Will telecommuting (work from home) jobs become more attractive as the cost of commuting to work rises? It would certainly seem that way.
For everyday commuters, steep commuting expenses hurt the family budget and in turn affect vacations and discretionary spending.
Environmental consciousness and the willingness of employers to save office expenses and retain valued employees - who now commute an average of 8,000 miles per year - are becoming added incentives for employers to consider telecommuting arrangements.
There's no question that employees are becoming increasingly attracted to job offers that allow them telecommuting privileges at least a few days per week. Even workers who hadn't considered telecommuting in the past are beginning to be attracted to telecommuting jobs.
Businesses – especially small businesses that can offer workers fewer benefits – may find it increasingly difficult to retain good workers unless they make telecommuting an option. High commuting expenses and the growing "green" movement present golden opportunities for telecommuting arrangements to blossom.
Telecommuting arrangements must be based on mutual trust. Businesses need to trust that their telecommuting employees will get the work done without missing target dates or sacrificing quality. Telecommuting employees need to trust that their physical absence from the office won't have a negative impact on their standing in the company and they won't grow to become isolated from the company's culture.
Both sides should set some ground rules before embarking on telecommuting arrangements.
Telecommuting arrangements can work quite well if work objectives are clearly defined and results are measurable. "Management by walking around" is not a style that works for telecommuting, so managers need to be receptive to more of a "management by objective" model. Managers need to clearly define goals and expectations and then be able to communicate them clearly to the employee. The telecommuting employee's performance then needs to be measured on the achievement of these objectives.
Communication may be the single most important factor in any work-at-home arrangement. Since it's not possible to drop in on a telecommuting employee or have important news conveyed around the water cooler, channels of communication between telecommuters and their managers need to be open. Again, the manager's style and the employee's style of communication need to be in alignment.
For example, if a manager wants to make the telephone the primary means of communication for telecommuting employees, some consistency can be developed so that the employees are not constantly interrupted by the telephone. The flexibility of working at home allows telecommuters to be more productive, but they need to be given the opportunity to prove it.
The cost of teleconferencing equipment has dropped to the point where teleconferencing by phone or video teleconferencing can be effective means of communication between telecommuters and their offices. During phone conferences, managers need to be aware of participants they're not hearing from and draw then into the discussion by asking them an occasional direct question.
Email can be an excellent means of communication and its main advantage is that everything is in writing. For the telecommuter who is constantly interrupted by email, this can also be a major distraction. Employers should not expect telecommuters to respond immediately to every email message. Instant messaging can be used for that purpose or for having interactive conversations in nearly real time. What email and instant messaging lack are the physical expressions people use when they speak face-to-face as well as tone of voice. That can be a benefit when someone's physical gestures may imply anger or may result in an unintended reaction, but it can also be a drawback when a comment that would have not been taken as negative because of the context in which it was made suddenly seems like a slam in writing.
Employers can also consider establishing secure network connections that allow telecommuters to directly access the company's network at home when telecommuting just as they would do if they were in the office. Additionally, telecommuting employees can save files to the network where they can be viewed – perhaps collaborated on by others - and backed up regularly along with the rest of the company's digital assets.
Because face-to-face time is greatly reduced in a telecommuting situation, those who work at home even just a few days per week may feel like they're "out of sight, out of mind" and that their ability to climb the corporate ladder is hampered by their telecommuting. Managers can help alleviate the problem by maintaining regular contact with their home workers, by scheduling occasional video or in-person meetings with other team members and by suggesting an occasional social outing where remote workers can gather as a group and share their telecommuting experiences.
Social interaction is more important to some telecommuters than others, but for those who do not interact well in person, a work at home telecommuting arrangement can be a very positive, productive, possibly even career-enhancing experience.
Some telecommuting workers develop a feeling of isolation and loneliness after telecommuting for an extended period of time. Many feel the need for human interaction and if they can't get it at home while they are telecommuting during the work day, they should either reconsider their telecommuting arrangement or make it a point to get out in public or stop in at the office occasionally.
Will telecommuting become the lifestyle of the future? It's certainly possible with today's technology and the issues that face both employees and employers. The biggest remaining stumbling blocks to telecommuting are probably resistant managers who feel the need to keep their employees in sight at all times and certain jobs that do not lend themselves to telecommuting at all.
Managers and employees alike need to be sure they have all the tools available for successful telecommuting employment arrangements. When employees are in the office, management typically has no problem providing the tools necessary for workers to do their jobs. That attitude needs to be extended to telecommuting arrangements as well.
After a trial period, both manager and employee should be able to identify tools that can make the telecommuting employment arrangement more successful.
This is one reason why establishing a timetable for evaluating the work-at-home arrangement is important because it gives both sides an opportunity to discuss issues and identify any tools that might alleviate some of those issues.
It's primarily up to the telecommuting employee to take responsibility for creating an environment at home that is conducive to getting work done. This means that family interruptions need to be kept to a manageable level. It also means the telecommuter needs to organize the work space and arrange a daily work schedule that will foster productivity.
Businesses and workers who are not accustomed to telecommuting employment arrangements are best advised to start out slowly. The first step for management is to be open to telecommuting arrangements for those employees who are disciplined enough to manage themselves while they're working from home. After all, many telecommuting employment studies have shown that productivity can increase in work-at-home environments, so telecommuting employment arrangements can be beneficial to both the business and the worker.
A good way to establish trust and for a worker to prove their telecommuting abilities, is to allow an employee to work at home one or two days per week at first. Evaluate the telecommuting employment arrangement at 30 and 60 day intervals.
The telecommuting employment evaluation needs to be two-way, open, and honest. If the arrangement is working, consideration should be given to increasing the number of work-from-home days per week. If it's not working, ways to improve the arrangement should be examined. If either side just can't handle a telecommuting employment arrangement it should be abandoned, but it's important that both managers and workers clearly understand why it wasn't a viable option for them.
Workers need to know how they performed in a telecommuting environment. This allows them to decide if telecommuting employment with a different position or employer is important to them. If they are not performing up to par or aren't happy in their job when they are working at home, is it telecommuting employment that's the problem or just the specific job/employer?
Managers need to decide if it was the telecommuting arrangement itself, the specific employee, or a combination of both that impeded the arrangement's success. This will help them decide if telecommuting employment should be offered to other workers or if it's just not a viable option for the manager's style or the nature of the work to permit employees to work at home.
Telecommuting employment is not suitable for everyone or for every business or job description. However, it is an important option to consider as commuting costs, greenhouse gas levels and traffic snarls will no doubt continue to increase. It may be that there has never been a better time to test the waters for telecommuting employment in this country. Businesses can retain more of their valued workers by allowing it, and employees can save some money and increase both their productivity and job satisfaction by telecommuting. Plus, the earth can become a little bit greener in the process.
About the author:
Gloria A Adams works as a content writer for the essay writing help. Besides, she is highly interested in business coaching. In this case, she takes part in different conferences and webinars in order to get new knowledge and skills. Gloria dreams of writing and publishing her own book on career succession.
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