Telecommuting is quickly becoming the way of doing business. With technological advances, such as the expanded availability of the internet and communication software such as Rendezvous, employees can work from home. This can save corporations from needing to invest in large real estate offices, and employees can have a more balanced home-life. But what are the challenges to telecommuting? With the rapid expansion of telecommuting, challenges have arisen faster than companies are prepared to deal with them. Some of these challenges include potential security breaches, employee productivity and social isolation.
One of the most serious problems that have arisen with telecommuting is the potential for confidential information to be compromised. If an employee is at a public location with Wi-Fi and they open sensitive information while there, the information can be compromised. The same issue exists if they do not have a secure network at home. A study in 2008 found that only 20% of companies took precautionary measures to keep sensitive information secure. Today, however, companies have begun realizing the severity of this matter and often if employees handle confidential information, they must have specific software installed on their home computers to keep the information secure. They also may not be allowed to access the information away from home, again as a precautionary measure to keep sensitive information secure.
Are employees productive when they work from home? This is one of the biggest concerns from management with the rise of telecommuting, and what led Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer to ban telecommuting for Yahoo. From an employee perspective, how easy is it to stay focused at home? Are they motivated to wake up early for conference calls? The University of Florida (UF) believes working from home can be as successful as an office, but suggests employees keep a separate work-space in their home. Managers face a new challenge with telecommuting, as is it predicted the way to keep employees productive is to use people skills. Positional leaders will find difficulty keeping employees happy and engaged if they aren’t nice, says UF.
Possibly the most challenging hurdle within telecommuting is social isolation. A recent publication in Industry Week predicts employees that do not feel connected with their colleagues or company, as one would be if they did physically work together, can lead to discontent and higher turnover. Without employees being able to ‘break bread’ with one another over lunch or physically engage in meetings, creativity and problem-solving opportunities are lost. A solution for this, proposed UF, is to make regular mandatory meetings, giving employees an opportunity to develop rapport with one another. These mandatory meetings can be scheduled on software like Rendezvous, in an organized calendar. The software can also schedule video conferences from anywhere in the world, for employees that may not be located near the office, but still need to interact with their colleagues.
Telecommuting is becoming the wave of the future work-place. An article published by CNN found that 41% of employees are now telecommuting. If the aforementioned challenges are overcome successfully, the benefits of this practice will be immense. Employees will potentially be happier, as they have flexibility to organize the work-home schedule that works best for them. With great software, it is easier for managers to see how productive employees are being and if their projects are being done on time. The companies also benefit, by needing to invest in smaller real estate establishments. This saves thousands of dollars annually, which can be reinvested into the company, or even used to increase employee wages.
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