HR for clarification.
Telecommuting Request Process
All requests are approved/rejected on a case-by-case basis. To begin the process, reach out to HR to fill out the “Telecommuting Request Form”.
Best Practices to Recruit for Telecommuting Jobs
- Be open regarding the roles that allow candidates to work remotely
- Clarify taxation in the beginning
- Draft what your expectations and requirements from a candidate are
- Draw a brief structure of communication and reporting, and how often employees should report their obligations
- Choose the productivity apps, communication apps, and other tools that best suit the company’s requirements.
- Ensure that the sheer number of tools is not a cause for exhaustion in employees
- Send out surveys and ask for feedback in case you have just started with a remote setup. A lot of companies have difficulty in the initial phase, and feedback helps companies understand what needs to change.
Key Takeaways of Telecomutting Post-Pandemic
To monitor the success of the remote framework, managers must use applications and software to keep an eye on the team. Furthermore, it would work if companies draft the aspects and the aspects with room for improvement for employees.
Are you interested in introducing a telecommuting policy for your employees?