Telecommuting is freeing, less time consuming, affords more flexibility, improves work-life balance, reduces stress and anxiety, and lifts an overall job satisfaction. Above all, people love it. According to a recent Gigaom article What would you give up to keep working remotely?, telecommuters are willing to sacrifice their favourite TV show (54%), an hour of sleep (48%), a favourite food (40%), and even take a pay cut (40%) to continue working from home. The telecommuters in the article also revealed how their stress level has dropped 25 percent on average since working from home, about three out of four respondents are willing to put in extra time at work and are more loyal to their company, eat healthier, and maintain a better work-life balance as a result of telecommuting.
Nevertheless, there are also downsides to working in a remote office. Of the negative outcomes associated with telework, less frequent information exchange relative to office-based employees and the potential for teleworkers to become isolated are the most commonly cited. Being physically separated from coworkers, teleworkers tend to miss out on informal learning opportunities, peer interactions critical to career development, interpersonal networking, access to supervisors and colleagues, and the transfer of tacit knowledge.
Although it largely depends on the nature of the business, there are three general rules of thumb to decide whether a person is suitable for remote work or not. Intel CIO Diane Bryant revealed them in the 2008 Computerworld article Telework up, productivity down?: the job is appropriate for teleworking; the employee is senior enough, mature enough and self-disciplined enough to work remotely; and that remote employees remain as productive in the telework arrangement as they are in the office.
All in all, pluses and minuses aside, telecommuting is trending according to a 2009 Harris’s survey which included 900 U.S. workers. The survey implies there are a lot of people wishing to work off-site and a big part already working from home, but there seem to be some technical concerns inhibiting full potential of telecommuting. Even though a lot has changed in the last two years, let me still copy you their intriguing findings:
• 29% work off-site at least five times per week and 47% of respondents work off-site more often now than they did two years ago.
• Two-thirds of workers said they’d like to work off-site more frequently.
• 54% workers said they concentrate better when working off-site.
• During business travel 27% of workers tap into company resources remotely from another company location, 37% have done so from a hotel room, 19% from an airport and 17% from a business conference.
• Around 20% of respondents reported accessing business files or software from a vacation destination and 13% from Wi-Fi enabled public spaces such as parks.
• One-third of workers said the way they remotely access business files or software negatively impacts their off-site productivity.
• And 40% reported that they would work off-site more often if their business files or software would load more quickly.
Inappropriate technical equipment accompanying telecommuting could be a problem, because effective collaboration between on-site and off-site workers is increasingly seen as an imperative throughout the enterprise. Nonetheless, there is a myriad of safe, reliable and fast remote access and online collaboration solutions in the market nowadays that can contribute to more productive remote work. ISL Online, for example, offers four products on the same license that can help expand and reinforce an open and collaborative environment and potentially increase productivity of remote work.
With the ISL Online remote access tool, your office computer can be reached from home, your home computer can be reached from the office, and both can be reached from your hotel in London or the Bahamas or wherever you happen to be. Due to its fast performance, you practically don’t get the impression you are miles away from the computer you are actually working on.
You can think of the ISL Online enterprise instant messenger as an alternative to MSN but for an enterprise. It is secure and only an administrator can add people to various online chat groups like sales, product development, management, etc. Once you are in a particular group, you can click to chat with anyone in the same group, exchange files, and even start a one-to-one video call. Colleagues working on the same project can enter a shared chat room to continuously cooperate online throughout the day and effectively exchange information whenever the need arises.
If the enterprise instant messenger is more suitable for quick information exchange, then the ISL Online web meeting tool orientates more towards quality in-depth team work by enabling virtual face-to-face discussion groups and regular peer interactions for dislocated teams. Co-workers can join a web meeting from anywhere, make group video calls and share PowerPoint slides or live content like an application or desktop in real time.
Besides remote access, instant messaging and web meeting solutions, ISL Online offers teleworkers a comfortable remote desktop support service for when they require fast assistance on their computer. This way the company helpdesk assistant can easily fix a tech problem remotely, install a piece of software and otherwise manage teleworker’s or a freelancer’s computer.
The challenge, it seems, now that we have covered advantages and disadvantages of telecommuting and presented possible software solutions for more effective telework, is to find a perfect combination of working off-site and working normally in the office. Last year a paper published in the Journal of Applied Communication Research suggested that spending less than 50 percent of the week in the collocated office affords more flexibility and aids in the balance of work and personal roles, which teleworkers find satisfying. Anyway, no matter what combination you decide to offer to your employees, keep in mind that no person is alike and what suits one might not suit the other.