The right way to do telecommuting

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34725239 - man working from home on laptop computerThe benefits of telecommuting for both companies and employees are well documented. Not only are telecommuting workers more productive and engaged (their companies love that!), they save money and time when they’re not commuting, and they achieve greater work-life balance. It’s no wonder this new way of getting work done is increasingly important to companies. Approximately 43 percent of all employees nationwide work remotely at least part of the time.

Yet did you know there’s a right way to manage telecommuting? Gallup’s State of the American Workplace report reveals that telecommuting yields the most benefits to employees and employers when workers don’t spend 100 percent of their time at home. Employees are more engaged when they spend some of their workweek working remotely and the other part working in a location with their coworkers. The optimal engagement boost, according to Gallup, occurs when employees spend 60 percent to less than 80 percent of their workweek — three to four days — working off-site and the rest of it in the office.

Why is this the case? There are numerous factors that come into play. One important one is the out-of-sight-out-of-mind issue. Numerous studies show that telecommuting workers on average are as productive or even more productive than employees who work in the office and who have greater distractions to deal with. But when an employee is in the same office as their manager, it’s easier for the manager to see and recognize achievements, according to Gallup. When the manager and employees are in different locations, there are fewer opportunities for this to occur. That can leave telecommuting workers feeling undervalued and less engaged. Managers need to make sure they are celebrating the successes of — and offering advancement opportunities to — both in-office workers and telecommuters.

Another reason why a 100 percent telecommuting plan is not always ideal is that fully remote workers do not get that opportunity to connect with their co-workers, which can lead to feelings of isolation. Human beings crave connection with others. Employees form bonds with other employees in office break rooms, lunch rooms and at the water cooler and coffee pot. Even small amounts of face time with co-workers and managers can help increase the odds that an employee’s telecommuting efforts are successful for everyone involved.

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