The Pros and Cons of Telecommuting
By Sonjui L. Kumar
According to a recent CareerBuilder.com
survey, 27 percent of employees telecommute
at some point in a year. Advances in
technology have made the transition from
office to home easier than ever. For most
employees, the opportunity of working from
home, even on an occasional basis, is seen as
a privilege, saving them hours of traffic and
reducing their food, fuel and clothing budgets.
Employers, however, are faced with a number
of decisions and should implement some
policies before the first employee can be sent home to work. Following are some key areas that
should be thought through by management:
Eligibility. Who should be allowed or asked to telecommute? Any employee who is needed for
face-to-face client contact or group support or interactions may not be the right person for the
telecommuting option. Additionally, individuals who are selected or considered should be highly
self-motivated and possess strong time management skills. If telecommuting will only be
available to some employees, a clearly defined policy should be communicated so that there is no
speculation on how or why the decision was made. If the request to telecommute is initiated by
the company, expect resistance from employees who may view telecommuting as a demotion or
as preventing them from moving up the ladder. Transparency and open discussions can help
allay most of these concerns.
Work hours and reporting. Will the employee be required to be at their desk and answering
the phone for certain set hours each day? Since the biggest concern for most employers is
whether they are still getting the same work from their at-home employees, it is key for the
company to establish the hours and days that the employee is expected to work and be available.
Employees should try to minimize the disruptions that result from not being present in person.
Wage and hour regulations must also be kept in mind, since non-exempt employees are required
to take rest breaks and must be paid for any overtime hours. Note that most studies have found
that employees working at home are more productive for a number of reasons including the lack
of distractions found at the office.
Security and Equipment. What equipment will the employee need and who will be
providing it? Most companies that are able to do so will provide the technology that the
employee needs, including computers, printers, phones and scanners. It is also advisable that all
work be conducted and saved on company servers, so that no data or critical communications are
lost if an employee leaves without notice or has to be terminated. Most importantly, the company
should at all times maintain control over the security and confidentiality of their and their
Inclusion. Will employees be expected to attend office events, and what about performance
reviews and regular feedback? Extra effort will be needed to include off-site employees in office
events. A recent Workplace Index Survey indicates that 64 percent of at-home workers believe
their lack of daily contact with their employers hinders their chances for a promotion. Be sure to
keep the lines of communication open, and use them frequently. Schedule a check-in time every
day or week to obtain updates from your employee on the successes/challenges that they have
faced. Management should also communicate when attendance at the office is required rather
than optional. Regardless of the company’s social calendar, employees and supervisors should
meet at regularly scheduled times throughout the year, maybe combining a review with another
There are other important issues that should be part of any company’s telecommuting policies
and decisions, including which expenses will be paid for by the employer, insurance and workers
compensation coverage, timesheets, reporting of any job related injuries, tax implications for
both the employer and employee and confidentiality of company data.
Telecommuting is certainly on the rise. In the last few years, a number of large corporations have
closed office buildings and shifted their employees to home offices, significantly reducing their
overhead costs. Although there are a number of factors to consider when making this transition,
the benefits of saving time and resources, while increasing overall productivity and satisfaction
of your employees, may make it well worth the effort.
Published by Khabar Magazine, Business Insights section May 2012 issue.