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Telecommuting is the future of work, here’s how to prepare

November 16, 2021 - 17 min read

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What is telecommuting?

3 types of telecommuting

6 pros and cons of telecommuting

4 tips to succeed in telecommuting

Working remote vs. telecommuting

Telecommuting and Covid-19

Is telecommuting right for you?

Covid-19 irreversibly changed the way we work.

The sudden closure of offices around the world introduced people to a new type of work arrangement — telecommuting.

Before the pandemic, only 1 in 5 employees worked from home, according to Pew Research. By the peak of the coronavirus pandemic, telecommuting became the norm for 69% of US employees.

Whether it was from the comfort of their homes or even a local coffee shop, people embraced the benefits of working outside their usual office space.

Today, despite the transition back into the office, more than half of employees say that they would like to continue telecommuting. As many organizations continue to offer flexible work options, one thing is certain:

Telecommuting is here to stay.

Let’s explore this new way of working, its pros and cons, and help you decide if telecommuting is right for you.

What is telecommuting?

Telecommuting, or telework, is a work arrangement where an employee works outside their company’s physical office. This involves employees working from home, a co-working space, or even a coffee shop.

When an employee’s work can be done from any location that’s suitable, telework removes the need for commuting to work every day. Instead, telecommuting employees rely on telecommunication technology and a good wi-fi signal to perform their day-to-day roles remotely. And, they communicate with their teammates, employers, or clients using software like Zoom or Slack.

Depending on their type of telecommuting arrangement, employees may visit their office occasionally to touch base.

Whether telecommuting is suitable for you depends on the nature of your work. Employees that work in a customer-facing role, such as sales associates in a retail setting, often don’t have the option of telecommuting. They need to be present to interact with customers daily.

Other roles are ideal for telecommuting. These include computer programming, content writing, account management, and more.

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3 types of telecommuting

There are many ways in which employers and organizations approach telecommuting. Let’s take a look at three of the most common types of telework.

Full-time telecommuting

Companies like Facebook, Microsoft, and Amazon are among the slew of organizations that allow employees to work remotely on a full-time basis.

A full-time telecommute involves working exclusively outside the office. People who permanently telecommute usually make their home office their chosen workspace.

This type of work arrangement is best suited for people who can do their job from anywhere. They may come to their worksite once in a while for important meetings, projects, or events.

Part-time telecommuting

According to a recent Global Workplace Analytics forecast, 25–30% of the workforce will work from home a few days per week by the end of 2021.

Telecommuting part-time is a combination of working from a company’s central office and working remotely.

This arrangement can take many different forms, depending on the organization’s telecommuting policy. For instance, a part-time telework employee may work from home two days of the workweek and come to the office the other three. This is often referred to as a hybrid work model.

Special arrangement telecommuting

This type of telecommuting is done under special circumstances to help employees perform their jobs more easily.

For example, an employee may need to telecommute while they’re pregnant or if they have a disability or an illness. Having to look after a child or elder are other instances in which an employee may telecommute due to a special arrangement. If you’re part of the sandwich generation and have to balance the responsibility of looking after your children and an aging relative, telecommuting can ease that burden.

6 pros and cons of telecommuting

Working outside the office has many benefits, but it also comes with a few challenges.

Pros

Ask any employee who’s had a taste of telecommuting, and they’ll likely tell you about the many benefits it comes with. It’s no wonder more than half want to continue doing it. Let’s look at a few benefits of telecommuting.

Increased satisfaction and lower turnover

With greater autonomy and a flexible work schedule, telecommuting increases employee happiness and drives retention.

An annual report published by Owl Labs reveals that people are 24% more likely to be happy when they work remotely at least once a month. In another report, Owl Labs also found that companies who embrace telecommuting see a 25% decrease in employee turnover.

According to Accenture, employees who telecommute at least some of the time report:

Greater productivity

Being in the office doesn’t guarantee productivity.

However, 90% of employers report that productivity is the same or better when employees telecommute. An increase in productivity can be attributed to spending less time in meetings and having fewer distractions at home.

Plus, because employees don’t have to come into the office, telecommuting can reduce absenteeism. This will help contribute to productivity.

Improved work-life balance

The added flexibility and time saved working from home improves employees’ work-life balance. Remote employees save an average of 40 minutes daily from commuting.

woman-working-from-home-telecommuting

By getting this time “back,” people have more freedom to focus on their well-being, family, or self care.

Cons

Adjusting to this new way of working isn’t without its challenges. Here are a few downsides of telecommuting and how they can affect you.

Feeling isolated

Even though working from the comfort of your couch or a cozy library may seem like an ideal work environment, it can also get lonely. This feeling of isolation is amplified if you live by yourself and go days without human connection.

Not interacting with team members regularly can make you feel like you don’t belong. You may also find that building relationships with your colleagues virtually can be challenging.

Hard to unplug

It’s hard to know when to put down your laptop and call it a day when you’re not in the office.

