Telecommuting may no longer be regarded as an alternative work setup. With the way things are progressing, remote work may become comparable to traditional work setup in terms of popularity and preference. Thanks to developments in technology, laws, and perception among businesses, the future of telecommuting is getting better and brighter to the benefit of employees and employers alike.
Tech enabling telecommuting
The 5G era is just around the corner, and it is expected to give telecommuting a boost. With mobile speeds of up to 10 Gbps, 5G will make Internet-based working faster and more reliable. It will introduce a new standard in mobile web speed and reliability that will spur changes in present networks, ultimately making telco companies ditch their outdated and slow systems.
Not all telecommuting employees may use 5G in the next few years, but its presence will create a domino effect that will improve Internet connection for all. The 5G infrastructure opens up a massive bandwidth that will be faster and more dependable, attracting subscribers who are frustrated with their old services while freeing up bandwidth in the old infrastructure, which makes services therein better. As subscribers migrate to 5G, 4G resources are set to be decongested, which means improved connections for most users of the Internet. Those in the urban areas who regularly suffer from intermittent or slow connections can expect improvements in their broadband services.
The significant improvements brought about by 5G will make online communication clearer and considerably less affected by chronic problems such as dropped connections. Moreover, it will enable enhanced collaboration as the sharing of large files and real-time screen sharing will no longer be restrained by limited bandwidth. New options of communication and collaboration may be enabled and made mainstream by 5G. Skype, for example, expressed intentions to provide the option for holographic video calls.
Moreover, 5G can leverage large amounts of data online, not just in terms of doing typical SQL queries to databases. Superfast fifth generation mobile Internet connections
can enable data access from multiple federated clouds, dramatically boosting productivity among telecommuters.
In a not so related development, Google has come up with a way to help telecommuters. The Internet search giant has introduced a location filter that Google users can use when searching for work-from-home opportunities. This works through the new remote job markup and telecommuting job markup, which must be used by employers when posting remote work announcements online. With this, Google assists companies in finding the right remote workers to hire and for telecommuters to more quickly see job opportunities. The feature only works for US users for now, but it will eventually be made available to other parts of the world.
Governments becoming telecommuting-friendly
The Philippines, one of the leading business process outsourcing countries in the world, recently enacted a law that supports telecommuting. Officially known as the Telecommuting Act, this law requires employers to provide to telecommuters the same benefits traditional employees are getting including overtime pay, leave credits, and bonuses. It recognizes remote work arrangements as a legitimate setup for businesses and organizations. Hence, employers are expected to abide by all the applicable labor laws.
The Philippines is definitely not the only country whose government is supportive of the remote work setup. The United States has the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010, which was created to bolster continuity of operations in the Federal Government. It is aimed at ensuring that essential functions of the Federal government are sustained in times of emergencies as well as promoting effective management where telecommuting is implemented.
The European Union has the European Framework Agreement on Telework which provides protection for teleworkers and signifies the acknowledgment of employers that remote work setups can be advantageous for businesses. The signatory parties of this agreement share the view that telecommuting is a way for private and public sector employers to modernize work organization and an option for employees to achieve better work-life balance while attaining greater workplace autonomy. The agreement prescribes regulations for telecommuters’ work conditions, safety, health, training, as well as their collective rights.
The Japanese government, on the other hand, makes it clear that it is supportive of telecommuting. Remote work is not as popular in the world’s third largest economy as it is in the United States where around a third of the workers do telework. As of 2017, it
was reported that only around 4% of workers in Japan work from home at least once in a week. The government of Japan seeks to change this situation to raise productivity in preparation for the increased tourism and economic activities spurred by the Summer Olympics in 2020. Japan has one of the longest work hours in the world and its workforce is quickly aging. That’s why the government feels the urgency of implementing the necessary reforms to address the country’s corporate problems.
Several other countries are beginning to embrace the remote work setup that governments are stepping up to regulate the arrangement for the benefit of employees and businesses. It may not be highly popular yet but the trend is on the rise.
