Has telecommuting killed the office? Every day, more and more employees are taking advantage of modern telecommunications technology to make working from home a reality. And many employees and employees alike believe telecommuting will boost productivity and drastically improve work-life balance, and that the office will soon be a relic of the past.
But humans are social animals who work best in groups, not just online but in person. While telecommuting is definitely convenient and easy to implement, companies that rely too much on a remote workforce miss out on some key benefits a shared workspace provides. Telecommuting has its drawbacks as well, so a savvy HR lead understands when to let employees work from home and when to call people back to the office.
Is the Office Obsolete?
Remote workers are usually happier and healthier, and boosters of the telecommuting trend will claim working from home raises efficiency (though the numbers on this remain inconclusive). Even if we concede that remote employees are more efficient in terms of productivity, telecommuting still raises concerns about employee investment.
Without a chance to immerse themselves in company culture, workers lose any connection to the company’s goals and become “adjunct employees” who produce work in a vacuum and lack any real connection to their coworkers, and thus cannot truly collaborate. And while improved health and happiness alone are absolutely worth allowing everyone some degree of remote work time, the benefits of a dedicated communal workspace mean some sort of compromise is in order.
Mix It Up
It is best to avoid thinking of telecommuting as an inevitable replacement for office coworking, and to treat it instead like another tool to motivate and empower employees. In today’s competitive environment, refusing to offer any opportunity to work from home is simply withholding a benefit your prospective employees can always find elsewhere.
But if full-time telecommuting is one extreme, and mandatory nine-to-five office stays are the other, then a flexible schedule is the best of both worlds. Employees with a flexible schedule can experience both the camaraderie, socialization, and collaboration of an office and the relaxed and focused home office environment as they like, gaining both improved work-life balance and a chance to steep themselves in company culture, all while feeling empowered to make their own choices.
Finding the Right Fit
There is no one-size-fits-all solution when dealing with individual employees. Leaders should tailor each worker’s schedule to suit both that person’s role and their capabilities. When discussing a potential schedule, take into consideration the individual’s job function and availability, as well as how much collaboration they really need before allocating remote working hours. The employee should set their own schedule, but within parameters set by their leader. Remember that telecommuting is an earned benefit, and employees who cannot meet a certain standard of performance may have to reduce their hours working from home.
By mixing the home office with the office-office, employees keep themselves in touch with company culture and remain visible to their leaders, ensuring chances at upward mobility with the company. Employers gain a happier and more productive workforce where individuals are free to determine their own schedule without sacrificing a sense of connection to their coworkers and corporate structure. As with any great new idea, the key with telecommuting is to merge the old with the new to synthesize a solution that benefits everyone.
(By Shantanu Ghosh, Managing Director and VP of Rocket Software’s Centers of Excellence (CoE), India and China)