Telecommuting is becoming more and more popular. Employers and employees alike are moving away from the traditional in-office work format to the new and improved, more efficient and cost effective “working from home”. In addition, advances in hand-held technology and the ever burgeoning apps industry, with a projected gross annual revenue exceeding $189 billion by 2020, are making the mobile office a must in many competitive fields, including construction. Like any new practice, telecommuting and the mobile office have advantages and disadvantages, as well as simple solutions to minimizing inherent challenges.
Pros: Telecommuting is awesome! As an employee, I never have to buy gas, my rent is tax-deductible, and I don’t even own an iron. As an employer, allowing employees to telecommute severely reduces my overhead, and my mobile employees are able to optimize communications and promote radical efficiency.
Cons: Telecommuting is terrible. As an employee, I am alone all of the time. I don’t have any idea who or what I am working for. I am not sure who to reach out to when I have problems or questions, and I can’t be sure if I am doing my job well. As an employer, I never know how my employees are fairing. Should I be pushing productivity or implementing more support?
One of the major problems of the mobile workforce is the distance between team members. While this can be understood literally, it can be true figuratively as well. Isolation in the telecommute environment can be a real problem, damaging morale, communications, productivity, and personal health.
What Can Be Done?
All-in-all, many of the suggestions above resemble (or directly reflect) practices we would implement in the office anyways, it is just that they tend to be more difficult to mind in a telecommute situation. That being said, and practical solutions to common problems notwithstanding, telecommuting is not for everyone. It is an artform that requires a great deal of discipline. Even for those who are inclined to the lifestyle, long hours spent alone can add up, and the need for human contact can be a lot to handle. But telecommuting and the mobile office do not have to be isolationist enterprises, and whether you are an executive or an entry-level employee, there are real-world steps you can take to ensure that off-site employees feel and know just how valuable they really are.
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