The Benefits and Drawbacks of Telecommuting
There is still a lot of discussion about the benefits and drawbacks of telecommuting. The discussion centers on how to implement and how to measure performance when employees work remotely. However, there is also still a discussion as to the benefits and drawbacks of telecommuting to the employee. Whether at a senior level or at a colleague level, there are generational perspectives that leave people in either being pro- or anti- telecommuting.
Fundamental challenge to telecommuting
Over the years, many Traditionalists and Baby Boomers senior leaders have admitted that they are not comfortable with instituting telecommuting practices. There is a general perception that allowing employees to telecommute results in less productivity. Often, part of the underlying fear though is that leaders worry about loss of control of their teams that will reflect poorly on their leadership. Also, senior leaders explain that since certain positions are not open to telecommuting, it can’t be done. The latter is a bit of an ‘all or nothing argument’; because you allow some positions to telecommute doesn’t mean that everyone must have access to the option. In recruitment, and in creating the policy, you just need to be clear which positions are eligible and why.
“If I don’t see you, you’re not working”
In addition to senior leaders thinking that there is a reduction of productivity through telecommuting, generationally, Baby Boomers often believe that making the choice to telecommute is career limiting. What is interesting is that many Baby Boomers are part of the ‘sandwich generation’, so they could actually benefit from the option of having greater flexibility. However, they are worried about the perceptions of their leaders.
Two Perspectives on Telecommuting
In a conversation I overheard, the Baby Boomer said to the Gen Xer, that she couldn’t understand why the Xer would want to telecommute, because it’s important to constantly be visible to leaders. Also, she believes that when she calls somebody who is working from home and has to leave a voicemail that the colleague is likely playing video games, at the gym, socializing over coffee (basically doing anything else but working). Conversely, the Gen X colleague couldn’t understand why that Baby Boomer wouldn’t want to work from home – citing increased efficiency and productivity (due to less distractions), increased work time (due to lack of commute), and increased work-life balance and less stress (lunchtime may be used to run errands/do laundry/prepare dinner).
For every concern, there is a solution
Successful telecommuting can be managed. There are organizations that have figured out the right mix that allows for continued business performance, while meeting employee expectations and desires for that option. Of course, business comes first. However, with correct analysis, planning and measurement, leaders are often pleased with their return on investment: increased engagement, productivity and a lower costs of goods sold.