Telecommuting

Learning outcomes

  • Analyze the benefits and complications of telecommuting

The Industrial Revolution was just that, revolutionary. Since then, technology innovation has accelerated and now plays a huge role in day-to-day life. Many would claim that technology makes life easier, allowing people access to information at the drop of a hat. Others, however, would disagree and argue that technology is detrimental to human interactions and negatively impacts relationships. Without a doubt, technology has changed the face of modern society and the organizations within it.

Since technology plays a prominent role in organizations, it impacts organizational behavior. Technology allows organizations to be in constant communication. With cell phones, emails, and video conferencing, people are readily available at any time of day or night. This can be beneficial for many people, providing them a continuous connection to their workplace or it could be damaging to work-life balance. New technology innovations have also made once time-consuming tasks much more efficient, allowing people to accomplish more in less time.

decorative imageWith all of the great things technology brings to the table, it also brings challenges. One contemporary issue facing organizations today is telecommuting. Telecommuting is a work arrangement which allows employees to work remotely, often from home, while completing their tasks. Telecommuting has many benefits and also presents a number of challenges. To better understand how telecommuting impacts organizational behavior, let’s learn more about how it works.

According to Global Workplace Analytics 2018 Telecommuting Trend Data, telecommuting numbers are on the rise. There are currently over 4.3 million employees that work from home, at least half of the time. In addition, the telecommuter population has grown 11.7% over the last year, which is the largest yearly growth since 2008. It is obvious that telecommuting is changing the way employees interact with their peers and supervisors. Let’s move on and discuss how telecommuting both challenges and improves organizational behavior.

First, let’s discuss the positive impact telecommuting has on organizational behavior. Telecommuting allows people to work from anywhere, anytime. This is appealing to many people because it allows them to better balance their work and personal life. People who telecommute are oftentimes self-motivated and efficient as they do not have the typical distractions of a traditional workplace environment. Telecommuters are often happier in their jobs and are therefore more motivated to perform on a higher level. This in turn benefits the organization and ensures better employee retention. In addition, telecommuting allows companies to hire from a larger pool of candidates which gives them the ability to be more selective in the skill sets and personalities of their employees. Telecommuting can also save companies a lot of money by limiting the amount of office space and supplies needed to operate their business.

man sitting on a couch, working on his laptop.So far, telecommuting sounds great! However, there are some challenges to managing telecommuters. Being self-motivated is a huge key to success for telecommuters. If they cannot find a productive place to work, telecommuters may become easily distracted and not meet their deadlines. This becomes a challenge because organizations need to rethink how they will manage telecommuters. Since the managers and employees are not housed in the same building, managers cannot stop by their office to see first-hand how they are doing. Instead, they need to rely on other electronic methods to ensure their team is meeting deadlines. Telecommuting also cuts back on daily interactions with other employees. While conference calls and video conferencing is common practice today, some telecommuters may feel isolated and struggle with the lack of face-to-face communication. This can have an impact on morale.

Finally, another popular practice in today’s organizations is having employees that telecommute only part-time. This can create an organization where some employees telecommute all the time, others telecommute part of the time, and the remainder work from the office all the time. A 2010 study of the effects telecommuting had on non-telecommuters revealed some interesting findings. First, non-telecommuters were frustrated with telecommuters. Some even grew to be envious towards the telecommuters’ working arrangement. This has the potential to create a toxic work environment and have a negative impact on productivity. There are, however, some key things organizations can do to help limit these issues. It is extremely important for organizations that offer telecommuting to establish clear and concise policies and procedures for their telecommuters. These policies and procedures need to include accessibility expectations, communication requirements, mandatory technology capabilities, etc.

Practice Question

As you can see, with forethought and a clearly defined and executed plan, telecommuting can be extremely beneficial to organizations. Let’s move on to learn about other contemporary issues in organizational behavior!

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