Telecommuting. In or out?

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Telecommuting, or working from home, is becoming more and more common these days. With smart technology such as Skype, Facetime for iOS users and GoToMeeting to name just a few, you don’t need to book a conference room to engage in face to face meetings anymore. Virtual meetings can now be held with participants from any place on the globe, real time, and all you need is a network connection.

Recent studies have also shown that there is a significant cost savings for employers that support telecommuting. A 2015 study revealed a $1,900 (USD) savings, per year, per telecommuting employee. And that was just the savings to the employer. Employees that manage their careers from home also enjoy such money saving benefits like fuel costs, and wear and tear on their vehicles like tires and oil changes. Clothing allowances are a huge savings, as wearing a suit and tie, or high heels in my case, becomes unnecessary. Smaller expenses go way down as well, as there is no pressure to dress to a corporate standard if you can hide behind the virtual presence of your laptop. And for many, the savings on coffee and lunch can be quite significant.

Another benefit discovered in the study mentioned above was that virtual employees tend to work longer hours, take fewer breaks, experience fewer distractions and requested far less time off than on-site workers. A survey taken by Forbes magazine in 2014 surveyed both in-house and remote employees, and found that the telecommuters experienced significantly higher job satisfaction rates, were much more productive and were less likely to “job-hop,” i.e. more likely to stay at one company longer. That, too can save the employer significant costs, as continually recruiting and training new hires is expensive.

When filling a position with a remote employee, there are certain attributes you want that person to have in order for the telecommuting scenario to benefit you both. Here are a few:

  • Comfortable with virtual collaboration with coworkers
  • Engage effectively, respectfully and clearly during online communication
  • Able to avoid or diffuse confrontations
  • Good at establishing and maintaining relationships in a virtual environment

Actually, these attributes are valuable whether the employee is remote or on-site, but especially in a telecommuting situation since effective communication between coworkers involves tone of voice, body language and facial expressions – vital signals often lost in phone or email correspondence. An effective and experienced telecommuter will be able to handle this challenge with tact and the professional courtesy you would expect from any employee.

A person with tenacity tends to have more of a perseverance, or passion for goals, both long and short-term. Personality traits such as self-assurance, certainty and determination are usually found in workers that are self-driven, need little guidance, and work well on their own or on a team. These are all vital traits for a successful remote employee.

One word of advice to employers: when investing in your employees’ skills development, don’t leave your remote employees out of the loop. In fact, when hiring a virtual employee, ascertain their desire to learn, grow and develop with your company. The best ones always will.

Increasingly, we’re seeing companies who have both formalized telecommuting policies as well as those who do more than just tolerate working from home.

This can only be good for work life balance.

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