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7 Reasons Why Telecommuting Fails and How to Make it Work

by May 14, 2021Language and Culture

Sean Hopwood
MBA President and Founder at Day Translations, Inc.

As our digital-first world continues to evolve, telecommuting is becoming a more widely preferred way of working. But the work-from-home setup is far from perfect. Over the past year, most traditional organizations had to improve and adapt to remote working. This adaptation made it clear to see where the blunders of telecommuting come into play. As a manager or business owner, it is essential to get acquainted with these seven common pitfalls that can upend your remote working efforts.

 

1. Telecommuting Is Seen as a Universal Solution for All Employees

Telecommuting is not for everyone. Many employees become less productive in remote working setups and become bored when left to their own devices. Not everyone has impeccable time management skills and the kind of discipline it takes 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 interviews, and a review of previous work experiences.

Whenever possible, telecommuting should be optional, not mandatory, to all employees. For companies with a purely remote workforce, it is a must to properly orient new hires on what they are getting themselves into.

 

2. Benefits and Advantages Overshadow the Negatives

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 time on the commute or drive to the office. On the other hand, for employers, telecommuting equates 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.

While telecommuting has a plethora of benefits that arguably outweigh its drawbacks, it’s easy to become blindsided by all the perks. To avoid getting caught off guard by the perils of telecommuting, it’s essential to be aware of the banes and risks. These include the following:

  • Security issues. This is particularly true when it comes to the failure of remote workers to protect critical company data.
  • Lack of camaraderie. It’s different when employees can interact with each other personally regularly.
  • Unmotivated employees. Telecommuters are less likely to be promoted. They also tend to be detached from the company they are working for. As such, there is little to no motivation to become productive and to progress together with the company.
  • Easily distracted workers. Being at home or in locations not conducive to working means having a multitude of distractions and opportunities to slow down and not to do any work.
  • Low productivity. It’s not easy monitoring teleworkers and compelling them to be productive when they can easily hide their activities, or they can come up with myriad excuses to justify low productivity.

It’s essential to be mindful of these telecommuting pitfalls to implement measures to counter them. For security concerns, for instance, it is advisable to employ encrypted communication channels and 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 to detect these problems and develop programs to promote cohesion among the employers in a company. There needs to be an active effort on the management to motivate and support telecommuters, to make sure they deliver their optimum performance.

 

3. Not All Organizations Have the Right Systems in Place

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 to expect every teleworker to have the initiative to do everything right and efficiently.

A sound telecommuting system can be characterized as follows:

  • Having the right equipment and reliable communication.  Those who don’t have a good enough computer and a dependable Internet connection cannot be expected to thrive as telecommuters. It may help to loan equipment to home-based employees and subsidizing the Internet connection fees.
  • Having established procedures for doing things.  Everything should be meticulously organized, from the assignment of tasks to the submission of the expected output. The submission method, file formats, software used, deadlines, and other essential aspects of the job should be established.
  • Having a fair grievance system. Remote workers may not find it easy to lodge complaints or contest the actions of the management. As such, it’s vital to have an effective way to address grievances. Like the need for an efficient system for handling complaints and conflict in the workplace, a protocol must be created to address issues in the telecommuting setup credibly.

 

4. Employees Might Be Subjected to Harassment or Abuse

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 offered 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 if they feel that they are being harassed or abused.

 

5. Employees Might Lose Respect for Their Employers

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 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 approach 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 effortlessly invoke this system to respond to the positive or negative actions of employees appropriately.

 

6. Excessive Cost-Cutting Attempts Can Sabotage Time Management

It’s not wrong to use telecommuting as a cost-cutting measure. After all, 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 fiscal considerations is easily one of the top 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. Still, 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 still 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 that are based abroad should not be treated differently from those who work in the company’s office.

 

7. An Unwillingness to Compromise Can Cause the Remote Setup to Crumble

Lastly, it’s essential 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 in implementing 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.

 

Final Thoughts

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 and employers and managers as they strive to make telecommuting work.

 

Sean Hopwood
MBA President and Founder at Day Translations, Inc.

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