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What Is Telecommuting in the Time of Coronavirus?

What Is Telecommuting in the Time of Coronavirus?

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By Shoshana Friedman

COVID-19 is redefining how people work. Telecommuting, a once antiquated term, is experiencing a revival.

In this article, we will delve into the why behind telecommuting, the tools telecommuters need and what is in store for the future of telecommuting. 

What is telecommuting?

Telecommuting is defined by the Cambridge dictionary as the activity of working for a company but staying at home and communicating with an office by computer, internet or telephone.

People who engage in telecommuting are referred to as telecommuters.

Telecommuting in the digital age

The 9 to 5 workday at the office is no longer the norm for employees and businesses. Since 2010, the amount of people working from home at least once a week in the United States has grown by 400%.

Digital transformation has enabled individuals and organizations to be able to connect remotely and perform their jobs from almost any location. 

Credit: Quartz


Technology is being leveraged to accommodate working from home in a variety of ways: 

  • Digital platforms to communicate and collaborate virtually 
  • Employee training software to onboard employees to new technology or maintain ongoing employee development 
  • Data and analytics introduced to business functions to gain better insight into employee usage and productivity 
  • Cloud software for remote access to business applications 

Technology facilitates flexible work hours which are a top priority for job seekers as 92% of millennials cite flexibility as their primary concern when job hunting. Telecommuting allows employees to work more flexible hours from varying locations, changing the standard of requiring a physical presence at the office to complete your work. 

What are the benefits of telecommuting? 

There are several advantages to telecommuting for both employees and the organizations that employ them.

EMPLOYEES:

ORGANIZATIONS: 

  • Costs and overhead are reduced since employees working from home don’t require office space or transportation reimbursements. 
  • Organizations who employee remote workers are more agile and resilient when a crisis strikes, like what we are experiencing with COVID-19  
  • Telecommuters are more likely to recommend their company to a friend 

Employees who work from home are happier and engaged which improves employee performance, thus creating stronger and healthier organizations 

Credit: Facility Executive

What are the challenges of telecommuting? 

While telecommuting is fast becoming a necessary way to work, there are some obstacles that employees and organizations need to be mindful of. As more people are working from home, it will be important for managers and organizations to prepare their teams to telecommute.

Communication barriers 

Not physically being at the office can make it harder to strike up conversations and connect with colleagues. Telecommuters need to make an effort to not only communicate by email and messaging platforms, but to utilize video conferencing to get some quality face-time with teammates. 

Identifying with the organizational culture 

Working from home means that telecommuters aren’t present for company-wide meetings and events. Managers need to prioritize ways for telecommuters to connect to the company’s culture to best understand the organization’s values and ways of doing things.

Management visibility 

Managers may take a more hands-off approach to employees working from home or be less inclined to promote them as they don’t see them day in and day out. It is necessary for remote workers to consistently share their accomplishments and for managers to engage employees in their career growth aspirations. 

Tech outages

Employees working from home need to have back up systems in place if their internet goes down or they encounter another type of technical difficulty. Since an IT team won’t physically be on hand, those working remotely need to have the proper support resources at their disposal. 

Credit: Owl Labs State of Remote Work 2019

What tools do telecommuters need?

Working from home requires a fully equipped home office set-up, complete with a suite of digital tools to best perform the job. A Deloitte study of 1,000 Swiss office workers found that 42% surveyed said their employer does not provide them with the digital devices that would enable them to work from home. Organizations should be taking stock of all of the software that they offer to employees to best prepare them for working from home.

Communication platforms –  Communication software can include video conferencing apps, chat apps, and other tools that facilitate collaboration. This is vital to those working remotely and gives all employees, regardless where they are working, the ability to connect and collaborate. Software like Zoom, Bluejeans and Skype have seen an uptick in purchases and usage since the coronavirus has struck. 

Digital Adoption Platforms (DAPs) – Digital adoption platforms are designed to facilitate seamless software learning by simplifying the user experience and ensuring proficiency on any software platform, app or website. This is especially beneficial for telecommuters as DAP allows individuals to learn at their own speed and independently, without the need for on-site help from colleagues.

Project management software – Tools that make project management more efficient, ease collaboration and streamline work. There are many project management options like Trello and Monday.com that can make it easier to coordinate projects and work with teams from afar.

What is the future of telecommuting?

Telecommuting is gaining even more momentum as the coronavirus spreads and employers are telling their staff to work from home. 

While the popularity of remote work and flexible hours was already on the rise, we can expect to see telecommuting become more common. The benefits to telecommuting seem to outweigh the drawbacks as can be seen by statistics collected on remote work. There are challenges inherent with working from home, which is why companies today need to start preparing by investing more thought and resources into equipping and empowering their telecommuting workforce. 

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Shoshana Friedman
Shoshana's background in product and user experience gives her writing a focus on the human aspect of the business and technology landscapes. Her unique UX angle allows her to assess the digital era in a way that is both practical and insightful.