Telecommuting, also known as remote work, is a contemporary approach in which an employee offers services to an employer from home or any other preferred workplace. Telecommuting means to contribute to work without having to physically commute to work. To put it simply, telecommuting means working remotely or working from home.
While we might instinctively think that people won’t work without supervision, some studies have actually found that people are more productive while working in a remote setting. With that said, mastery over remote work isn’t easy as it requires focus and self-discipline to cope with the distractions. However, with the right tools, one can undoubtedly scale productivity while telecommuting.
The new ways of working were initially shrugged off as a trend preferred by Millennials and Generation Z. However, there has been a surge in the popularity of telecommuting lately. Remote work has become a globally acclaimed phenomenon with a growing number of companies embracing it.
The transition from old ways of working to telecommuting can be a bit strenuous if you are ill-prepared. To facilitate your transition to a remote work setting, we have prepared detailed guidelines along with the best practices that may come in handy. Furthermore, we will also be recommending a few useful tools to help you ensure employees’ productivity when telecommuting.
Telecommuting Amid COVID-19 Pandemic
Telecommuting isn’t a completely new phenomenon or something the world was unfamiliar with before the COVID-19 pandemic. Sure, a growing number of companies have switched to remote operations due to this horrific disease; but, it had been reported that even before COVID-19, 16% of the American human resources either worked from home partially or full-time.
There are a lot of case studies of companies that have been operational remotely and quite successful at it. These companies not only include small-medium enterprises but also the big sharks such as Dell, SAP, Amazon, Hilton, Salesforce, GitLab, GitHub, Gartner, Cisco, Johnson & Johnson, Novartis, American Express, and more.
A survey conducted by Mercer about the global impact of COVID-19 on businesses revealed that in coming 3 to 6 months most companies would consider remote working as a top workforce priority, followed by flexible working. Another survey by Owl Labs revealed that remote workers are happier, more loyal, less stressed, and able to manage work-life conflict better than their on-site counterparts.
COVID-19 is one of the most horrid pandemics the world has ever seen. With millions of people infected and thousands dead, the only way to evade COVID-19 is social distancing. Most companies are not left with any other option but to embrace telecommuting as we witness a global lockdown. Given the circumstances, telecommuting is a wise strategy to stay operational, especially when there is no cure or vaccine for COVID-19.
Work preferences also play a huge role in the growing popularity of telecommuting. As per an article published by Forbes, around 50% of millennials work as freelancers. Furthermore, human resources comprising Generation Z are stronger advocates of workplace freedom compared to preceding generations. COVID-19 has given them one more reason to prefer telecommuting compared to traditional work practices.
Top 5 Telecommuting Industries
Digital nomads around the globe are fascinated by telecommuting; but, despite being the talk of the town, work from home is not best suited for all industries. Some industries can telecommute partially; however, for many others, physical presence is a must to operate seamlessly, or so they say. Here are the top 5 industries telecommuting is best suited for:
- Real Estate
- Sales and Marketing
Thanks to technology, we have been experiencing the service industries to go digital over the years. This facilitates not only a service provider as operational costs are reduced but also a recipient with respect to convenience. Thus, aforesaid industries are better suited for telecommuting compared to others because the physical presence of a service provider and a recipient is not mandatory in most scenarios.
Pros and Cons of Telecommuting
Telecommuting may be alluring and there sure are perks associated with working from home, but there’s a flip side of everything. It’s better to look at the bright side. However, it is the company’s responsibility to adopt the best practices and use the right tools to avoid any unforeseen damages.
Here are some of the pros of telecommuting to support your transition from old ways of working to a remote work setting.
- Telecommuting saves time and expenditure incurred on commuting to work and back home.
- Telecommuting helps companies to cut real estate, maintenance, and overhead expenses.
- Flexible working hours for employees.
- Minimal supervision and micromanagement.
- Telecommuting is an excellent recipe for work-life balance.
- Telecommuting empowers employees to pursue personal objectives alongside work.
- Telecommuting improves productivity if you have the right team.
- Telecommuting eliminates pressure and gives autonomy to employees to work at their own pace.
