“Technology Now Allows People To Connect Anytime, Anywhere, To Anyone In The World, From Almost Any Device. This Is Dramatically Changing The Way People Work, Facilitating 24/7 Collaboration With Colleagues Who Are Dispersed Across Time Zones, Countries, And Continents.” — Michael Dell, Chairman, And CEO Of Dell
The one question that I often ask myself when I am told to come to work 6 days a week and put in 9 hours each day is just one, ‘Why can’t I simply sit and work from home?’ I’m sure all of you out there who are attuned to working the kind of work for which you really don’t require to be physically present at the office may have asked yourself the same question every morning when you struggle to climb out of bed and push yourself to work literally.
Having said that, it is also true that for most professionals who can work irrespective of not having to actually get to the office, is a miracle we all would want to experience. Today, the Human resources and workforce engagement team have become more relaxed and is giving more team members the opportunity to actually go through with the ‘telecommuting’ mode of work.
But, before we get to the part of dissecting what telecommuting is and how it helps or does not help, let us understand the history of how this very term that is so much in discussion these days (for all the right reasons might I add!) was actually formed?
Entry Of Telecommuting Like The Big Bang!
I was rather fascinated by the marvels of the unexplored and the wide mysterious world of the dark universe. And, for those of you who have ever had the privilege of staring through a telescope for hours only to see the movement of stars and if lucky sight a comet or a shooting star, there is no denying that the science of astronomy excited you. But, what if I told you that the very reason why this word emerged was also because of a person as smitten with the universe and the great beyond. Yes, that is true the coining and the forming of this word came from a space enthusiast who, in fact, worked for NASA.
Let me introduce you to Jack Nilles. Mr. Nilles was working on a complex Communication system that he was developing for NASA and since he was working on this communication system from a distant far off location he told people that what he was doing was ‘telecommuting’. And, thus with this incident that occurred way back in 1972, the first-ever use of the word telecommuting happened. Isn’t it surprising how a word so old is again finding its way back to the corporate jungles of MNC’s? I think we all need to thank Mr. Nilles for coining this term.
Post-1972, another person used a different variation of the same word and that was none other than Frank Schiff. Mr Schiff had written an article “Working from home can save gasoline” for The Washington Post, and this is when the term actually picked up again. After these two incidents let’s just say that there was no looking back. From 1992 to the present day, a lot of people are enjoying the perks of telecommuting.
But, how good, bad or ugly is this boon of telecommuting? Just like everything else in life, this too has its own share of pros and cons. So without any further delays and suspense let us get to the most important part of this article. Deciphering the benefits and the disadvantages of opting for a ‘telecommuting’ work format.
The Perks Of The Pros:
Imagine not having to wake up every morning, and rushing from home getting stuck in loggerhead traffic jams just to get to work! There is no denying that all those people who get to live the telecommuter’s life are truly blessed and lucky. And as much as the HR people out there are showing me the eyeballs, it, in fact, helps the productivity of the organization. Here’s just how.
1.) Knockdown All The Travel:
Get up in the morning, get dressed and wait for it, sit down and get connected to your place of work with the friendly and reachable network of the internet. No more getting stuck in the traffic or using crowded metros to get to work. Probably the only time you might have to step out is to get a refill of your favorite coffee to keep you going. One of the biggest boons of telecommuting is that there is absolutely no commuting involved.
2.) Positively Productive:
Imagine if it takes you a total of 2 hours to get to and fro from work. Now imagine going to work 24 days a month and spending 2 hours each day just to commute back and forth. And also imagine how tiered you get at the end of a grueling day. Now, ask yourself this question, “how energized are you to take on the humungous tasks aligned at work?”. Most of your energies get drained in traveling and this often means by the time you get to work you have a slow and probably lethargic start. Now just imagine how productive one will be if all the hassles of commuting can be spared?
3.) Travel Minimized Means Money Saved:
No matter what transportation you use, it is bound to happen that you will spend money. If you have your own car, you will spend to purchase fuel, and if you use carpool, bus, metro or a cab you will have to pay for that as well. Naturally, if you don’t have to get to work you will end up saving so much money as well and then probably you can use that saved money to go on the next vacation or let’s say even a shopping spree!
4.) Companies Also Save More:
Ok, so enough of the perks for the employees, now let’s look into some of the pros for the employers. To run a business is not easy and there are a lot of costs attached at the end of the month. Do you know besides manpower the most expense giving contributor is the rent factor? If more offices decided to give the employees the option of telecommuting and work from co-working spaces such as libraries or cafes, this major cost factor of office rentals will also minimize. Imagine the kind of money they will save, which will probably mean more salary increments and appraisals for us!
The Confusing Cons:
Indeed just like everything else in life when there is an upside, it is always followed with a few lows and downsides as well. And, the same holds true for telecommuters and telecommuting. So, let us take a look at some of the influential cons of this rather convenient work setup.
1.) Out Of Sight And Out Of Touch:
I for one am a person who can get work done when I know that I have a manager keeping watchful eyes on me to observe what I am doing and let’s face it there is a channel of communication due to which I know my targets and know my shortfalls as well. Most of those people who work on the telecommuting model, often have a lack of meeting the managers and this often causes a certain miscommunication as well. When employees and the manager meet regularly they are able to put a face to all the discussion and it also helps give better clarity and understanding
2.) Zilch Supervision And Control:
One major negative of telecommuting is the very fact that if people are not coming to work then it becomes very difficult for managers to manage them and supervise them. People working from home can often get away with murder and let’s face it with no office setup it gets easy for them to wiggle out of work and responsibilities. Sometimes great results are achievable only with great control and supervision.
3.) No Team Spirit:
The one question that most HR personnel ask new recruits is whether or not they are team players. When one starts working in an organization it is more about how well they can work with the team rather than against it. In the telecommuting work mode, this basic human touch of connecting with other employees and being more productive also gets dampened. Let’s face it at the end of the day working with a team at an actual office helps in so many ways. There are more productivity, more healthy competition and a chance to socialize and connect with other members of the team in other fun ways like gatherings, team parties, and office outings.
4.) No Confiding Office Space = No Confidentiality:
There are so many organizations and workplaces that work with sensitive and confidential data. When people are at work and actually coming to the office there are procedures and rules in place to make sure that no one takes any data for the wrong purpose. When people are confined to office spaces they are more in control with the rules and regulations set in place, however, in a situation when they can work remotely, that obligation of keeping data secure doesn’t really fit in. Eventually, this will hamper the overall functioning of day to day operations.
So, does that mean that the telecommuting way of working is obsolete? Should we consider the cons and let it influence all the pros that one stands to achieve? Absolutely not! There is always a middle way out of any issue like this. Here is what you can do to ensure that you enjoy the perks of telecommuting without letting the cons hamper them.
It will be great if those employees who are given the benefit of telecommuting come and visit the office every now and then. This will help them stay in touch with their peers and at the same time, they will get to meet their managers and give them a report of all that they have been doing. New tasks can be assigned to them with ease and basically it will be a win-win situation for both.
One of the things that come with this setup is that you are out of sight. It will be good if as a responsible telecommuter you keep your team members and other management team members also in the loop of where they can reach you and stay in touch with you. This will ensure that when you are remotely working people can still reach out to you in case there is anything that needs immediate attention.
At the end of the day be it the traditional ways of making a person work or be it the modern adaptation of the age-old term telecommuting, what matters is how confident you are in your team members and what kind of liberties can you afford to give in the business format that you have in place. You can opt for complete office setup and still not get much done, and you can even opt for the telecommuting way of work, and get loads of work done. What matters is the people you choose and how efficiently your team can manage them.