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Telecommuting: A search for equilibrium

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in HR Management,Human Resources

Even as the overall numbers of telecommuting employees rises, some companies are reconsidering their telecommuting policies. The fluid situation suggests that there is no one-size-fits-all policy that covers the who, how and when of telecommuting.

After years of pioneering the work-at-home movement, software firms are leading the anti-telecommuting counter-revolution. They’re calling employees back to the office, citing the need for more collaboration to solve problems in real time.

Other employers cracking down on telecommuting cite employee isolation and its demoralizing effects as reasons for the move.

Still, the arguments for telecommuting remain strong. A recent Society for Human Resources Management survey found that 40% of employers offer some sort of telecommuting option.

Proponents say it allows employers to draw talent from all over the globe, an approach that, in theory, should help attract the best minds.

Telecommuting grants employers a smaller real estate footprint, a key cost-cutting factor, especially in expensive cities. In some industries, an office’s physical whereabouts may not matter, letting employers choose the lowest-cost locale offering the most qualified workers.

Deciding what works

Whether telecommuting is a viable option often depends on the type of work the job demands. Highly collaborative activities with tight deadlines would seem to call out for an on-site workforce. However, even those jobs may not require employees to be physically present all day every day.

What makes telecommuting work? Employers that run successful telecommuting operations say documenting all aspects of worker performance is key. Comparing the productivity and results of telecommuters and on-site staff alike lets employers determine which approach works best for which jobs and which employees.

Make sure the analysis is based on a true apples-to-apples comparison. Hold similar telecommuters and non-telecommuters doing similar work to similar standards.

Just as not all organizations do work suited to telecommuting, the same is true of employees.

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