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Telecommuting: Top Benefits and Challenges

From video calls to virtual events, new technology tools mean that employees are now able to perform many job duties without being physically present in the workplace. Telecommuting – even a few days a week – offers benefits for employees and employers but also comes with challenges.

Wondering if a permanent switch to remote work is the right choice for your team? These are some considerations to keep in mind:

Overhead view of a woman on a zoom video chat.

When employees can live and work anywhere, you gain access to a wider talent pool but may miss bringing the team together in person.

If your company has struggled to recruit or retain top talent in the past, offering remote positions may help with hiring. For example, in competitive job markets with a small candidate pool, even high-priced job offers may not be enough to land your top hire. By expanding your search to less-competitive markets, your business could potentially land your dream candidate – as long as you're okay with that person being a few time zones away.

Remote work policies may also improve talent retention efforts. If a top performer needs to move to a new city due to a spouse's job relocation, for example, you'll be able to retain this employee. Employees may also appreciate the flexibility to live in any location of their choosing. Your business may wish to set guidelines around remote work, such as requiring employees to be available during fixed working hours (even if they're outside the home office time zone) or requiring reliable access to high-speed Internet.

Remote work can lead to more flexible working hours, which comes with both positives and negatives.

Working from home means employees save time commuting and may have greater flexibility over their daily schedules. While this can be positive for employees – they may feel more comfortable stepping away for a doctor appointment or to pick up a child from school – this can also lead to a compression of work and life boundaries.

Some employees may struggle to manage their time and be tempted to procrastinate with distractions such as dirty dishes, laundry or household errands. They may struggle with motivation and suffer from low productivity. Other employees may struggle to set firm boundaries between their personal and professional lives, continuing to answer emails, chat with co-workers, or do work as long as there's a Wi-Fi connection. These employees are at greater risk for burnout.

Set expectations up front about remote work availability and communication access. You may instruct employees to respond promptly to emails during working hours but tell them there's no expectation that they'll check or reply to messages outside of these hours. Daily and weekly project updates will also help employees stay on track with their deliverables and help you identify any productivity problems before the team misses a big deadline.

Communication is instant and constant but not the same as being in person.

When the whole team works remotely, there's no opportunity for casual connections, such as one employee stopping by another employee's desk for a quick chat on the way to the break room. For some employees, the lack of distractions can boost productivity. Others, however, may miss these social ties and the serendipitous moments that can lead to new ideas.

When working remotely, consider the right communication channels and cadence for your team. Depending on employee needs and project deliverables, this might be a combination of an instant messaging platform along with email and video calls. Consider how frequent these touch points should be. It's easy to spend an entire day on Zoom calls and feel like no work is accomplished, and it's just as easy to spend the whole day waiting for an email reply with the directions you need for your next project.

If the majority of employees are based in the same city, consider opportunities for in-person team building days or monthly in-person meetings. Bringing the team together can boost camaraderie and strengthen connections, translating into a more successful remote work experience.

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