Offering employees the benefit of choosing their work environment. Talent management and retention are among corporate buzzwords today. And with strong reasons. There are ample findings to prove the direct correlation that exists been an employee’s happiness and productivity at work – not to mention loyalty to the organization.
Companies, therefore, increasingly want their employees to feel happier and more satisfied with a better work-life balance. So, it is no surprise that an increasing number of companies are looking at facilitating their employees with more benefits like telecommuting – working from home or a remote location. Telecommuting is a concept popular in the west, that is fast gaining momentum in India – especially over the last decade, post the IT and internet boom in the country.
However, as bigger corporations are seen to be actively embracing this concept, there has been some reluctance on the part of small and medium businesses. There is a notion that telecommuting may cause a dip in productivity and a fear that it will be difficult to manage employees working from outside the monitored and disciplined confines of the office.
Then, there are apprehensions around security breaches and data protection issues as well. Smaller enterprises are usually too busy coping with the myriad challenges that come with rapidly evolving businesses and typically do not have the well-entrenched systems and processes that come with many bigger corporations.
However, there are many benefits that telecommuting can bring to SMBs – not the least of which is substantial savings. Therefore, it makes sense to look at how the concept could be adopted to suit the SMB environment. A phased approach, with due consideration to associated benefits and risks before formally taking it to the employees, could well be the answer. Here’s a look at some of the reasons why telecommuting is all set to be a future corporate wave:
Employee Retention & Productivity
A recent survey by Cisco had 91 per cent of the respondents rate telecommuting as “somewhat or very important to their overall satisfaction” – thus contributing to employee retention, offering a choice of better work-life balance, leading to greater satisfaction and improved productivity. For an SMB this could prove to be pivotal as employee productivity and loyalty are perhaps most crucial when a business is taking roots and building its foundation.
Lowering of Overheads
Telecommuting offers additional benefits like lowering the overheads. There are savings on several counts: transport, space requirements, utilities, refreshments and more. This is especially significant for SMBs that usually work on a tight budget and constantly struggle to bring down their operational expenses. In addition, there are savings for employees too – commuting costs and time.
Overcoming Geography & Time Constraints
Telecommuting makes sure that the availability of talent and skilled personnel is not affected by factors like traffic or illnesses. Technology enables access to talent irrespective of geographical and time constraints. However, like most beneficial concepts, telecommuting too has its flipsides that will have to be considered while creating a telecommuting policy for your business.
Some of these are:
Fall in Productivity While the concept of telecommuting lends itself beautifully to promote work-life balance, its success hinges on the work ethics of the employees. In the absence of a traditional office set-up and direct observation from one’s managers, workers still need to maintain a professional work ethic.
Also, the isolation that may come from not physically being present in office, where there are social opportunities of direct interpersonal interaction, can make workers feel demotivated and adversely affect productivity.
Not Everyone’s Cup-of-tea Telecommuting is not suited to all people and tasks. There are employees who need to be hand-held and don’t stand to benefit much through telecommuting. Also, not all roles may be suited to be carried out through telecommuting.
Securing Data Before offering the benefit of telecommuting to employees, organizations need to chart out some necessary precautions to ensure data protection and security. Training sessions for employees may also go a long way in ensuring security concerns being better addressed. Keeping both the pros and cons in view, organizations can consider the following steps while setting an appropriate telecommuting policy for their businesses.
Guidelines in Place The first step in going ahead with a telecommuting policy for your business is to have extensive discussions with the management and the employees on processes and protocols. Clear guidelines and policies will aid everyone in making the adjustment/ transition.
There must be thorough policies that outline how to maintain office equipment hosted at the telecommuter’s home or any other location to avoid unnecessary equipment failure and resulting expenditure. Also, as with any other nascent policy, keep telecommuting open for a small group of employees to begin with. This way, before you go for a company-wide implementation, you will have a fair idea if teleworking is a good fit for your business.
Face-to-Face Communication To break the monotony that may come as a result of telecommuting, employees should be encouraged to alternate between reporting to office and working remotely. The periodic face-to-face interaction between an employee and his manger will also help ensure better alignment to the group’s tasks and company’s goals. Frequently organised video conference calls may also help foster team spirit even as employees avail the option of telecommuting.
Equipping Remote Location To ensure productivity, the company may need to take care of some basics – laptop, data cards, telephone services, printer, office supplies and the likes – that its employees may require as they work from remote locations.