Teleworking: What it Is, its Benefits and Challenges
Teleworking has been gaining traction due to its many benefits for employers and employees alike. For instance, it can reduce the costs of running a business – companies could save up to $11,000 annually for each employee that works half-time.
When you hear the word ‘telework’, you might think it entails working on your telephone. Well, it's more than that. As more and more businesses continue to embrace the work-from-home model, business owners have realized that flexibility essentially improves employee performance and productivity.
The idea of teleworking has transformed how employees and employers engage, collaborate, and communicate. Thanks to the rapid advancement in technology, organizations can now manage distributed teams more efficiently.
What Does Telework Mean?
Teleworking is a term that describes working from a location away from your regular office, using information and communication technologies. In other words, it's when an employee or employer works from home or at an off-site location instead of commuting to the office. Teleworking is different from a situation where employees take work home with them or where the employee works mainly off-site, like a sales representative.
A teleworker is an employee who uses communication tools, such as a smartphone, tablet, or computer, to carry out their duties from a remote location.
The Rise of Teleworking During the Covid-19 Pandemic
According to the US Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 4.7 million people (3.4% of the US workforce) were already working remotely before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. After COVID was declared a global pandemic, 88 percent of organizations made it mandatory or encouraged their employees to work from home.
Recent research by Gartner reveals that 82 percent of organizations plan to implement some degree of remote work for employees after the pandemic. This shows how teleworking is shaping the way businesses will operate moving into 2021 and beyond.
That said, teleworking is not everyone’s cup of tea. Two-thirds of organizations who responded to a survey published by WorldatWork in June said that “they would resume in-office operations by the end of summer, if not sooner.”
Teleworking and Telecommuting: What's the Difference?
The terms teleworking and telecommuting are often used interchangeably. However, they are not exactly the same. Teleworking refers to working at a distance from your office. It has a wider concept than telecommuting. Jack Nilles, co-founder and president of JALA describes it this way: "teleworking moves the work to workers instead of moving the workers to work." Teleworking is also known as virtual work, mobile work, flexible work arrangement, or remote work.
You are a teleworker if you have to regularly commute to and from a worksite, but outside the employer’s premises. If you're a teleworker, you:
- work from anywhere that allows you to work, such as a hotel lobby, a coffee shop, or even the airport
- work from a co-working space that you need to commute to
- work from a branch rather than the main office
- work on various projects on-site with clients, but you don’t report to your employer’s principal office
Telecommuting, on the other hand, describes working from home. It is a form of teleworking, which involves periodic work out of your employer’s office a few times a week.
Its main emphasis is to reduce the daily commute to and from the workplace. If you're a telecommuter, you:
- work from home
- work out of an office in your home, e.g. in your patio, garage, bedroom, etc.
In today’s workplace, telecommuting and teleworking mean the same thing, and it is common to see organizations using the two terms interchangeably.
Examples of Teleworking Jobs
Not all jobs can be performed remotely. Some require face-to-face interactions or in-person presence. Such positions include:
- Hands-on operations, e.g. handling of equipment and vehicles.
- Jobs dependent on physical presence, like private security, policing, and forest ranging.
- Personal contact, like the medical profession, physical therapy, and some types of sales.
Some common examples of teleworking positions are:
- Freelance writer
- Online tutor
- Travel agent
- Computer programmer
- Web developer and designer
- Graphic designer
Benefits of Teleworking
A teleworking arrangement offers many benefits to employees and employers alike. If your organization is yet to introduce teleworking or telecommuting, you could approach your employer to check if it’s a concept they’d like to try.
Benefits of Teleworking to Employees
When working from home, you don’t have to get up early to beat the morning traffic. Your workstation is just a few meters away. Consequently, you can do your tasks more effectively since your focus is at peak level.
Commuting to work daily not only wastes time but also costs a lot of money. You need to factor in fuel costs every month, and the daily traffic only makes matters worse since you’ll use more gas.
Additionally, you get the chance to enjoy homemade meals, which are healthier and more cost effective.
