To work from home or not to work from home, that is the question.
Exactly one year ago today I moved from my remote office in San Diego, CA to the iCIMS corporate office in Hazlet, NJ. Now you must be asking yourself "Jim why would you do such a thing"; and that is a great question. There are a lot of benefits to working remotely, yes; but there are also drawbacks. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons to working remotely.
When I first started with iCIMS, it seemed that the benefits to working from home were endless. The first was the commute: it was probably the easiest commute I could ever have or want. Not having to drive to and from work 5 days a week was very beneficial for me. Not only did I save on the rising prices of gas, but I also saved my sanity by avoiding the San Diego rush hour. Second, came the wardrobe, and yes, I was that person who was working from home in his pajamas. As a remote employee, everyday was casual Friday. It was great, but maybe more pertinent to you...how did iCIMS fair with this telecommuting policy that I partook in. Well, also great, I believe.
As an HR professional deciding whether or not to implement a telecommuting policy, it is important to weigh the benefits against the drawbacks. So, as for benefits…
A telecommuting option:
- Promotes employee satisfaction – Employees are able to work on their own time in a comfortable environment. According to a study reported by SHRM, 37% of IT Company executives found an improvement in employee retention and morale from employees after a telecommuting policy was implemented.
- Fosters increased productivity for some workers – In the same survey, 67% of companies reported improved productivity "as a result of allowing employees to telecommute full time or part time. Improved productivity is principally attributable to workers spending less time getting to and from work."
- Actuates greater Corporate Social Responsibility – With fewer cars on the road, fewer emissions are expended to negatively affect the environment. According to the EPA, "Leaving your car at home just two days a week will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 1,600 pounds per year." Moreover, with fewer in-house employees to account for, conservation of energy used in the office can increase significantly.
Now I could probably go on and on about the many benefits of working remotely, but let’s switch over to the drawbacks. In my own personal experience, there was one major negative to working remotely. I often found it quite difficult to actually draw the distinction between work time and personal time. There were many days that I found myself working until 12 AM trying to complete a project for a client, following up on calls or responding to all of my emails from that day. There were also times that I found myself waking up for a 6 AM meeting with a client. It takes a great deal of discipline to make sure there is a strong distinction between work and home.
I think HR professionals must also keep this same drawback and others in mind before implementing a policy. Or, at least make the employee aware of these issues.
- Employee Work/life Balance blurred, leading to higher stress – Oftentimes, telecommuting is said to improve work/life balance by enabling employees to spend less time on commuting and more time with family. However, depending on the type of work, telecommuting can discourage this work/life balance. When dealing with clients or problems that could potentially be around the clock, employees can have a difficult time seperating work from home, and as such, work tends to be done when it comes in. So, it is important to ask yourself what type of positions you are offering a telecommuting option.
FIX: A way to counter this con would be to encourage an 8-hour policy. Frequently remind employees they are not required to work past their scheduled working hours. (As a side note, if you offer clients 24 hour support, hire workers for that time and that time only.)
- Lack of coworker interaction, hindering developed relationships - In today’s modern age there are so many tools out there that foster communication between telecommuters and in-house employees such as conference calls, instant messaging, emails, and web-based conferences. However, it is just not enough. Telecommuters are still having difficulty developing relationships with other coworkers due to their lack of physical interaction. This lack of developed relationships can often negatively impact employee satisfaction levels and therefore, hinder employee retention.
FIX: A way to counter this con would be to require telecommuters to work one day in the office or require weekly video meetings.
- Inability to Advance – Telecommuters may also find it difficult to advance within their company. Networking is an essential part of career advancement. Without the time spent personally getting to know upper management, remote employees feel they are too often passed up for special projects that would foster career advancement. According to a SHRM survey, "Sixty-one percent of more than 1,300 executives from 71 countries believe workers who telecommute have a lesser chance of advancing in their career."
FIX: A way to counter this con would be to keep in frequent contact with telecommuters and take the time to get to know them. To make it even easier, high level CRM tools via platforms can make it easier to keep track of telecommuter information and can enable frequent and easy interaction with all telecommuters.
Okay, so after reading this you still might think that all remote employees work in their PJs, but keep in mind that sometimes working remotely is not an easy walk in the park, and that there are many drawbacks that make working remotely a challenge. Telecommuting isn’t for everyone. Therefore, as an HR professional, it is up to you to decide whether this program is right for your company and for your employees. Will it promote corporate social responsibility? Will it improve or hinder worker productivity?
I personally think that an optional telecommuting program would be great. It gives employees the option to try it. If they don’t like it, they can always come back to headquarters.
What do you think are some other considerations HR managers should think about prior to implementing a telecommuting program?