As with all things in life, there are pros and cons, advantages and disadvantages, and we find that telecommuting is no different. For management there are concerns, much as there is for the employee. In our discussion we will address the legal, technical and social issues impacting tele-work.
There is great impetus to management to provide opportunities for their workers to telecommute. If workers are carefully selected, and apprised of the expectations on them, then there should be less need for continuous supervision or management of the employee. Though there is not the need for continuous supervision, employees still should communicate and meet regularly with their supervisors.
Telecommuting may increase worker productivity. This may be due to the lack of intermittent interruptions that naturally occur in the work place. Alternatively, it may be the increase in morale fostered by the sense of independence for the worker. Perhaps the employee being less involved in office politics and gossip is another causal factor.
Cost savings. Overtime expenses may be reduced or eliminated for employees who are paid hourly, unless over-time is agreed upon in advance. Expenses are also reduced due to less sick time and absenteeism amongst the employees.
The company may find that there is also a significant cost savings on utilities, office space, parking space, and over-all expenditures. This is because these necessities and amenities are not required for part or all of the workweek. (Piskurich, 1996)
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). By allowing telework, companies may again find they can keep overhead expenditures down, and comply with costly ADA regulations.
The ADA mandates amongst many things, that no one should be discriminated against based on a disability. It also mandates making reasonable accommodations., For the employer this may mean acquiring or modifying equipment, and making the workplace readily accessible to the disabled. (U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 2008)
The Clean Air Act (CAA). There are additional reasons for a company to adopt a telework policy. The CAA of 1990 stipulated that companies with 100 or more employees must reduce solo driving among their employees. The Federal 2001 Transportation Appropriations bill mandated that Federal agencies with eligible employees be allowed to telework.
In 2010, President Obama signed the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010. The bill requires Federal agencies to establish telework policies and designate a Telework Managing Officer, as well as granting Federal employees eligibility to telework. (US Office of Personnel Management, 2010)
Furthermiore states, tribal nations and local governments have passed legislation that mandated or provided incentives to employers to have their employees telecommute as well (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2012).
Incentive to the Employee
The flexibility of telecommuting can prove invaluable to an individual for time and / or life management obligations. An employee may more effectively manage their familial obligations.
A single parent may now be able to take care of their child, rather than placing them in costly day-care. With the “greying of America” the same can hold true for an adult who has custodial care of an elderly parent. (Piskurich, 1996)
Cost savings. Transportation costs are reduced, and this holds true whether you drive to work, or take public transportation. Clothing costs are reduced, as there is no required dress code for telecommuting, unless clients or vendors are scheduled to stop by.
Worker satisfaction and productivity. Studies have shown that workers may be less tired from their commute, as well as being less concerned about leaving work early, to beat the rush. (Ross, 1993)
The employee may also be more productive as there are apt to be fewer distractions at home, from their fellow co-workers, by virtue of music, phone calls, and the conversations of their colleagues bring removed. The employee has control of their personal space; heat, air conditioning, lighting et cetera, which may be another reason for increased productivity. Click to read more.
Problems for Management
Data security. A huge disadvantage of telecommuting to business is the high degree of control they must exert on the security of business data entrusted to the employee. There is also the risk to the company that the individual will share confidential and proprietary information.
Telecommuting may not be appropriate for all categories of workers. There are certain occupations that require the worker to be on-site to perform their functions i.e. hands on tech support. It also is not suited for all personality type: Telecommuting may not be a good fit for someone who lacks discipline, or is not self-motivated.. (Tam, 2008)
There may be difficulty in having the “virtual staff” attend, and / or fully participate in meetings. Collaboration may be negatively impacted by virtue of lack of face to face communication between the parties, with the paucity of non-verbal cues being a causal factor.
Disincentive to the Employee
Lack of technical resources. Telecommuters may find that they don’t have all of the technical resources that they need to perform their jobs. They also find that that they don’t have an IT department on-hand to assist them with hardware, software, or “how do you perform this task”. Some end-users aren’t tech savvy, thus they may be ill at ease with telecommuting. (Mogelonsky,, 1994) Timely tech support resolutions may be an issue, and physical repairs must wait until back on-site.
Social dynamics. There may be resentment from your co-workers, due to the perception that you are not working to full capacity, or are other-wise shirking work. Related to this, you may not receive the promotions or other awards due you because management may not realize or value the extent of your work.
A person may also find that there are many distractions at home; Family, or friends that are aware that you are home may feel that they can interrupt you (Piskurich, 1996). The converse of being distracted is that you may find yourself daydreaming or other-wise drifting off.
Is it Worth it?
For each advantage of telecommuting, there is an almost equal and compelling counter-point for not utilizing it. Nonetheless, it can be stated affirmatively that the pros do out-weigh the cons, and that telework should be implemented, albeit with a few caveats.
Great care should be given in the choosing the appropriate candidates for a telework project. Even with a suitable employee, it is imperative that the employee continue to be supervised, and their performance monitored diligently.
Mogelonsky, M. (1995, Jun). Myths of telecommuting. American Demographics, Vol. 17(6), 15.
Piskurich, G. M. (1996, Feb). Making telecommuting. Training & Development, Vol. 50(20).
Ross, R. (1993, Sept). The telecommuting imperative. PC World, Vol. 11, 52.