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What is Usually Involved in Telecommuting?
Information technology has made telecommuting possible and external environmental changes have made it necessary for many organizations. Telecommuting is a work arrangement in which employees work at home and are linked to the workplace by computer. Needless to say, not every job is a candidate for telecommuting. But many are.
Working from home used to be considered a “cushy perk” for a few lucky employees and such an arrangement wasn’t allowed very often. Now, many businesses view telecommuting as a business necessity. For instance, at SCAN Health Plan, the company’s chief financial officer said that getting more employees to telecommute provided the company a way to grow without having to incur any additional fixed costs such as office buildings, equipment, or parking lots. In addition, some companies view the arrangement as a way to combat high gas prices and to attract talented employees who want more freedom and control over their work.
Despite its apparent appeal, many managers are reluctant to have their employees become “laptop hobos.” They argue that employees might waste time surfing the Internet or playing online games instead of working, ignore clients, and desperately miss the camaraderie and social exchanges of the workplace. In addition, managers worry about how they’ll “manage” these employees? How do you interact with an employee and gain his or her trust when they’re not physically present? And what if their work performance isn’t up to par? How do you make suggestions for improvement? Another significant challenge is making sure that company information is kept safe and secure when employees are working from home.
Employees often express the same concerns about working remotely, especially when it comes to the isolation of not being “at work.” At Accenture, where employees are scattered around the world, the chief human resources officer says that it isn’t easy to maintain that esprit de corps. However, the company put in place a number of programs and processes to create that sense of belonging for its workforce including web conferencing tools, assigning each employee to a career counselor, and holding quarterly community events at its offices. In addition, the telecommuter employee may find that the line between work and home becomes even more blurred, which can be stressful. These are important organizing issues and ones that managers and organizations must address when moving toward having employees telecommute.
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