Working from home is certainly not a new concept, but the advancement of mobile and internet technology has given new life to telecommuter positions. There are many potential benefits of remote work for both employers and their employees, provided the proper infrastructure and policies are in place. However, like any new system or structure, telecommuting also presents a set of unique challenges and obstacles when it comes to management of human resources. Business leaders should be wary of the common pitfalls associated with telecommuters, but that doesn’t mean they should neglect or avoid the potential value to their organization.
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Maintaining Team Identity and Cohesion
Even though modern digital and internet technology allows for near seamless communication across any distance, this doesn’t always connect team members on the same level as a shared physical space. Many professions rely on team cohesion and collaboration, so human resources managers and business leaders need to take steps to keep telecommuters on the same page as everyone else. Weekly or daily team meetings or conference calls can help everyone stay on track, as well as a common schedule that connects each team member’s activities to the larger project at hand.
Keeping Employees Engaged
Employee engagement is an important concept in any workplace. It describes the relationship between a company and its employees, and it has a profound influence on the ultimate success or failure of a business. In fact, some reports estimate that disengaged employees cost US businesses over 400 billion dollars annually, according to Forbes. All companies struggle to engage their workforce and foster loyalty, motivation and a team mentality. Remote workers who rarely come into the office can be difficult to integrate into company culture without a full on-boarding experience. Many businesses address this by only allowing remote work after several months of conventional employment on site.
Managing Telecommuters Time
Whether compensation is hourly or salaried, there is generally an expectation that employees are productive throughout each workday. Remote workers are vulnerable to distractions and are generally less accountable for how they spend their time. Employers can address this by developing a working arrangement with employees about setting time blocks of availability or using an established system to track their work hours outside the office. Employees who converse with clients, suppliers, or other business contacts also need to ensure their domestic environment is suitable for professional conversation. Many seasoned remote workers understand the value of a dedicated office space in their home.
Security and Systems Access
One of the biggest challenges that modern businesses and HR managers face when it comes to telecommuting is security. Connecting and communicating on a local network is usually much more secure than an external connection. Employees that handle sensitive information need to take extra steps when transmitting data to the company’s servers. Businesses should consider remote connections when developing their information systems so they can design it to accommodate relevant security concerns.
Incorporating telecommuters isn’t always easy and the results aren’t always perfect, but allowing employees more flexibility has many advantages for employers. As long as businesses address the challenges that arise from telecommuter positions, there is little risk to incorporating them into the company team.