Nevertheless, it’s not always sunshine and rainbows when working from home. So, let’s have a look at the cons of telecommuting.
- Telecommuting can backfire if your employees are not the right fit for a work from home culture.
- Communication at work is often affected as there is a minimal likelihood of personal interaction with coworkers and team managers.
- Employees’ productivity might be affected in a remote work environment as there are a lot of distractions when working from home.
- If not equipped with the right tools, it’s troublesome for managers to coordinate with teams and monitor the performance of employees working from home.
- Work from home routine can adversely affect employees’ motivation as they don’t physically interact with their peers.
- Telecommuting can jeopardize the company’s security as there is a risk of unauthorized access to information and confidential documents.
Significance of Telecommuting Policy
Telecommuting may sound like a casual work tactic or a fancy approach preferred by the new generation, but there’s much more to it than that. Telecommuting might seem akin to your traditional ways of working, but it’s a completely different phenomenon.
COVID-19 is a wake-up call to consider telecommuting as a contingency plan anyway. You never know when a disaster or pandemic like this might strike again. However, before embracing the new ways of working, you have to set some ground rules rather than expecting things to work on their own.
No matter the area of your business, policymakers have to deal with time and resource constraints to set up the field for some action – the same goes for telecommuting. However, to streamline your business operations and ensure your employees’ productivity, a telecommuting policy is a must. Without clearly defined telecommuting guidelines, your house of cards is destined to crumble.
In a remote work setting, miscommunication is inevitable as there is minimal likelihood of personal interaction. Furthermore, unclear expectations can severely hinder the progress to achieve the set milestones. Hence, it is highly recommended to set clear workflows and communicate responsibilities when working from home. It’s not easy to formulate fitting telecommuting guidelines and adopt best practices, but we’re here to help you out with that.
Telecommuting Policy Guidelines
There is no perfect recipe or secret ingredient to create an ideal telecommuting policy guidelines that are best suited for every industry out there. There are different parameters that come into play, and each industry has distinct characteristics.
Nevertheless, we will provide you the guidelines that are generally befitting. We advise you to implement the prescribed telecommuting policy guidelines once you have consulted with your company’s legal advisor.
Choose the Right People
The remote work environment is best suited for self-starters and motivated employees. Thus, you need to be careful when it comes to employee onboarding. Choose the team that performs with minimal guidance and requires no supervision to accomplish daily tasks. Hence, you might have to revise your employee selection criteria.
Even in a remote work setting, you must have a structured organizational hierarchy where all the roles and responsibilities are clearly defined.
One of the reasons for remote work’s popularity is the flexibility associated with it. However, there are a few things that must be defined and clearly communicated such as official work timings during the day and work hours per week.
It is recommended to use the same telecommuting tools across the board to streamline operations. It’s better to have a centralized hub of information rather than multiple access points. Letting employees use telecommuting tools as per their preference would not only make it difficult to keep information organized but also increase the likelihood of data security risks.
Certain security protocols must be put into effect to safeguard company data and protect confidential information from unauthorized access. Thus, using telecommuting tools with enterprise-grade security is highly recommended.
Work from home encompasses flexibility but you have to make sure that your team is approachable if need be. The preferred mode of communication(s) and channels must be clearly defined. It is recommended to select the ways that work best for you as per the industry practice and past experience.
It is recommended to carefully craft the KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) to measure employee performance and team achievements. The milestones being pursued by an employee must be in harmony with the company’s vision and objectives. Clearly communicate how an employee’s performance will be tracked along with the evaluation criteria in order to avoid any confusion or mishaps.
Perks and Privileges
Perks and privileges of the service must be clearly defined along with the eligibility criteria. This includes the leave policy, medical benefits, health insurance, dependents care, and retirement plan.
Onboard the key stakeholders involved in the policy formulation and approval process. Furthermore, it is highly recommended to consult with your legal advisor before implementing aforesaid telecommuting guidelines.
Top 5 Best Telecommuting Practices
The best telecommuting practices are like your standard dos and don’ts of business with a spice of digital agility. Telecommuting isn’t something you would get used to overnight, it would take time to attain mastery over the process. Nevertheless, it is our responsibility to educate you about the best telecommuting practices that may come in handy when going remote. Here are the telecommuting practices recommended:
1. Create Transparent Workflows
Telecommuting eliminates excessive supervision and micromanagement. Therefore, you need to create transparent workflows where everyone is familiar with the tasks they’re responsible for.
