There is a lot of talk about telecommuting and how business owners must adapt for the good of their companies and their employees. It feels like it is becoming an obligation for employers, not a choice, which is not usually a good thing.
One reason is telecommuting is not appropriate for every job. Industries particularly unsuited for telecommuting include manufacturing, transportation, warehousing, construction, retail, agriculture, hospitality, personal service, and foodservice. Any job that requires work at a specific location or working directly with the public. (source: National Bureau of Economic Research, “How Many Jobs Can Be Done At Home,”).
Second, telecommuting is not new. Under different names, it has been used successfully for decades and so there is history, many established practices, and understood limitations that are not currently resolvable by technology.
In considering this issue, I reached out to speak with an old friend, Adelee Mirelez, for some expert advice. Adelee was responsible for converting the centralized national support team for a large PEO (professional employer organization) to telecommuting and knows a lot about what it took to make it successful. Today, Adelee works to help leaders transform their workplaces into positive and healthy work environments.
Here are the key takeaways from our conversation.
- Telecommuting must adopt different methods and processes to accomplish the same goals (this is why schools struggle with online training today).
- Telecommuting must make remote communication protocols its primary method. You need to communicate with everyone like they are remote, even if they are not.
- Telecommuting requires clear goals, specific processes, and performance measurements. There is no assistance from following the crowd when there is no crowd.
- Telecommuting is not for everyone. In addition to the job requirements, successful telecommuters must have self-motivation, personal discipline, the ability to self-manage, and the willingness to ask questions.
- Telecommuting requires an appropriate work environment, especially if it is to be a permanent work location, whether full or part-time.
Although telecommuting is not a simple task, the benefits can be enormous. Adelee’s success at implementing telecommuting resulted in:
- Protected business continuity and the organization’s reputation by avoiding the need to shut down due to inclement weather, or in today’s situation with COVID.
- Increased employee morale and reduced attrition through improved work-life balance and flexibility.
- Improved performance, as indicated on individual performer reports (attendance improved, availability improved, average handle times stayed the same, and hold time decreased).
- Expanded our reach for high-quality professionals, and retained high performing agents who needed to relocate
- Strengthened processes and procedures, as the need to document and enforce, was greater in a remote setting.
There you have it. Telecommuting can be a valuable tool for employers, but it presents its own problems and costs. It is not merely doing the same job from home. However, implemented correctly in the right situations, they can result in better employees and better performance.
In that sense, for most, telecommuting is a pivot, not a transformation. It is a valuable tool, not a universal remedy.
If you’d like to talk more about this, or about pivoting your business, schedule a day and time with me by clicking here. If you’d like to speak with Adelee on telecommuting or workplace coaching, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.