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Telecommuting or telework allows employees of a company to work from home or any other remote location other than an office. Telecommuting requires employees to be able to access all of the computer applications they have available to them at work in order to perform their jobs adequately. The company should provide Internet access to employees at their homes and make sure they have the appropriate equipment to run and access company provided software.
While some experts argue telecommuting is more cost-efficient, may increase productivity and create a better work/life balance, others say the cost of decreased face time co-workers, effect it has on workers left at the office, and its failure to live up to some of its expectations could make it a less attractive option.
By implementing telecommuting, a company has the possibility to save significantly.
Because of telework, employees will be able to work from remote locations and will not have a need to come into the office. This will eliminate the need for a physical location for most employees, which will result in a large savings per month. Each employee can use their computer at home or be provided one by the company. By implementing telecommuting, it would prevent the need to expand physical locations in the future.
Savings would also increase based on the lack of utility bills associated with the physical location, cancelling T1 lines, and landline phones. Each employee can communicate with each other and customers via their company cell phone, which usually is already provided to them or their home landline phone if they wish. The company will then be responsible for their Internet connection in the form of a reimbursement.
The figure above outlines the total costs of each arrangement. It is clear that telecommuting has the potential to save a company more money almost immediately after implementation. This is true only if every person in the company telecommutes. As some companies telecommuting policies say, the employee who telecommutes must report to a centralized workplace for a portion of time each week. If this is true, telecommuting is not as cost efficient as it seems. Transportation costs are also drastically reduced for employees.
Because they would no longer need to commute to the office everyday, costs associated with a daily commute would be drastically reduced. This would also save money for the company. The federal government offers tax incentives to companies who make efforts to reduce their carbon footprint. By implementing telecommuting, any company would be eligible for the tax incentives the very next year. In a study conducted at the Kentucky American Water Company, performed from 1998-2003, it was concluded that a significant savings could be made per employee (Butler, Aasheim, & Williams, 2007).
The article points out that for the Kentucky American Water Company, “savings include reduced expenses for office space and parking, and a reduction in complaints handled by the managers. ” In a chart produced in the study, it compares the costs and savings of implementing the telecommuting process in the call center portion of the company. Their conclusion, on average, was telecommuting will save KAWC $1,361 per employee (p. 102). Research has shown that telework is related to higher job satisfaction and a variety of positive employee outcomes,” writes Karen Fonner for the Journal for Applied Communication Research (Fonner & Roloff, 2010, p. 340).
Telework helps employees manage their personal and work lives more effectively than working in an office setting. By releasing employees from the constraints of a physical office, they are empowered to create their own schedules to accomplish work more effectively. This empowerment enables employees to take ownership of their position and will otivate them to perform to the best of their abilities. With the ability of employees to create their own schedules around the clock, it will benefit companies by allowing the employee to have a flexible schedule to adapt to the demanding schedules of business in the new millennium. Another benefit of telecommuting is less absenteeism at work. If an employee has a doctor’s appointment, they can set their work schedule around the appointment and include it in their schedule around both personal and work appointments.
If they were to report to a physical location and be forced to be stationary for a set amount of time in an office, the employee would be inclined to take the entire day off for the doctor’s appointment. With the flexibility of telework, the employee would not be inclined to call off and would still be able to work before and after the appointment. The same is true for employees who require creativity breaks in between sessions of working. The flexibility of telework enables more frequent breaks so that employees can use the time set aside for work to be most efficient.
Telecommuting also takes employees out of the stressors of the office. Office politics plays a huge role in stress at work and is a huge distraction for employees. “By working remotely the majority of the time, teleworkers can avoid or ignore some of the unjust practices within the organization, such as cronyism, self-interested behavior, and pressure against speaking out against those in power,” writes Fonner (Fonner, 2010, p. 361). Without the politicking at work, employees who work from home can use their downtime for more productive personal task that don’t induce more stress on their job.
In a survey conducted at the telcom company Ericsson in July of 2006, respondents were asked a series of questions related to telecommuting. Employees who were not currently telecommuting were asked what important factors would persuade them to telecommute in the future (Borjesson & Markus, 2006, p. 526). The most rated saving time as the most influential reason to adapt telecommunication with increasing efficiency, reducing stress, and having more independence in their daily life as the top four reasons (Borjesson & Markus, 2006).
Ironically, reducing traveling costs had the smallest amount of supporters. Employees at Ericsson put more emphasis on empowerment as their main reason to choose telecommuting over monetary reasons. “Plus, it’s an important tool for attracting a younger generation of employees who expect that flexibility and greater sense of control over their lives,” says Danette Campbell, senior adviser for telework with the U. S. Patent and Trademark Office in Washington when speaking about telework in the article “Washington Tapping Into Telework For More Flexibility” (Silver, 2010, p. 0). Adding telecommuting as a workplace option will make any company a more attractive employer. The Kentucky American Water Company study proved telecommuters are more productive workers than their on-site employees (Butler, Aasheim, & Williams, 2007, p. 101). The study measured productivity based on four factors, “amount of work; intensity of work; efficiency of work; and adjustments for additional costs associated with telecommuting (such as expenses for equipment, technology support, training, managerial support, and so forth)” (2007, p. 101).
