Wednesday, May 26, 2010

At land, sea or air? – You can work anywhere!

Telecommuting and flexible work practices are becoming more and more popular in today’s modern information and technology based society. Production has been outsourced to eastern countries and the need of the employee to be physically ‘at work’ has diminished.

Is telecommuting for you?
When everything you need from your employer comes via an email or a call on the phone, and the job you do is on the computer or phone, there should be no need, to be ‘at work’ physically. Many modern companies have learned this and have introduced flexible work practices to cater the needs of their employees. There are many pros and cons to be taken in consideration when determining if your company is fit for flexible work practices. Below you can read more about the different aspects of flexible work practices and decide if your company could benefit from telecommuting.

Telecommuting – a lifestyle
Flexible work practices can be used in several ways to cater a worker’s needs. Meeting late, or early, is for some the ideal plan. But ‘flexibility’ extends way beyond just working hours; why not use the phone and internet now that they are there? With today’s technology, it is possible to work almost anywhere, especially in large cities, where WiFi-hotspots are increasingly available.

Depending on the specific situation, telecommuting can quickly become a very important part of an employee’s, manager’s or employer’s life, and private and work-lives will merge to become one. Given the chance to work at home, and nothing more than deadlines and specific goals, you can do many of the things you wish you had better time to do on a daily basis. Parents will have more time for their kids, take them to school and help them with their homework. They can be picked up right after school, whether they are off at 11 am or 4 pm should no longer matter, you can go straight back to work once you get home.

Flexible working practices are as mentioned not limited by the home. Some people merely require a phone, their computer and an internet connection. With laptops, cellphones and WiFi-hotspots available in many major cities, airports, trains and buses, the world has practically everyone’s working place, as long as they are willing to take the plunge.

The good
Happy employees work faster, are more thorough with their work and combined with flexibility, employees can work when they feel their motivation is peaking, which in the end gives every a better result for everyone. Employees will no longer have to leave work to get their favorite cup of coffee from the local Starbucks, they can sit there all day if they like to. They can go visit friends and drive early to a meeting with a customer and work in the car, using a mobile modem or their iPhone as an internet connection. Employers will see that they can call their employees almost any time of the day and have work-related issues solved within minutes, as the employee will have everything he or she needs right by his or her side, and not be limited by time and space.

The requirements for all these positive effects will be discussed in detail in the section below.

The not-so-good and must-be-taken-care-offs 
When working out, there is no water cooler, no oasis to go to and catch a random friendly conversation with your co-workers at. This must be made up for by encouraging employees to keep in contact with each other as well as the manager. To make sure that this is done effectively, IBM did some studies within their company and found that that contact should be made at least every third day, or else people will lose contact with one another, and social life will suffer. Hence they created the 3-day rule, requiring teams to set up meeting every 3 days, not necessarily to talk about work, but to make sure they keep contact. Another vital issue is the contact between the employee and the employer, setting up meetings to make sure everything is working out fine is important. Keeping track of everything is important, though the manager must avoid making it seem, as if he or she is keeping a constant eye on the employee.

With telecommuting, trust is very important.

Delegating responsibility and assignments will help the manager work more efficiently, while the employee will feel that his or her work is increasingly important to the company. This will help employees to feel more motivated. How important the previous statements may be, the following is even more so.

Above all, clear goals and ambitions for the employee and company are of utmost importance. For a company to experience success with telecommuting, clarity is the word to remember. When delegating assignments and setting new goals for an employee, you must make sure that the message will get through as you want it to be. When face-to-face talks are out, and conference calls and emails are in, you need to make sure that your employee fully comprehends the messages given. Urge employees to ask questions, if any, before making mistakes, the manager should be no more than an email, text or phone call away.

To be or not to be – at work or home? 
Telecommuting is not for everyone, it requires adaptive employees as well as employers. However, if the requirements are met, it provides a very good opportunity for the company to keep their employees satisfied with their work, as they are practically shaping it themselves. Telecommuting requires the company to set up clear policies and procedures, as well as maintain a strong management.

With telecommuting, work is more about the goal, than how you get there… can you manage?

Please contact the author before any use or reference, all rights reserved.

This text was originally written as part of my English exam at IBC, and has not been edited.