As a long-time veteran in the field of human resources (HR), I’ve seen telecommuting storm onto the scene through advances in technology. Telecommuting employees complete work from remote locations, and sometimes the method backfires.
In February 2013, Yahoo!’s CEO, Marissa Mayer, killed the long-standing policy that allowed employees to work from home. The news sent shockwaves in every direction, especially throughout high-tech industries. Many wondered whether the decision was a step backward and a signal of changes to come elsewhere.
Two months later, Mayer spoke at a human resources conference. She clarified that the new rule applied to just 200 of the 1200 Yahoo! employees. She reinforced the idea that collaboration and innovation happen best in an interactive environment. Even though the change was drastic for a tech company, she wasn’t backing down.
Many people feel their best work happens when they are uninterrupted and left alone, but even the best worker can hit some snags.
Five Common Pitfalls in Telecommuting
- Misalignment of organizational vision
- Loss of focus
- Derailed project or job expectations
- Poor time management Burnout (as work hours lengthen at a remote environment, like one’s home)
- Remember, the key principle for an ideal telecommuting situation is this: Working from home, or from another remote location, should include the same qualities that make work at the office productive.
Five Workplace Features that Help Telecommuters Succeed
- Workspace boundaries – Can the employee shut the door when they need to work and otherwise maintain a good work-life balance?
- Ability to concentrate – Will children, friends, or other obligations frequently interrupt the employee?
- Organization – Can they make a schedule and stick to it?
- Productivity – Have they been given expectations and goals? Can they get help quickly if they hit an obstacle?
- Focus and Fitness – Can they take short, regular breaks throughout the day to stay fresh and avoid fatigue or burnout?
What single safeguard makes telecommuting most effective? A job description!
Do the groundwork and craft a solid job description for a telecommuter before telecommuting takes effect. When a manager latches onto telecommuting as a hot trend without making the necessary preparations, trouble lies ahead.
A job description is not only important from an employee management standpoint; it’s a strategic necessity.
Your organization’s productivity and growth can be stymied when skills and competencies are unknown variables. Be definitive.
What’s the future for telecommuting?
Telecommuting is here to stay! The kibosh on telecommuting seen at Yahoo! won’t be the norm. While a number of organizations may rein in their telecommuters, many organizations will increase their use of telecommuting.
They will also recognize the high value of the expertise from contracted workers through portals and agencies like UpWork.com, Fiverr.com, and Guru.com. Specialized workers will continue to work from home, their local coffee shop, or other spots as the trend becomes normalized and wireless networking becomes more widely available worldwide.
Now is the perfect time to set expectations and boundaries to make the best of the situation.
How many people do you know who telecommute? What has been your experience? Would love to hear from our readers.
Mark A. Griffin is founder and Chief Consultant at In His Name HR LLC. He has over 20 years of HR experience. In His Name HR helps organizations build high-performance Human Resource programs.