The study found, “the average productivity of telecommuters in the 13 months immediately after the “go live” period increased by 154%, while the average productivity of in-office agents fell by 13. 3%. Because overall customer service improved considerably (the percentage of abandoned calls decreased from 12. 2% to 3. 6%)” (p. 102). Understanding that all jobs at the KAWC call center can be performed using telecommunication, parallels can still be drawn from call center work and the type of work performed by most companies. The majority of daily work performed by most employees consists of communicating with clients and co-workers.
All communication in most jobs does not rely on an employee being in a centralized workspace. By allowing employees to telecommute, they will be free to meet with customers and clients during any time of the day, thus allowing them to be more productive and available to them. Many clients and customers have problems meeting during a normal “9-to-5” workday because they are also at work. By implementing telecommuting, employees will be free to meet with them in the evening when they usually wouldn’t be at “work” if they worked in a centralized location or during business hours if they need to.
Telecommuting also requires the use of technology to perform work from remote locations. “People who use more IT in their work are more productive, and by its very nature telecommuting requires more use of IT,” writes Ralph Westfall in his article “Does Telecommuting Really Improve Productivity? ” (Westfall, 2004, p. 95). By implementing telecommuting at a company, they will be forced to update their technology and train people to use the new technology effectively. In doing this, employees will be forced to become more productive based on their new knowledge and the use of new technology.
An argument against telecommuting is the lack of human interaction involved with the “Employees who worked away from their offices for three or more days a week reported worsening of their relationships with coworkers,” stated Pam Willenz for the American Psychological Association (Willenz, 2007). Employees may seem disenfranchised from their co-workers who report to an office, which has detrimental effects on employee morale to all employees. Telecommuting also could have detrimental effects on promotions for employees.
The idea behind “out of sight, out of mind” plays a large role in the fear that employees who telecommute have less likely of a chance to get promoted from their current position because of their lack of face time with superiors. The lack of office politicking could be a double-edged sword where employees don’t have the chance to mingle with co-workers that could potentially advance their careers.
Telecommuting had negative effects on the employees that are “left behind” in a centralized workplace. In-office employees took less satisfaction in their jobs and felt less of a relationship and obligation to their company as the number of telecommuting coworkers grew,” in a study that David Chartier reported in the article, “Study: Telecommuting makes work worse for non-telecommuters” (Chartier, 2009). Many of the workers that are left behind perceived that more work was left for them and are forced into other difficulties posed by telecommuting such as, building strong working relationships and finishing group work. Telecommuting is not appropriate for every job. There are still many jobs that cannot be performed through telecommuting.
Contemporary Business states, “the cubicle- filled office will likely never become obsolete” (Boone, p. 22). Many jobs will never be able to completely translate over to a telecommuting environment so many workers will still have to report to a centralized workplace. Many face-to-face customer service jobs cannot be performed via telecommuting and many workers will still have to report to work therefore telecommuting is not an alternative to every job. Since telecommuting is so new, many employers are still experimenting with it and require that the employees who telecommute have to report to the office at least one day a week.
Telecommuting is difficult to implement in situations where workers are paid on an hourly basis. The old adage, “Time worked equals time paid,” does not necessarily translate into the telecommuting environment very well. In hourly positions that can be transferred to telecommuting settings, clocking in and clocking out will be at the discretion of the worker with no oversight available. Employees who are compensated on an hourly basis would have to change their pay scale to a salaried position in order for telecommuting to be fair (Boone, 2010).
If that is not the case, truant workers would be enabled by the lack of supervision and can “run the clock” more easily than if they reported to a centralized workspace (Boone, 2010). Telecommuting also puts company assets and information in an uncontrolled environment where it is difficult to keep track of how and for what they are used. It raises some questions where company information and assets could be compromised in a telecommuting situation. Many employees would easily be put in a situation where they could steal or copy customer information and use it outside of their work (Boone, 2010).
Telecommuting is cost effective depending on how it is implemented and can save a company a lot of money only if every employee telecommutes in order to alleviate the need for a centralized workplace. Research supports these benefits of implementing telecommuting saying it will alleviate many stressors on employees by reducing time spent getting ready for work, commuting to an office on a daily basis, and office politics. There are negatives aspects, however, to telecommuting. It cannot be implemented for every job and there will still be a need for a centralized workspace so it may not be as profitable as expected.
Telecommuting also puts company property and information inside someone else’s home. Truant workers are enabled to “run the clock” in a telecommuting setting since there is no oversight on when they are actually working. Telecommuting does have its strengths, but it also has weaknesses. The future will open up doors for telecommuting as technology improves and our culture becomes more technologically savvy. For now, telecommuting in most situations is a hybrid of some workdays reporting to work and others worked from home.