Indications Your Leadership Should – or Shouldn’t – Implement Teleworking

Teleworking has been a hot-button topic for some time now, with supporters touting the productivity, savings and employee empowerment that can result from it, while those in opposition point to asset management issues, lack of teamwork and loss of productivity that may come along with working remotely.

While many leadership teams have taken up fairly definitive stances on whether employees may or may not work from home, the concept is still rather novel in a variety of industries. Curious about whether teleworking is right for your company? Below, I’ve created a list of pros and cons for leadership teams to mull over while considering work-from-home policies for their own organizations. Read on to learn more.

Pros of teleworking:

Savings. Along with teleworking can come significant savings, both for the company and for employees. Employees who work from home save on commuting costs (public transit fare, car maintenance, parking, etc.), while companies can cut costs by scaling back on the amount of office space they rent.

To make this reduction in office space effective, some companies are using the “hotelling” model with open desks and rotating schedules. Certain employees are scheduled to work from home on some days, while others work in office, and vice versa. Each employee has his or her own rolling locker in the office, and when they’re working on site, they simply grab their cart of belongings, roll it over to an available desk, sit down and get to work.

Additionally, in certain sectors like professional services, employees are out with clients almost exclusively – why waste resources on an office that will never be used?

By implementing a teleworking policy, employers can save up to $10,000 a year per employee when factoring in costs of commercial space rental, utilities and so forth, according to Mint.

In addition, it should be noted that the savings of teleworking go beyond the financial: Employees who are able to forgo commute time may save hours each day, which can then be spent on activities that can provide them with a greater work/life balance.

Increased Productivity. Interruptions consume, on average, 28 percent of a knowledge worker’s day, costing American companies an estimated $588 billion a year, according to the report “The Cost of Not Paying Attention: How Interruptions Impact Knowledge Worker Productivity.” While distractions may be present in a home office, they’re certainly not as pervasive as in the open-office environment many companies use today.

Employee Autonomy. When employees are given the power to choose when and how they work, they have the opportunity to be on the clock when they’re at their best and when it’s most convenient for them and their families. This flexibility can instill a great sense of satisfaction, engagement and autonomy in employees. In fact, research indicates that nearly 80 percent of telecommuters feel a greater commitment to their organizations and that most plan to remain with their current employer, according to the Boston College paper “Bringing Work Home: Advantages and Challenges of Telecommuting.”

Cons of teleworking:

Foreign Working Style. For many companies, teleworking could be a monumental change. It’s no wonder, then, that many businesses are hesitant to hop aboard the work-from-home train, as change of this magnitude can be quite difficult for organizations to conceive of, let alone implement.

Lack of Facetime. Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer’s choice to eliminate the company’s work-from-home policy was a decision that dominated chatter among businesspeople for some time. As much backlash as the policy received, Mayer does have a point: Teleworking can put a big ding in the amount of facetime workers have together in the office. Depending on the circumstances, lack of facetime could certainly lead to waning creativity among employees and a declining sense of teamwork.

Decreased Productivity. Some in leadership positions may wonder if employees can be trusted to put in their hours each day if they’re working from home offices. While this is a legitimate concern, do those in leadership really know if employees are putting in their full hours on a daily basis, even when they’re in the office? It’s hard to tell either way. Whether employees work from home or not, leadership must be able to confront losses that result from a lack of productivity.

Asset Management & Compatibility Issues. When your employees work from home, do they require special, expensive technology to get their jobs done? Will they be required to take home files with confidential company information?

Managing hardware and securing digital information may become more of a challenge if employees are working off site, which is certainly something to mull over. In addition, leadership will want to consider if they’ll be saving money at all if they must provide employees with a significant amount of hardware and software to overcome any compatibility issues in their home office.

Finally, it should be noted that “compatibility” goes beyond technology issues: For many industries that absolutely need employees to be physically on site, teleworking is simply not a compatible working style.

Collin L. Sprau, Partner
About Collin L. Sprau, Partner

Collin recruits senior executives across a wide variety of industries with an emphasis on technology officers and their direct reports in mid-cap and large industrial companies.

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