As a result of COVID-19, all organizations were forced to rethink the basic identity of a workplace. As a result, nearly all enterprise companies have created a remote work policy and enabled a remote-friendly work environment for employees.
This has triggered a new practice of telecommuting across the world, creating a generation of telecommuters – many of whom have never worked from home before.
The good news is that employees are more likely to get a lot done with telecommuting, as a Harvard University study found that people who are given the freedom to WFH (work from home) were around 4.4% more productive.
While COVID was the catalyst for employers to adopt remote work and telecommuting on a permanent basis, it’s a reminder that technology can help enterprises manage business risks and power innovation during unprecedented times. Telework or a remote work environment can enable firms to reduce the risk of losing productivity, and keep employees connected to the office and their teams while working remotely.
Before we go ahead with the details of this worldwide business change, let’s look at the basic definition of telecommuting.
What is Telecommuting?
Telecommuting is a working arrangement between an organization and employees where the employee is working from home or a remote location outside the traditional office. Remote employees use technology and remote work tools to do their day-to-day job and stay connected with their team members.
According to a report from FlexJobs and Global Workplace Analytics, the percentage of people telecommuting grew by 159%, from 2005 to 2017. Gallup also found that flexible scheduling and work-from-home opportunities play an important role in an employee’s decision to join an organization.
As telecommuting continues to grow, employers will rely more heavily on technology to bridge the communication gap between managers and employees in a remote or hybrid work environment and increase employee productivity.
To make telecommuting successful, you need to empower your employees with the right digital tools, and more importantly, provide them with a digital adoption platform to maximize the digital adoption of these tools to ensure that productivity is maintained even while working remotely.
How Does Telecommuting Impact Employee Productivity?
Telecommuting enables flexible work from home schedules, which increases employee output. This is due to the lack of community back-and-forth from the office, less fatigue from not having to be stuck in traffic, fewer distractions and interruptions, decreased stress, and fewer workplace politics to stress about.
A Stanford GSB experiment on China’s travel agency Ctrip showed that there was a 13% improvement in performance from people working remotely. Also, the rate of employee resignations dropped by 50% and the company reported that it made about $2,000 more profit per person at home.
Additionally, a 2019 survey by Airtasker found that on average, employees working remotely worked 1.4 more days every month, or 16.8 more days every year, than those who worked in a regular office. The survey found that telecommuting not only benefits employees by eliminating their daily commutes but also increases productivity and leads to a healthier lifestyle.
While remote work and telecommuting were originally seen as a challenge, it’s turned into a huge opportunity for organizations to rethink how the modern workplace looks and operates.
Advantages of Telecommuting
- Scheduling Freedom: Telecommuting gives the workforce freedom to work from home according to their productive work hours.
- Flexible Work-Life Balance: Telecommuting gives employees more flexibility to balance work life and personal life.
- No Commuting: Census Bureau data from the American Community Survey shows that Americans spend an average of 27.1 minutes commuting every day, for a total of over 200 hours, that is, almost 9 days each year is spent commuting
- Healthier Employees: According to a survey, remote employees are much healthier. On average, they clocked in 2 hours and 44 minutes of physical exercise each week that is 25 minutes more each week than office employees.
- Improved Productivity: Telecommuting allows employees to escape the office stress and focus on the work at hand, increasing productivity. According to a FlexJobs survey, out of 5,500 professionals, 66% agreed that their productivity improves when they are NOT in office
Disadvantages of Telecommuting
- Staying Focused at Home: Some people face a hard time focusing while telecommuting. They have to keep themselves extremely self-motivated and push continuously.
- Isolation & Lack of Social Interaction: Telecommuting can sometimes lead to isolation due to a lack of social interaction. According to a report by Buffer’s 2018 State of Remote Work, the biggest struggle that remote workers face was loneliness.
