It's Less glamorous than you might imagineCredit: javrsmith
Despite what you or the managers might think, telecommuting is not the huge benefit that is imagined. There is a lot of quiet time. This gives the telecommuter a lot of time to do real work. While this benefits the organization, it is also good for the telecommuter. No one likes to be bored. Given a lot of tasks to perform as part of their job responsibilities, the telecommuter will diligently work through them rather than feel bored. If there are no tasks to do then the telecommuter may look for other activities to avoid boredom.
This is just like an office worker. During down periods at the office, the office worker will get a coffee, talk to coworkers, surf the Internet and do a lot of other things that aren't work related. Meetings can be an issue for the telecommuter. While participation is possible through teleconferencing or video conferencing, some organizations are slow to embrace these technologies.
Unfortunately, telecommuters report that they are often uninformed about various office happenings. A lot of communication in the office is informal. These channels will often not include remote workers. With part time telecommuting, it will be random whether a worker is included or not. With more extensive use of telecommuting, there becomes a greater chance that some workers will not be kept apprised of things that matter to them. Some are social issues, like an upcoming wedding or similar event, but others are informal notices of official issues. These may be drop-in meetings of executives or an emergency work issue that suddenly comes to light. Proactive companies with remote telecommuting employees can implement electronic bulletin boards for news and regular communication.
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Some companies have found that decision making is done informally. This can cause real delays to projects and other activities that require regular decisions in order to progress. By knowing that such decisions tend to be made informally, proactive companies can implement better processes that establish better decision making powers. This helps by having more decisions properly documented which is an aid to full project accountability.
Telecommuters also report that they often have difficulty maintaining remote work arrangements over the long term. It can be a near constant struggle to keep managers onside. New managers have to be educated and convinced. Existing managers may renew their reluctance to accept telecommuting due to practically any reason. Most of these issues tend to be emotional. Telecommuters faced with the possibility of loss of remote work arrangements are very concerned. After a period of avoiding regular, constant traffic jams, most telecommuters would loathe the prospect of having to go back to the normal, old way of business.
You may think that the cost of commuting to work is a necessary part of your employment. Unfortunately, there are real costs to incur, costs that have really gone up lately. Let's look at a reasonable example of what really is involved.
Typical Commute Costs - 12 miles one way
12 mile distance from home to work, 24 miles return
2006 Honda Civic
$3.80 cost per gallon of gas
Monthly cost of fuel: $69
Monthly wear and tear: $127
Total monthly costs: $196
Total yearly costs: $2350
This commute example is actually less costly than the national average of $4897 for a 50 mile per day, round trip commute. Still, this commuter spends almost 12 hours in their car each month. If they earn $20 per hour, that's over $200 in lost productivity. There would also need to be 10 trees planted per year to offset the 2 tons of carbon dioxide produced by this person. The total spent in a year represents one entire month of wages to pay for the commuting, ($2350 after tax, $3055 before tax).
Even in the recent era of lower gas prices, the costs of commuting are high, especially in time.
YouTube videos Show traffic jams - Common every day in most cities
Of course, traffic jams are epic in foreign countries. China holds the (dubious) distinction of having the worse traffic jams in the world. 60 - 80 miles of jammed traffic heading into the city. Iraq has some crazy jams. Most busy, populated cities in Vietnam, Pakistan and India have traffic jams that put the ordered backups of North American cities to shame. Those are fascinating to watch on YouTube. The videos here show the massive China backup and a few from U.S. cities. A search of YouTube of nearly any city name and "traffic jam" shows many examples to choose from.
Summer is the time of road construction, unfortunately. This causes extensive delays on roads used by people to get to their jobs. It boosts the need for some people to stay at home and work remotely. When construction blockages happen at the same time as road accidents, the effect often causes huge jams. More reason for may to stay at home.
Of course many jobs require direct interaction with customers. Service work, such as at a bank, is difficult to do from home. In some cases, a portion of work may be appropriate to do remotely. Account set up, or examination, for example, are bank tasks that might benefit from telecommuting. Those that do work in face-to-face positions may find limited opportunities for telecommuting, but there may be some.
The main problem with telecommuting is the lack of managerial support. Many bosses simply refuse to believe that workers will perform remotely. This is an irrational fear. In case after case, workers show increased productivity when they are able to do some tasks remotely. It makes sense. The workplace is full of people who can easily interrupt the work flow of even the most dedicated worker. Meetings, questions, and even coffee breaks, can render the work place far less productive than a home office.
Some businesses have embraced remote work. They have discovered that assigning tasks to workers is a better way of getting things done than simply counting hours of attendance. This does take a certain amount of belief in the concept by management, but it is often rewarded with lower costs, happier employees, and more productivity.