Keeping your employees connected is one of the most important considerations for any business. Good communication can help your staff build stronger relationships with your customers, and make sure your business runs effectively and efficiently.
But, how can they communicate well when they are not together under a single roof, but instead, are working from remote locations outside the office?
According to Statista, 30% of businesses now operate in a fully remote-working model, and over 60% have some employees working from an office and others working remotely.
Until recently, working-from-home has been looked upon as a perk that was offered only by a handful of employers. Today, it has become the only way to safely work for the majority of the world in a COVID -19, and post COVID world. As this new form of working explodes in popularity, how can you be sure that your company is doing it most effectively?
Luckily, there are plenty of systems available that can make operating a telecommuting model seamless, ensuring that your teams remain connected, motivated, and in tune with each other. All while allowing you to take advantage of access to a global talent pool, and the flexibility and cost-savings on offer.
To explain more, we’re going to explore:
Let’s get started.
Put simply, telecommuting refers to any work done from outside an office.
It is also referred to by the following terms:
The term ‘telecommute’ originated in the 1970s to refer specifically to the use of a telephone to replace the workforce’s daily commute. It became increasingly popular throughout the 1990s as appreciation grew for the idea that productive work was about the activity rather than any specific worksite. This matched the growing trend for telecommuting jobs in the service sector detached from any manual or physical task: unlike for example machine operators who are simply unable to work remotely.
With the rise of the internet and far more advanced tools — and supercharged by the COVID-19 pandemic — the definition of telecommuting has simply come to mean any work performed outside the office. In fact, telecommuting is also expected to continue after the pandemic as well.
Unsurprisingly, it can take any number of forms:
Depending on the specific needs of your business, telecommuting can be the way forward, with employees taking advantage of telecommunications tools such as email, softphones, chat and video apps, or even a full-blown Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) system.
As with anything, telecommuting has many pros and cons for both businesses and their employees. The remote working revolution has rapidly transformed the commercial landscape, and it’s not set to change back any time soon, with potential employees increasingly requesting a flexible working arrangement.
So what exactly are those benefits?
Let’s look at those benefits of telecommuting in a bit more detail.
Nothing comes without drawbacks, and telecommuting does come with a few cons for both businesses and their employees.
Let’s dig a little deeper into each of these disadvantages for employers and employees.
Knowledge is power, and thankfully the disadvantages of telecommuting can largely be mitigated by proper planning and strategies. With such widespread adoption of remote working, there are plenty of tools that can help you to create a healthy work environment for your staff that brings in all the benefits that a more flexible model has to offer.
Good, clear communication is key here, so make sure to set distinct targets on a yearly, quarterly, and monthly basis, so that staff understand your business aims. Breaking these down into personal or team-based targets can also lift the sense of collaboration and collective responsibility for all workers, and make sure that tasks are completed on time even when employees are working on a flexible schedule.
Create an easy-to-understand policy for telecommuting. Do you expect staff to be online by a certain time? What flexibility exactly do you offer for when they can work each day? Do you have a communication system that you expect them to be available on? By putting a clear telecommuting program in place, everyone knows exactly what they should be doing.
Giving staff space to air concerns and enjoy direct interaction with their managers is essential, so schedule monthly meetings and make sure to ask them about their work-life balance and how telecommuting is working for them. The dedicated face time is bound to give the employees a sense of security and confidence in airing their concerns. If you can, host these meetings face-to-face like Slack, Skype, Microsoft Teams, Zoom, or a similar video conferencing tool.
Planning virtual activities, celebrations for small milestones, or even co-working events for employees working remotely will build loyalty, forge greater bonds within teams, and provide the opportunity for staff to socialize with one another even in the absence of a physical workspace. Find some inspiration of what to plan in our blog post.
Being aware of the feelings of loneliness and isolation that can emerge from telecommuting is the first part of the battle. Alongside regular catch-ups, build in a support system for your staff so that when times get tough there’s somewhere they can turn. This will help bring down absenteeism, boost employee morale, and also help them cope up with stress which is often a by-product of remote work.
A telecommuting policy will ensure that all employees approach telecommuting with best practices that are aligned to the organization’s work culture and cybersecurity requirements. It also ensures that remotely onboarded employees are also able to blend in with the remote workers in their teams in a seamless fashion.
Here’s a rundown of the tools used by companies operating full or part-time telecommuting models:
We use instant messaging apps throughout our social lives, and the modern workplace should be no different. These systems allow for faster and less formal collaboration than over email and help staff track projects and task progress. Managers can be readily available for discussions, and employees can converse easily — much as they would in the office.
As part of your security protocols, using Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) to mask your employees’ internet traffic can help to protect your business communications.
A Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone system allows your teams, across sales, marketing, and support functions, to make calls from any computer or mobile device. They also come with a range of enhancements such as shared address books, voicemail-to-email transcription, and virtual phone numbers.
Zoom rose to such popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic that it even became a verb, and few businesses can get by these days without a video conferencing tool — whether or not they have staff telecommuting. Find a tool that works best for you, and your staff will be able to collaborate in a richer setting than over the phone.
Telecommuting is here to stay, with employers and employees all over the world experiencing the benefits it can offer in terms of flexibility, productivity, and lower overheads.
Like with any major new trend, it’s not without its drawbacks, but with the right planning and combination of tools, a blended flexible-working model looks set to be the way forward for some time.
Illustrations by Mahalakshmi Anantharaman
Freshdesk Contact Center (Formerly Freshcaller) is a modern-day cloud phone system that can be used to set up a phone system or fully-fledged call center for customer support and sales or even remote work. With its cloud-based architecture, Freshdesk Contact Center brings together the best of legacy features like IVR and advanced call routing capabilities like Smart Escalations, Customizable Performance Reporting to help you set up state-of-the-art call center operations. Freshdesk Contact Center offers VoIP phone numbers in 90+ countries, requires zero phone hardware, and is extremely easy to use.
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