Communication doesn’t need to be in-person in order to be effective. Thanks to technology, there are many tools to facilitate communication in a remote work setting. Be it organized meetings or impromptu conferences, with the right tools deployed, it would be as if you never left office at all.
3. Embrace Cloud Technology
Tracking the progress of multiple projects is never easy, let alone doing it in a remote work setting. Cloud technology really comes in handy here as it enables team managers to supervise assigned tasks and manage multiple projects via simple and easy to use tools.
Cloud technology liberates you from locational constraints – enabling you to be operational on the go. No matter where you are, all you need is a stable internet connection to execute the deliverables. By deploying the web-based project management tools, the team managers can seamlessly create, assign, and measure the progress of tasks due.
4. Be a Problem Solver
Telecommuting and micromanagement do not go hand-in-hand. However, there’s a difference between micromanagement and helping the ones in need. Hence, you must always be there to support your team members. Schedule a conference call with your team at least once a week. Don’t just ask questions about their tasks, try to explore the bottlenecks. How would you be able to solve the problems if you don’t even know they exist?
5. Use the Right Tools
The transition from old work tactics to the new ways of working might seem frightening but it really isn’t. Thanks to technology, there are many tools that can facilitate your business operations when working from home. However, don’t try to reinvent the wheel. Pick the ones that are best suited for your company as per the industry practices.
Top 5 Telecommuting Tools
Selecting the right tools can be tricky, especially when you have newly transitioned from old school business tactics to telecommuting. Thus, we have taken the liberty to recommend the top 3 telecommuting tools to get you started.
uShare.to is a multipurpose tool that enables telecommuters to streamline effective communication at work. The tool serves as a platform where anyone can interact with everyone. uShare facilitates team collaboration by empowering managers to create different chat rooms for their teams. Since uShare offers enterprise-grade security, your data is safe from any unauthorized access.
Furthermore, uShare enables you to host audio and video conference calls to interact with your team and clients. uShare is a web-based app that is compatible with all leading browsers and operating systems. Hence, you can access uShare from anywhere using your device of choice – PC or mobile.
Telecommuting has become a preferred way of working by millennials and generation Z because of the privileges and freedom associated with it. However, a flipside to this is the distractions of being active in a remote work setting. TimeDoctor is a brilliant app that takes the hassle out of remote team management.
TimeDoctor is a time tracking app that enables remote team managers to monitor if the work hours are being utilized productively. With TimeDoctor, you can track time spent on tasks, frequency of breaks, and web/app usage. Moreover, the app sends automatic off-track reminders and generates detailed reports – showing break down of employee productivity with respect to the KPIs.
3. Google Drive
Google Drive is another web-based application that we would recommend. Google Drive can serve as a centralized hub of information for your company where all important documents can be accessed. However, we would strongly recommend you to create a backup of your data. Keeping all eggs in a single basket is not a wise strategy.
Trello is a cloud project management app that facilitates you to create transparent workflows. With Trello, you can create tasks and assign them to different teams. Progress of the tasks created and assigned can be tracked from a dashboard-style window – giving you visibility of all project operations.
5. A VPN
When you’re active in a remote work setting, you might want to make the most of the freedom that comes with it. There’s no harm in showing up for work from your favorite restaurant or coffee shop but there’s a risk associated with using a public Wi-Fi hotspot.
A VPN can really come in handy here as the tool encrypts the information shared or received online and minimizes the risk of data infiltration. Moreover, a VPN helps you overcome any content-based or geographic restrictions – facilitating your access to information.
Telecommuting best practices prescribed in this article along with the policy guidelines may vary across different industries. There is no fixed standard or generalized template to achieve excellence in remote work strategy. The best telecommuting policy can only be created via trial and error.
However, the guidelines recommended in this article may come in handy if you are new to the work from home culture. Hence, we recommend you to take key stakeholders on-board and consult with your legal advisor before implementing prescribed telecommuting guidelines.