Telecommuting: the Good and the Bad

Computers are changing the work environment, in ways for the better, in others for the worse. Telecommuting is now enabling people to work without actually “going to work”.

What is Telecommuting?  

Telecommuting is working for an employer at a computer-equipped space in the employee’s home. It may range from running one’s own business from home using computers and telecommunications, to traveling with a laptop computer and working in a car or at customer sites. Many work in coffee shops, outside near a park, or even on an airplane.

A study conducted by University of Maryland in 2006 found that 2% of all working adults telecommuted fulltime, 9% telecommuted at least one day a week, and 8% had home-run businesses.

Although telecommuting has its benefits, making life a bit more flexible for teleworkers, employers and society, it also has many problems.

So you think you want to work from home? Here are some pros and cons of telecommuting to help you decide if it is right for you.

The Benefits of Telecommuting

Teleworking offers significant benefits to employers, employees, self employed individuals and entrepreneurs, and in developing the local economy. It also presents opportunities to secure wider social benefits.

  • Telework shrinks large offices where real estate and office rentals are expensive and this can generate huge savings
  • Many employees are more satisfied with their job and more loyal to their employers
  • Telecommuting makes it easier to work with clients, customers and employees in foregin countries
  • Employees can easily work a few hours at night with clients from different time zones
  • Telecommuting reduces rush-hour traffic and the pollution and gasoline use that comes with it, along with expenses for commuting
  • Telecommuting saves time that can be used for exercise, sleep or more interaction with friends and family
  • It provides previously unavailable work options for elderly and disabled individuals who have a difficult time commuting
  • Telecommuting allows work to continue after extreme weather conditions
  • Employees are able to save one child-care expenses, allowing them to spend more time with their children
  • Employees are able to accept a job position in a distant location without having to move and are able to live in rural areas as opposed to urban areas
  • Telecommuting enables people to have more then one job at once

The Implications of Telecommuting   

From the benefits listed above, telecommuting sounds a little too good to be true, doesn’t it? As more businesses began to send their employees home to work, problems began to arise. Here are some examples of issues involved with telecommunication.

  • Employees who must work at the office show resentment towards their employers because their fellow colleagues may have the opportunity to work from home
  • Telecommuting causes some employees to be less productive at home, while others work too hard, for too long
  • Having to constantly work with clients around the world may require employees to work odd hours to match the client’s time zone
  • Some employees find it difficult to work at home because their require direction about what work and how much work to do
  • Working at home with children may be a distraction  and the lack of boudnary between home and work may cause problems in the life of many employees
  • Costs of office space may have to be shifted from the employer to the employee
  • Employees may miss out on mentoring relationships and advancement opportunities as well as social interactions at the workplace resulting in isolation
  • The employer at the workplace may provide their workers with sophisticated firewall, antivirus software, etc. but this may not be available to a telecommuter, thus, hackers may easily get into an employee’s home computer and track down sensitive business information

Who do we Choose?

I think it is safe to say that the pros of telecommuting outweigh the cons. Telecommuting can attract people in the work field on so many different levels. It can save money for both employers and employees…..it can even do a great deal in saving the environment! The question is: how do we hire and manage the right teleworker? Telecommuting requires different skills than working in an office, even if the job responsibilities are the same. The most successful teleworkers are self-reliant, self-motivated and understand how to plan their days, and deal with ambiguity. Communication skills are also must-have job skills since much of the interaction a teleworker does is verbal and written, not visual or face-to-face.

Personality tests offer a reliable indicator of job fit for a telewoker. Self-reliance, self-motivation, flexibility, collaborative tendencies, dealing with ambiguity, criticism tolerance, and multitasking are all characteristics that can be assessed using a validated pre-employment assessment test. While the results of such a personality assessment are not conclusive, they are very accurate at identifying the candidates who are not suited for this type of job.

Final Thoughts

So many benefits come with telecommuting, that we cannot forbid this form of work just because there may be potential problems that arise for certain employees. If this line of work is well suited for a certain type of person, then it should be made available to them. But tests, surveys, and interviews must be performed to guarantee that this individual is well suited for the life of a virtual-worker.

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About sslusarc

I am a student at University of Guelph, majoring in Biological Sciences and Minoring in Nutritional and Nutraceutical Sciences
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