- Collaboration Issues: Brainstorming during a conference call and holding team meetings on video calls need some getting used to, especially for senior members who are not much familiar with the latest technology. According to the Buffer report mentioned above, collaboration and communication was the second-most commonly reported issue amongst the remote employees while telecommuting.
- Software Adoption: There is a lot of software and tools to work with while you are telecommuting which can be overwhelming. Telecommuters require a more robust support and training system (such as a DAP) to maintain their productivity.
How to Prepare for Telecommuting in Your Organization
Here are a few ways for companies to prepare themselves for a permanent telecommuting workforce.
1. Virtual Employee Training
In order to adopt telecommuting, managers need to know how to communicate and collaborate with virtual employees – and vice versa. This requires an understanding of the right technologies that can facilitate the desired interaction. Employees need to be well educated and trained on how to use their collaboration tools and other enterprise software to get full value from an employer’s investment in them.
Investing in employee training software is critical to every organization developing their employees’ skills.
And providing one-time training is not a solution for the long run since it is not easy to grasp so much information at one time without applying it practically. This poses a challenge to the employee’s productivity since they do not have any other team members physically present with them to help with any issues they face.
This challenge is now being addressed by a new category of technology known as Digital Adoption Solutions (DAS) (like Whatfix). These solutions focus on providing interactive, in-app guidance for enterprise software.
They have proven to reduce the time required to onboard and train employees by providing personalized flow-based learning in real-time, simplifying the user experience, and facilitating seamless software learning. Telecommuters can be benefited from these solutions as it allows them to adapt at their own speed and learn in flow of work, without any external help from colleagues.
2. IT Security & Privacy
Maintaining proper cybersecurity is a challenge for companies that are shifting to telecommuting because of the pandemic. When employees work remotely, leadership teams are wary of the use of shadow IT. This happens when remote workers use applications that are not sanctioned by the IT department, creating significant inefficiencies and posing security risks to the companies.
In order to prevent this, employers should consider conducting a thorough audit of all the tools used by employees who work from home. HR leaders can work with the IT dept to select a secure and reliable platform, considering the employee feedback on all the apps they find easy to access.
If you are using DAPs, HR and IT teams need to make sure that enterprise applications and DAPs are compatible with multiple browsers like Chrome, Firefox, Safari, etc. Extensive remote testing needs to be done to ensure that neither these applications nor the DAP are gathering any personally identifiable information (“PII”) data. Whatfix DAP does not gather any PII and is as secure as it provides each enterprise client with a dedicated browser extension.
Also, integrating all sanctioned collaboration tools into a single centralized location can be another step towards mitigating the existence of shadow IT. This way, leadership teams can be sure that employees use the most up-to-date and secure software solutions.
3. Communication and Collaboration
Figure out the best ways for employees to contact you at any point in need while they are telecommuting. Set regular check-in calls with them to keep a check on any issues they are facing and to avoid disruption in the productivity of your employees. You need to make yourself as approachable as possible to your remote workforce so that they do not feel stressed or isolated.
Also, good communication and collaboration tools can add tremendous value to successful telecommuting by bridging the communication gaps between the team members. Some examples of the same are Slack, Zoom, Groove, ProofHub, Microsoft Teams.
4. Constant Support and Services
Make sure that your employees do not face any technical issues with any application while telecommuting. Providing constant support is very essential to keep your workforce engaged and productive at all times. As discussed above, Digital Adoption Platforms can help with the same by enabling in-app guidance in real-time without having to raise any support tickets and wait for long periods for the resolution of queries.
Telecommuting has a lot of benefits for both employers and employees. While the employees who telework can save expensive commuting costs, be more productive in less time, and spend more time with their family, the employers can save infrastructure costs and enjoy employee satisfaction in their organization.
With telecommuting here to stay for at least a few months, it is crucial to ensure uninterrupted consumption of enterprise applications to truly derive the benefit of this practice.
If your telecommuters are feeling overwhelmed with the digital world, request a demo of Whatfix now and learn about our in-app guidance and constant support that can boost digital adoption in your organization.