Telecommuting: What Is It and How to Get Started?
Before, telecommuting was a rare privilege for select employees. However, the spread of COVID-19 has forced companies to move to this setup.
Telecommuting has become necessary to maintain business continuity. While this is not a new concept, a lot of teams and companies are just learning how telecommuters work for the first time.
Even as quarantine regulations ease in various locations, employers must still ask, “How could telecommuting increase worker productivity?” After all, there are plenty of reasons why we shouldn’t get back to the traditional office setup even when the COVID-19 pandemic is over. We’ve put together this article to explain what telecommuting is. Moreover, we’ll discuss how this is the ideal setup for companies who do not want to adopt an absolute work-from-home setup.
What Is a Telecommute Job?
The statistics reported by Global Workplace Analytics revealed that telecommuting has increased its popularity by 115% since 2005. People who have this privilege enjoy a different approach to the traditional nine-to-five office schedule. So, it’s not surprising why the same study revealed that 36% of employees would prefer having the option of telework over a pay increase.
Moreover, 90% expressed interest in occasional telecommuting.
Before scientists were able to name the novel coronavirus, telecommuting has been a perk for the affluent few around the world. It was growing, but it was not unanimously embraced. According to the 2019 National Compensation survey, only 7% of US civilian workers have access to a flexible work setup like telecommuting. However, the rise of collaboration and time tracking apps, as well as cloud technology, has made it easier for staff members to bring their work wherever they are. As long as they have access to the Internet, they can perform telecommuting work.
Now, you might ask, “What are telecommuting jobs?” Well, they are any kind of work that you can do in a café, a co-working space, or at home. For instance, you can do telecommute bookkeeping because it is a job that doesn’t require you to be in the office all the time.
What Is the Difference Between Working from Home and Telecommuting?
Working remotely essentially means that you can do your job from anywhere. Technically speaking, this can be considered as telecommuting too. However, quite often, remote workers do not live in the same city as the physical location of the company they work for.
Without geographical limitations, companies can hire employees from anywhere in the world. Moreover, employers do not have to meet their team in person. Remote workers are only expected to appear in virtual meetings and not in the actual office. The top jobs for remote work are ideal for people who travel a lot, for stay-at-home parents, and for those who prefer a flexible schedule. If you’re comfortable with the idea of having little interaction with managers and co-workers, then you may thrive in this setup.
Now, the work setup is a bit different for telecommuters. In most cases, they live relatively close to the physical location of the company they work for. As such, they are expected to be present in important meetings or corporate social gatherings. Some companies allow a flexible work schedule for their employees, but they still have to show up in the office once or several days in a week. They can work from home, but they can also explore other options like co-working spaces.
People often confuse telecommuting with remote work. However, usually, the former is a little bit less flexible. Moreover, telecommuting still requires some commitment of physical presence from the employee. Despite that, it still offers several benefits for both managers and team members.
What Are the Reasons for Telecommuting?
A study conducted by a Harvard Business School professor reported the benefits that the U.S. Patent Office experienced when it allowed telecommuting. The research discovered that allowing remote work—even at least once a week—led to higher productivity. Employees who were allowed to telecommute were more efficient by 4.4%--a benefit that could contribute to around $1.3 billion to the annual economy.
The data compiled by Global Workplace Analytics revealed that telecommuting also lowers attrition rates. It’s important to consider this, especially since replacing an employee costs 33% of an annual salary. To give you an idea of how significant that amount is, let’s look at a worker with an annual salary of $50,000. If an employee were to resign, it would cost the company $16,500. It’s worth noting that 75% of the causes of higher turnover rates are preventable. So, there is good enough reason to allow employees to telecommute, even at least a day or some days in a week.
How to Get Started on Telecommuting
There is a reason why telecommuting used to be a perk for the select few. There used to be an idea that only those who have the right tools and system in place can successfully pull it off. However, one of the things that the pandemic has proven is that most employees can have access to these remote work apps and processes. Here are some of the tips you can follow to help you keep a telecommuting setup beyond the quarantine:
Have a Dedicated Space for Your Work
To prove that you can pull off telecommuting beyond COVID-19, you should show that you’re serious about it. Invest in creating a space in your home dedicated for your work. It should be distinct from the rooms for other activities like cooking, eating, or lounging with your family. While a bed in the background has become a norm for Zoom meetings, it still does not look professional. You don’t have to blow your bank account just to create your work space. There are various ways to outfit a home office without spending too much.
Invest in High-Speed Internet
You cannot ask for telecommuting privileges if you do not have high-speed Internet access. It has been and will always be a must. So, if you’re still feeding off your neighbor’s Wi-Fi or relying on your mobile data, it is time that you invest in your Internet connection. Don’t worry too much about the additional expenses. Since your Internet consumption is work-related, you can consider a portion of your monthly bill as a tax deduction.
Just because you’re working from home, you wouldn’t want your manager or teammates to think that you’re slacking off. To counteract this problem, you can set up a system for accountability. Time tracking apps like Traqq will let your manager monitor your activities and progress during work hours. What’s great about this tool is it promotes ethical tracking of your work time. The screenshots it collects are compressed and blurred to the point that prevents leaking of sensitive information like passwords or private messages.
Maintain Collaboration with Your Managers and Co-Workers
Just because you’re out of sight, it doesn’t mean that you’ll be out of the mind of the people you work with. You can still collaborate with them and maintain seamless communication. There are project management tools and team chat apps that will enable this. There are programs that will allow you to keep track of your projects and share documents and files with your teammates. These days, technology has made it easier for telecommuters to collaborate.
Develop a Work-From-Home Routine
Loneliness and feelings of isolation are some of the problems that telecommuters encounter. To avoid these issues, you should have a work-from-home routine. The problem with working remotely is that work hours easily blend with personal time. As such, even if you’re telecommuting, you should still stick to a schedule. To avoid feeling isolated, make lunch plans with friends or family. Wake up at a fixed hour and maintain a morning ritual to get your day started. Over the first few weeks, try developing a routine that works best for your productivity, as well as for your mental, physical, and emotional health.