Telecommuting is one of the most popular flexible work arrangements around currently. It is a working arrangement which allows an individual to work outside the traditional workplace or office (Working remotely from home, coffee shops, etc.). There could be many flavors of telecommuting arrangements such as full time telecommuting, part time telecommuting, telecommuting with fixed or flexible hours and so on.
With the advancement of technology and globalization; increased bandwidth, faster internet, wide availability of online collaboration tools such as email, instant messaging, video conferencing has made telecommuting work arrangement possible and popular.
According to recent census, roughly 3 million Americans are full-time telecommuters. But another 15-20 million people work from home some days of the week and in the office the rest of the time. It has also been reported that the number of teleworkers has been growing at around 13% per year since 1997. Just a small percentage of these are self-employed. The rest are the fast growing group of employees who are being allowed to go home to work more efficiently – mostly managers and professionals, as it happens.
I was on a telecommuting work arrangement with my former employer in 2014. This arrangement was active for close to one year. My work schedule then was such that I work at office Monday and Wednesday and I telecommute the rest of the days. The days I’m in office I work the usual business hours. The days I telecommute I work flexible hours and my work hours are typically 5am-7am, 9am-11am, 3pm-5pm and 8pm-10pm.
This telecommuting schedule has been equally rewarding and challenging for me. Telecommuting requires a lot of self-discipline and organization. Below are some tips on how I managed to make it work:
- Establish a schedule and stick to it. This is critical to keep family life and work life balanced but separate.
- Setup a separate place at home to do your office work.
- Be a master of time management. When working flexibly you need to squeeze out each and every available minute from your day.
- Avoid multi-tasking. Focus only on one thing at any given moment.
- Arrange for short term child care arrangements. There is always an urgent project that need to get done.
- It’s all about ‘virtual’ communication and collaboration.
- Make technology your best friend. Emails, instant messaging and video conferencing will be your handy tools.
Even with all its challenges and complexities Telecommuting brings a lot of advantages to both the employee and the employer.
For the employee:
- Saves time, energy and money
- Increases job satisfaction
- Improves productivity and work performance
- Reduces stress
- Better work-life balance
For the employer:
- Reduced employee turnover and absenteeism
- Cost savings
- Increased productivity
- Employee retention and wider talent pool
- Loyal and trustworthy employees
In order to reap these benefits; the implementation of telecommuting must be successful. Successful telecommuting requires two important aspects:
An employee who is willing to work independently and alone and has the appropriate traits and characteristics for a successful long distance relationship.
A employer who is willing to trust and communicate electronically and who is comfortable supporting an offsite employee.
When implemented and practiced well, telecommuting is an attractive flexible working schedule that will enable individuals and organizations alike to Make it Work.