23 February 2020

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Telecommuting: Flexibility at Work Redefined

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The term telecommuting is very common in the West, but Indians are only slowly realising this, and that too very recently. Today in India, many employees of leading IT companies and BPO’s are opting for virtual workplaces or telecommuting.

According to a recent survey conducted by Manpower Inc., by 2016, 63 percent workers globally want to work flexibly and 84 percent employers will recognise this as a significant benefit. “Companies want results. Whether you come to office everyday or work from home, it is the output that matters. Meeting the deliverables on time is the key measure of performance” says the HR Manager of a leading company.

Telecommuting means an employee working from a location other than the employer’s premises.  Usually it means that the employee works from home, performing the same functions that he or she would be doing from office.

Many organisations are adopting this technique today. But if in this context, SME’s are thinking that it is for big players only, they are absolutely wrong. Mr. Ganesh Chella, the founder and CEO of Totus Consulting says, “If SME’s want to compete with the large organisations for world class talent, they should do what the large organisations will struggle to do”.

He continues- “The labour market gets more and more tight and the task of hiring and retaining people is more challenging; and the SMEs and home based businesses are likely to bear the brunt of the problem the most. The solution for this is to be creative & flexible in their staffing approaches.  Compared to larger Organisations, SMEs are not bound by bureaucratic rules and can afford to be more creative in their staffing approaches and thereby address a much larger talent pool.”

Totus Consulting being a strategic HR Consulting firm that designs and implements HR systems and process for diverse industries, he opines- “There are a large number of highly talented people who may have constraints in terms of their geographical preferences, their ability to move out of home, the work hours and so on. SMEs can through their flexible approach tap this talent pool very well without being bogged down by too many rules and regulations”.

Many businesses do not require workers to be physically present to perform their tasks- customer service, telemarketing, sales, drafting documents, auditing, account related works, web designing, tele-recruiting etc can be carried out without the employee’s physical presence in the office. 

So, being creative in recruitment, an increasing number of businesses, telecommuting has proved to be beneficial to both employer and employee

The objective of telecommuting is two pronged- to retain the talent pool and to cut cost. There is significant cost-saving due to the decrease in spending on overhead costs.

Some companies use it as a great attraction and retention tool. Women employees who are otherwise unable to manage home and office together can reap the advantage of telecommuting, which in turn is helpful to the organisations too. The employees can balance their family life with their office . It also significantly enhances the organisation’s image as an employee-friendly organisation.

The employees too save their savings on fuel and vehicle maintenance. In the US, companies have already realised that they are starting to lose good employees due to cost hikes and less flexibility on office hours.

There are a few conditions that must be met if you opt to telecommuting. Telecommuting needs should be viewed from a management perspective and its effective implementation requires a strategic approach.

The challenges include evaluation of work and self motivation. Some employees may miss the benefits associated to team-work and organisational environment. At times, employees can be overlooked by the organisation during the time of increment or promotion if he does not show up in the office for long. To avoid this, do communicate frequently and give timely feedback on employee performance.

Effective management plays a key role in productivity and the motivation levels of telecommuting workers. Never ignore signs of lack of ‘accountability’ in tele-commuting employees. Laxity on the employee’s side such as unresponsiveness or not meeting deadlines without proper reason needs to be dealt with firmly.

There should be clarity on communication protocols, as well as good communication infrastructure like intranet for telecommuting.. Risks relating to data integrity also need to be considered and provided for.

Do provide your telecommuters with proper technical, technological and logistical support to ensure proper working conditions.

Tele-commuting calls for a high level of trust on one side and self-discipline on the other. Remember, high standards of excellence can be achieved through this only if both the managers and telecommuters learn to share trust and work together harmoniously.


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