Is telecommuting the ideal new post-COVID work arrangement?

By Antonio Benítez, a Bilingual Copywriter and Spanish Translator at A2BTranslations.com.

Pros and cons of a home office

It is no secret that the COVID pandemic took the world by surprise and that it has been necessary to adopt measures to guarantee that each of our needs is covered, avoiding putting our health at risk as much as possible.

In the world of work, one of these measures was to gamble with the idea of teleworking, which is not a new concept.  What is new is the number of people who now prefer to work in this way. 

Indeed, 4 out of 10 US workers are currently full-time telecommuting and there are many arguments in favor of this type of employment arrangement, but there are also those who view it with raised eyebrows. Below are some figures about the benefits and disadvantages of teleworking.

Benefits of telecommuting for employees

Advantages-and-disadvantages-of-telecommuting-for-the-individual-organizatiom-and-society

The benefits of telecommuting for employees are evident:

  • Prevents the spread of COVID-19 among co-workers.
  • Allows employees to spend more time at home and with their families, which translates into a better work-life balance.
  • Reduces vehicle usage, and
  • Provides better possibilities for  personalized work environments.

No wonder, according to a Growmote report, that 97% of the interviewed individuals do not want to work full-time in a physical office again.

Disadvantages of telecommuting for employees

On the other hand, there are some  disadvantages of telecommuting on the employee side:

  • Self-discipline is a must 

Some distractions can affect both traditional in-office employees and telecommuters, such as making or receiving personal phone calls and checking social networks.  However, since on-site workers are usually supervised by someone who is physically close to them, they have fewer opportunities to indulge in such distractions.

More unique to telecommuting, remote workers are often exposed to additional distractions caused by other people who share the same living space near the home office environment. . This is why telecommuters need to be more disciplined than in-office employees to avoid all these interruptions, which includes setting clear boundaries with the people around them.

  • Potential additional costs and salary cuts

In certain cases, for a person to work remotely they must acquire new equipment and software, and this may not be covered by their employer. What’s more, some companies like Google intend to reduce their telecommuter’s salaries because they allegedly have lower expenses than commuters.

However, this isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker: many US teleworkers would accept a 5% reduction in their salary to continue working from home, as reported by Bloomberg. 

In any case, both parties must be clear regarding their expectations for compensation for remote work before making or accepting employment offers or changes to terms of employment.

  • Increase in security problems

Often, companies have privileged information in their equipment and software that is well-protected in their facilities, but when they have remote employees there could be challenges in this regard. 

A remote employee’s laptop without updated antivirus protection could get hacked, and sensitive company information could be compromised.

Also, the remote work site might not be secure, so an unauthorized third party could access such information, or even steal the equipment assigned to the telecommuter. Due to these issues, the employers must establish clear terms regarding how to handle these situations, including arranging for insurance and determining whether such costs will be assumed by the teleworker or the company.

  • Not everyone can telecommute

There are jobs that, by their nature, require the physical presence of the person who carries them out. For instance, although today the concept of Virtual Care (through which medicine is practiced remotely) is now a reality, the presence of a doctor, assistant or nurse would be necessary when performing a surgical intervention, and that is only one among many cases. Indeed, according to Time, millions of people cannot be telecommuters

Benefits of working from home for employers 

It might be thought that those who most benefit from teleworking are employees, but for certain employers, having remote workers equals more revenue. In fact, according to the following set of statistics, companies that have remote personnel see the following:

  • Productivity boost

According to a Stanford study, working from home increases productivity by 13%, which is supported by a study of Connectsolutions, according to which, 77% of remote workers feel more productive working this way.

  • Increased employee loyalty

By having loyal employees, employers save the time and money required for training new staff. In a survey conducted by Flexjobs, 81% of the participants stated that they would be more loyal to a company that allows them to work remotely.

  • Reduction of office-related costs

The greater the number of remote workers in a company, the lower the amount it pays for office space and basic services.

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, has benefited from remote work. According to a CNN article, Zuckerberg noted that remote work has made him happier and more productive as it has allowed him to spend more time with his family and have «more space for long-term thinking.» For this reason, Facebook’s leader not only plans to work remotely for six months out of the year but will also let his employees apply to work remotely, as long as their respective roles allow them to do so.

Meanwhile, Google proposes a hybrid remote work system whereby 60% of its employees work together for a few days each week and the remaining 40% will work either in other locations or from home. However, as reported by the New York Times, “googlers” will have to wait until January 10, 2022, to put this system into practice due to the Delta variant of the coronavirus.

Disadvantages of telecommuting for companies

Some of the challenges of remote work for employers are:

  • Lack of supervision

As mentioned earlier, the lack of oversight could make the employee work less or less well than they should. However, the statistics seem to show that, on the contrary, remote workers are 40% more productive

A recommendation in this regard would be to agree on performance instead of time-based payment; that way remote employees would be motivated to work when they should. Moreover, for the work that is done by computer, time-tracking software could be used, since it can take screenshots of remote worker’s screens and, on that basis, they could be paid for the real worked time.

  • Legal risks

What would happen if a remote worker suffers an injury at home during their workday? Would there be a Personal Injury Case? 

There is still a long way to go to resolve such questions, but there is no doubt that these types of situations are clearer when they occur on-site.

  • Worsened communication

Technology now allows us to make calls, have video conferences with several individuals, send Instant Messages, SMSes or emails, handle computers and other devices remotely and in real-time, etc., and yet Microsoft’s employees’ “Mastermind” has been diminished since they started working remotely, according to a study published by Nature.com.  

Indeed, said study concluded that Microsoft’s remote workers became isolated and that collaboration between worker groups was lost, making the company “less dynamic”. However, an article published by Forbes noted that such a study should be viewed with skepticism because it was done during the first months of the pandemic, during which most people were focused on their health and keeping their jobs.

Final considerations

Although remote work had a spike due to the COVID-19 pandemic and not all types of work can be carried out remotely, everything seems to indicate that to a greater or lesser extent, we will be seeing this work arrangement more and more.  There is still much to learn about it, but telecommuting seems to be the best work alternative to have happier employees and thus more productive companies.

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