Working from the comfort of your home can be quite convenient. Everything you need, whether it's wine, snacks, amenities, the couch, or a peaceful environment, are right at your fingertips.
Speaking of convenience; with teleworking, you don’t have to relocate for a job. Since you can get things done with only your laptop, smartphone, and internet, you can virtually work from any location, anywhere in the world. This increases opportunities for work-life balance.
Working remotely affords you the flexibility that working in-office doesn't. For starters, you can schedule working hours that suit you the most. If you're a morning person, you can wake up early, finish your tasks and projects, and take the afternoon off. This allows you to attend to other things that you wouldn’t have time for with a 9-5 job.
Having the freedom to set your own time for work can eliminate the stress of being micromanaged by your supervisor or manager. Plus, with no need to commute, you have one less thing to worry about. With reduced stress, work flexibility, and convenience, you can become more productive at work.
Benefits of Teleworking to Employers
Increases Employee Retention
Remote working has become a top employee recruiting and retaining factor in today’s competitive job market. Employees prefer working for a company that affords them the flexibility of scheduling rather than being tied to their desks all day.
It's particularly attractive to working parents who want to spend ample time caring for their families.
Encourages Talent Diversity
Teleworking gives organizations access to an unlimited talent pool. Companies offering teleworking opportunities to employees attract a wider pool of top-performing workers than companies that don’t.
Saves the Company Money
Renting a traditional workspace in an urban area costs a lot of money, not to mention investing in state-of-the-art technology and ergonomic furniture. When you shift to teleworking, you don’t need all these. As a result, you end up saving thousands of dollars each year.
Additionally, studies show that employees would be happy to take a pay cut in return for flexible schedules, while others would choose to work from home over a pay rise.
Employees have the liberty to choose where to work from. Most invariably go for a place with fewer distractions less noise than an office environment. This improves their productivity since they can focus on the tasks at hand.
In return, their undivided attention translates to improved productivity for the business, and hence increased profits.
A regional crisis or weather emergency can bring business operations to an abrupt halt. But, when you manage remote teams, the business can run as usual since the teams are located in different regions of the globe. It will also reduce losses if, for instance, the main business premises gets damaged.
Employee absenteeism is a big issue that affects many businesses. This could be due to various reasons like lack of flexible scheduling, overworking, and unfavorable working conditions. With virtual working, employees have the freedom to manage their work schedules.
With more time in their hands to attend to personal matters, the issue of absenteeism can be greatly reduced.
Challenges of Teleworking
While remote working comes with many advantages for both the employees and employers, it’s not a smooth ride for everyone:
- Isolation – an employee can feel isolated because of the absence of the proverbial watercooler chitchat that they are accustomed to in the office. The loneliness can be depressing for some workers and could even lead to low morale and a drop in productivity.
- Distraction – parents working from home might have to deal with lots of distractions from their little ones, friends, or neighbors. The good news is that you can adjust your working hours to work when the disruptions are few.
- The lure of snacking – when working from home, the temptation of snacking every 30 minutes can be too strong to overcome. It takes discipline and self-control not to overindulge.
- Different time zones – teams distributed over different time zones can be difficult to manage in a way that is convenient for everyone.
Overcoming the Challenges of Teleworking
There’s no denying that teleworking comes with lots of benefits. However, organizations have to deal with the tough task of managing a more complex workforce. The issue of trust is rife and managers cannot help but wonder if employees are working or not.
That’s where the use of a reliable project management software like Traqq comes in. This tool allows you to monitor each employee’s activity levels and performance. It gives you insights into the progress of projects, showing you which employees are lagging behind and those performing at their best.
Traqq is also a time tracker, allowing you to time yourself to avoid overworking. The timer reminds you to take breaks to rejuvenate yourself and come back with a clear mind. The timer also records each minute worked, a feature that you’ll appreciate when it comes to work billing.
Traqq is a flexible and customizable employee management software that allows you to edit or add time manually, with an option to give your reason for the modification. If you forget to turn on the timer, you get alerts reminding you to activate the feature. With Traqq, you can be sure of quick payment processing each week or month. Plus, it enables employers to check on the progress of employees without physically hovering over them.