According to a Remote.co survey of 200 full-time remote workers, 40% said unplugging from work is the biggest challenge of telecommuting. Many employees feel the pressure of always being “on” when they’re not in the office.

Not knowing when to unplug and always working can lead to emotional exhaustion and burnout.

Distracting

Dealing with non-work distractions is another downside of telecommuting.

Whether it’s a noisy family member or a needy furry companion, working from home may not be quite as relaxing as it sounds. There will always be things that make you lose your focus and concentration throughout the day. The most important thing is how you handle them.

4 tips to succeed in telecommuting

If you’re currently telecommuting or considering it, here are four tips to help you succeed while working from home (or anywhere else).

1. Create a healthy routine

When you work from home, it’s easy to roll out of bed in the morning and head straight into your 9 am Zoom meeting. But not having a consistent and healthy routine can affect your mental well-being and work performance over time.

The key to succeeding at telecommuting is to create a morning and daytime routine. A morning routine, for example, can involve an outdoor run, a healthy breakfast, and 10 minutes of meditation. Gradually add more and more healthy habits to your routine to replace any bad habits you may have formed over time.

Building structure into your day will help you manage your time effectively and maximize your productivity.

2. Connect with your colleagues

Make time each day to connect with your teammates to prevent or alleviate feelings of loneliness and isolation.

coworkers-on-conference-call-telecommuting

You can spend time with colleagues via video conferencing and messaging apps, or you can meet up face-to-face after work or on weekends.

3. Get out of the house

Go for a daily walk or do an outdoor workout during the day.

Getting fresh air breaks up your workday and re-energizes you. It also improves your emotional well-being and mental fitness.

4. Separate your work from your home life

When your home is also your office, separating the two can be challenging, but it’s not impossible. Here are a few tips that can help:

  • Have a separate, designated workspace
  • Avoid checking emails after work hours
  • Communicate your work hours with your colleagues

Working remote vs. telecommuting

While people often use these terms interchangeably, there is a slight difference between the meaning of telecommuting and remote working.

Telecommuting is when an employee usually works off-site for a company that has a bricks-and-mortar office. That employee might be in the office from time to time, which means they’re always located close by.

Remote work, which is also often called virtual work, is a more flexible work arrangement. These employees can work from remote locations anywhere in the world. They can permanently work off-site for a company that doesn’t need to have a physical location.

Freelancers or contractors are common examples of remote employees. They have a flexible schedule, and there’s rarely a need for them to meet with a manager or client face-to-face. With this said, many companies also hire full-time employees remotely, allowing them to live and work from wherever they choose.

Telecommuting and Covid-19

Before Covid-19, work was synonymous with the office. Even though some people were already working remotely, telecommuting jobs weren’t the norm.

At the start of the pandemic, working in close proximity to one another was no longer an option. As a result, most companies had to adapt and made the switch to telecommuting as a temporary solution.

According to Pew Research, this transition was relatively easy. Many found that productivity and job satisfaction improved while telecommuting. Plus, due to advancements in technology, employees were able to have everything they needed to do their job well at home.

Leaders also saw benefits from this new work arrangement. Besides making employees happier, telecommuting was also economical.

If an employee worked from home just some of the time, companies would save, on average, $11,000 per individual employee. Similarly, employees would save between $2,000 and $7,000 each, according to Global Workplace Analytics.

While telecommuting may have started as a temporary solution, it’s certainly not going anywhere anytime soon. The Covid-19 pandemic made it clear that working in an office isn’t the only option.

Is telecommuting right for you?

If you’re flirting with the idea of telework, ask yourself these questions before taking the plunge.

business-man-in-meeting-telecommuting

Do I have access to a workspace? Having a quiet workspace with a good internet connection is a necessity if you’re considering telework.

Am I okay with working alone? Some people feel energized when they’re around others. If you’re someone that doesn’t like being alone and needs regular contact with people, telecommuting may not be for you.

Do I have the discipline to work without supervision? Having self-discipline and being able to stick to a schedule is key to succeeding in a telecommuting role. You need to also be motivated and keep on top of your work without having any supervision.

Can I manage distractions? Chances are, you’ll be faced with many distractions while you work at home or at a coffee shop. You need to be prepared to cope with distractions without letting them affect your productivity.

Final thoughts on telecommuting

The pandemic ushered in a new era. Telecommuting is here to stay, and it’s changing how we're used to working.

While it’s not free of challenges, the countless benefits that come with it have made it a permanent fixture in the world of work. If you’re considering a part-time or full-time telecommuting role, consider whether it’s a good fit for you. Most importantly, ask yourself if you have the right mindset to work independently.

If you’re unsure about your next career move, remote or not, reach out to BetterUp today. A BetterUp coach can help you discover your strengths and achieve your career goals.

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Published November 16, 2021

Erin Eatough, PhD

Sr. Insights Manager

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