Businesses embracing telework
Companies are likewise embracing telecommuting. Big businesses are notable for their high profile remote work policies.
· Amazon was reported to plan on hiring 5,000 teleworkers for organizational, financial, and competitive considerations.
· Apple opened vacancies for full-time and part-time home advisors to provide technical support to customers in a remote work arrangement.
· American Express, a financial and travel company, has telecommuting positions for travel counselors, sales agent, and business development specialists.
· AT&T has more than 22,500 telecommuters in dozens of countries comprising around a fifth of the company’s management workforce.
· Cigna, an American health services and insurance company has been running a work-from-home program since 2002.
· Cisco, a networking and communications giant has a telecommuting program that allowed the company to significantly reduce operating expenses, downsizing its real estate (office) portfolio by around 30%.
· Intel offers telecommuting as a way of helping employees achieve work-life balance. It is one of the options workers can choose along with compressed work weeks, flexible working hours, alternate start times, job share positions, and part-time work.
The VP for recruitment at UnitedHealth Group, a managed care and insurance industry leader, once claimed that almost 20% of the company’s labor force mostly work from home. This was when the company only had around 70,000 employees. Now, with over 270,000 employees, the percentage of work-from-home workers has risen to around 25%. That’s approximately 67,000 or almost the same number of UnitedHealth Group
employees working as telecommuters from about a decade ago. These employees include nurses, accountants, computer technicians, recruitment officers, auditors, contract managers, consultants, and Medicare/Medicaid specialists.
Businesses are becoming supportive of telework schemes for a number of reasons. The most important of which are as follows:
· Greater productivity
· Reduced costs and office requirements
· Flexibility that boosts work-life balance
· Access to a broader pool of talent
· Enhanced employee retention
Telecommuting can lead to more work accomplishments as it allows employees to choose the kind of work setting they prefer and be more flexible in how they complete their tasks. In fact, a study conducted by the Florida International University College of Business found that telecommuting helps employees boost their performance when it comes to complex jobs and allows them to avoid interruptions commonly found in traditional workplaces or offices. It can also reduce operational costs as it eliminates the need for offices and the associated expenses such as electricity, Internet connection, computers, and office maintenance. It is a great way to help employees achieve better work-life balance because of the flexibility and the less stressful environment it affords, which contributes to better employee happiness and satisfaction that also improves employee retention. Moreover, through teleworking, companies can have access to the best talents regardless of the location.
Challenges for management Telecommuting can be regarded as the antithesis to the 9-to-5 work setup. It provides advantages that are absent in the conventional work arrangement and a drastically different way of doing things. However, it also has its challenges and drawbacks. As such, it’s important for managers to be mindful of instances or potential problems that can spoil the perceived benefits of adopting a remote work scheme.
For one, it’s imperative to make sure that only those who are suitable for telecommuting are allowed to telecommute. It should also be an option, not a requirement, since it does not work for everyone. There is a need for constant monitoring especially for companies that are new in adopting such a setup. Allowing teleworkers in a company should not be done simply because it is the trend, but because it is a viable scheme worth trying and there’s clamor for it on the part of employees.
Telecommuting is often associated with the following serious potential problems:
· Communication difficulties
· Poor employee and management relationships
· Career advancement difficulties
· Loss of company culture
· Overwhelming schedules
· Employee problems such as the lack of focus, technical issues, and the feeling of isolation
Managers should prepare for these challenges and provide enough support for their telecommuters. Additionally, if there are issues, they should be promptly and adequately addressed. These problems can be delayed pay, the denial of traditional employee benefits, or vague policies and reasons for rejecting employees’ output or requiring rework. For telework to work, it needs a proactive management and the cooperation of employees.
Remote workers can look forward to exciting times with all the improvements in technology, legislation, and business sentiments. Businesses should take advantage of the telecommuting trend albeit prudently, instead of sticking to what is conventional and fearing the potential problems. Teleworking has its banes and issues but the confluence of favorable tech, policy, and business developments makes it more compelling for businesses to try.