Telecommuting continues to be on the rise. However, the increasing popularity of work-from-home setups is far from perfect. It’s not all conveniences and advantages. There are factors that pose serious challenges or problems that constitute reasons as to why telecommuting fails. It significantly helps for managers and business owners to get acquainted with these reasons to make sure that their remote working arrangements will not be a practice in futility or worse, a detrimental business decision.
That telecommuting is not for everyone is a fact everyone already knows. Not every employee is compatible with a teleworking setup. Many people lose their productivity and suffer from boredom when they are by their lonesome. Not everyone has excellent time management skills and self-discipline to thrive as a telecommuter.
To avoid this pitfall, employers or managers should assess the employees to whom they offer telecommuting opportunities. The screening process can be done through a combination of questionnaires, personal interview, and a review of previous work experiences.
As much as possible, telecommuting should be optional. It cannot become the compulsory setup for a company. For companies that only get work-from-home employees, it is a must to properly orient new hires on what they are getting themselves into.
Most employees and employers have a hugely positive perception of telecommuting. For employees, it entails greater flexibility and convenience. It means more time to be with their families. It means avoiding traffic or spending for the commute or drive to the office. On the other hand, for employers, telecommuting is equated to lower costs. It is also associated with greater efficiency.
The seemingly excessive emphasis on the positives, however, makes both employees and employers unwittingly oblivious to the negative sides of working from home. It’s like artwork with an imposing center of attraction that hides the defects. The failure to be mindful of the disadvantages makes everyone vulnerable to the slightest of problems that lead to failure.
Certainly, telecommuting has numerous benefits. It can even be said that the positives comfortably outnumber the negatives. However, when everyone fixates on the good points, it’s easy to become unwary of the risks and be unready when problems arise.
To avoid getting caught off guard by the perils of telecommuting, it’s important to be aware of the banes and risks. These include the following:
It’s important to be mindful of these telecommuting pitfalls to be able to implement measures to counter them. For security concerns, for instance, it is advisable to employ encrypted communication channels and to enforce confidentiality strictly. To address the risks of worker distraction, lack of motivation, virtually absent camaraderie with other employees, and low productivity, managers or business owners should be proactive.
They should be quick in detecting these problems and should come up with programs to promote cohesion among the employers in a company. There needs to be an active effort on the part of the management to motivate and support telecommuters, to make sure they deliver their optimum performance
For telecommuting to be successful, it has to be done in an organized manner. There has to be a system for everyone to follow. It does not make sense expecting every teleworker to have the initiative to do everything right and efficiently.
A good telecommuting system can be characterized as follows:
There are instances when telecommuting employees are treated as “second-class” members of a company or organization. They may get paid lower than the usual rate given to office-based employees. They may not be paid on time, or the benefits typically accorded to most other employees may not be given to them. Moreover, telecommuting employees may be forced to accept onerous or oppressive contracts. These are no-brainer reasons as to why telecommuting fails for many companies.
To avoid this problem, everything should be made clear from the get-go. Employees need to properly acquaint themselves with the internal rules and plans of the company. Their responsibilities to the company should be clear to them. At the same time, they have to be aware of their rights and the mechanisms they can turn to in case they feel that they are being harassed or abused.
Sometimes, the unconventional setup of telecommuting makes the employee-employer or manager-subordinate relationship highly informal and too personal. This leads to employees becoming too comfortable that they no longer accord their superiors the usual respect and deference.
If employers can harass or abuse employees, conversely, employees can do something similar to their superiors. They may disrespect their managers or supervisors. They may overdo the jocular exchanges with their employers. To assert what they want, they may hostage the work they do or sabotage the work process.
Becoming too friendly with employees can result in unwanted consequences. That’s why managers or business owners should see to it that they maintain a good balance of being approachable and authoritative. Maintaining a sense of authority over employees is necessary. Erring or abusive employees should be called out and not tolerated.
It can be helpful to adopt a system of rewards and penalties. This is to put up an objective system that would remind employees about their relationship with their employers. If they do good, they get rewarded for it. If they commit offenses, they should be sanctioned accordingly. Bosses who may be hesitant in admonishing employees should be able to easily invoke this system to respond to the positive or negative actions of employees properly.
It’s not wrong to use telecommuting as a cost-cutting measure. It is generally less expensive to pay for remote workers and avoid the other costs associated with traditional office-based employees. However, it is wrong to be stingy on telecommuters. Dissatisfaction due to pecuniary considerations is easily one of the reasons why telecommuting fails.
Paying work-from-home employees less than what they deserve and forcing them to economize on everything can result in dissatisfaction that may lead to lower productivity or worse, a betrayal to the company. Telecommuters who resign because of the low pay can be replaced, but it’s going to be a big problem if they retaliate by divulging delicate company information, spreading unflattering rumors, or by filing a suit.
It is very much possible to cut costs through telecommuting without being unfair to remote workers. Everyone working for a company should be treated equally. In a company that provides language services, for example, employees who provide translation services who are based abroad should not be treated differently from those who work in the company’s office.
Lastly, it’s important to be open to compromises. This reminder applies to both telecommuters and management. Being overly stubborn will lead no one to nowhere. If there are issues, they have to be promptly and calmly discussed with the concerned parties.
It’s never possible for everything to go as expected. Problems and challenges can present themselves at the most inconvenient moments. To cope, everyone should be willing to discuss the appropriate courses of action and cooperate for the effective implementation of these actions. For example, if the system of telecommuting assignments and submissions needs to be changed in response to a new client’s requirements, telecommuters can’t demand to keep using the old system, but they can negotiate for compromises that will be acceptable to both parties.
The reasons why telecommuting fails can be attributed to both the employee and employer (management). They are not a monopoly of the telecommuter or the management. For a work-from-home scheme to succeed, both employee and employer have roles to play. It’s a collaborative endeavor, something that can’t be furthered by just one side. The discussions above are valuable for telecommuters as well as for employers and managers as they strive to make telecommuting work.
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