On a site that is dedicated to finding different ways to earn working from home, I could not omit touching on the concept of telecommuting as potentially one of the best ways to make an income from home. Let me take you through the actual definition of telecommuting, what telecommuting home jobs are, and why there is still much skepticism around the validity of telecommuting roles.
What is telecommuting
When you telecommute, you are employed by a company or organisation that enables you to work from home, or the local library or coffee shop, at least once a week. So, instead of commuting from your home to an office based position, you actually ‘commute’ with other colleagues and with your team using telecommunication tools, such as phone, emails and internet based platforms.
This new solution has been adopted by more and more employers in the last few decades as a new way of offering additional flexibility to employees, in an effort help them strike a better balance between work and private or family life.
Telecommuting is more widely spread within certain types of business, such as sales environment, online software management companies and internet industries, customer services where firms are prepared to outsource, in creative roles, such as writing environments and designing, and any other business that can avail of the benefits offered by the internet where management systems are web based.
Benefits of telecommuting
The benefits of telecommuting are immeasurable for those people who struggle to keep up with the obligations of a family whilst having to sustain daily bills with a regular income. If you wish, telecommuting is in fact the ideal situation for an employee, as unlike self employment, you have a regular salary and a contract of employment, but you can benefit from being home based.
I often mention the freedom that working from home gives you. Unfairly and incorrectly working from home is often seen by many as a way to ‘skive off’, a way to pretend to work whilst you spend the day watching day telly or running around doing your errands. This could not be further from the truth. As a part time home worker myself – although I do not telecommute, as I work independently – I see the benefits of telecommuting in the fact that you could wake up at crack o’ down and start tackling your work load whilst the kids are still in bed; this would enable you fit in both your work related activities with the school run.
In fact, if you think about it, the day of a home worker are much longer and jam-packed than the ones of people working from an office, as home workers tend to family and home duties every day as well as working for their employer.
The drawbacks of telecommuting
These are similar to the disadvantages posed by working from home more generally. You are part of a team, but will work mostly on your own. If you like the comradery of working closely with colleagues, then telecommuting is definitely not for you, as you may end up feeling isolated and detached from the rest of the team.
You also must be very well organised and self disciplined in order not to fall pray of the temptations offered by day tv programs, or by catching up with your house chores, or by whichever other excuse you may
Generally speaking, as you are still employed by and work for a company, you need to remain accountable to your boss. You will be asked to attend meetings in the office – although nowadays more and more organisations do take advantage of phone conferencing through Skype or FaceTime technologies. Which means, some industries require your presence in their offices, periodically or more regularly and frequently – and this, in turn, may unsettle your daily routine when it comes to having to arrange additional child care, or nursing care.
And ultimately, when you telecommute, you are still part of an organisation, which means you have a boss and are not your own boss. When working on a self employed basis, you may have to put pressure on yourself in meeting earning targets, but you have only yourself to respond to. Equally, you may take a number of different approaches to your work ethics – so long as they are legal, of course. As an employee, you need to adhere to targets set up for you by your boss, and you still represent your company, hence must adhere to your company policies. In other words, although your role and service delivery is made more flexible, you never have the freedom to operate as when working for yourself.
Then again, as mentioned, it is expected that you will have a secure salary.
Who is telecommuting for
Ideally, this type of arrangement is offered more willingly to newly mothers struggling with child care arrangements, or to parents more generally.
But companies are not strangers to consider this additional type of flexibility for those employees who can present a valid argument in favour of working from home. I could ask my employer to work from home as I have caring obligations towards an older parent, or I could have started retraining with a college or university course, and may need the additional flexibility to fit in lectures.
The possibilities are infinite as to why your boss, and the company you work for, may surprise you by accepting your proposal to work from home. Because the advantages to employees working from home extend to your employers too!
All around winning combination
For an organisation, and more so for a smaller company, there are too benefits to having your workforce practicing from home.
When an employee works from home, you save in office space and in running costs. The office becomes more paper free, as communication is primarily via internet. Less desks and working station are required, as it is often the case that when workers come into the office alternatively, they will do desk share.
But the greatest advantage to a company allowing telecommuting will be in increased productivity.
It has been proven that, as workers strike a happier balance between working and personal life, they will be happier in their working role, and will approach their work more proactively – to the point that sickness rates amongst home based workers are noticeably reduced. And again, as workers are given the choice of when to work within the 24 hour day cycle, they may take advantage of their more productive hours in the day to make the most of their energy levels to give more in brain storming and in creativity.
Skepticism surrounding telecommuting
Given all these positive premises, it is still quite evident that some work environment are still looking at telecommuting with doubting eyes. The figures for telecommuting are far higher in the States, for instance, than in UK. And they go further down in Southern Europe. But why? Is the reluctance to offer telecommuting as a regular opportunity for workers dictated by cultural limitation? Or are the higher figures of specific countries determined to by geographic requirements?
When relating to geographical factors, it is easily understandable why telecommuting (or remote working, as some address it) may be more widely employed by companies due to wider distances. It would make it impractical and expensive, and sometimes physically impossible, for workers to commute as fast as in smaller countries, or within smaller district towns, where distances are noticeably reduced.
UK is renowned for its commuting culture, especially with workers living in suburbs of bigger cities. And commuting is not only ingrained amongst the higher ranks of salaried positions. Those on lower wages do not mind commuting either, in spite of the high train fares in this country.
The most recent figures I found for home working in UK relate to a survey taken by the Office for National Statistics and covering the period January-March 2015, where it appears that only 13.7% of workforce resulted as working from home. But the figures do not clarify whether that percentage related to all home workers or solely telecommuting. See the below picture:
Older, but more precise, figures are reported by BBC News in an article from 2011, where it was reported that in 2008 teleworking rose to 46% of employed workforce (BBC News 2011: ‘Home Working: Why can’t everyone telework?’).
But the same article outlines also why in certain specific sectors employers may see telecommuting with reticence. Whilst for instance not all businesses can be adapted to telecommuting, my direct experience is that not all employers feel safe in entrusting the running of a business, and the working ethics of an organisation, to an employee working from home without supervision.
Some companies feel they would need to invest heavily in stronger firewall protecting softwares and in more powerful IT systems to enable safe exchange of data between home based internet connections and big head office servers. But other employers still feel there must be a ‘hands on’ approach when supervising the productivity of their teams. In other words, the mistrust that ‘when the mice are away, the cats will play’ is still at the core of the problem why telecommuting is not offered to employees to make their life, in one word, better.
Personally, if offered a telecommuting opportunity, I would grab it with both hands. Provided I monitored myself and set standards and feasible targets as if I were at work, I am more than certain, Mr Boss, I would be well far off from skiving off! But, the question is: would anyone else? And, would you?
Leave your comment below, to share your telecommuting experience or how you feel about the possibility of working from home for your boss.