A Bump in the Road for Telecommuting?

November 28, 2017

For years, employers of all sizes increasingly supported telecommuting as a way to accommodate their staff's desire for work-life balance and scheduling flexibility. As technology has made working from home ever more feasible, it has often yielded gains in productivity and worker satisfaction.

I write this as the only employee at our headquarters office on this particular day. When Chris Lee and I founded ITS back in the late ‘90s, we embraced the potential of new telephony solutions to profitably differentiate us from traditional brick-and-mortar consulting firms. The ability to take and make calls while traveling to and from our client locations, enhanced by voicemail and paging services, enabled us to greatly expand the number of clients for whom we could deliver our special brand of consulting and technical solutions.

Recently, to our surprise, some employers have rescinded work-from-home (telecommuting) arrangements—even with employees who have demonstrated its success over the long term. In what appears to be a response to business and stock price declines, companies are attempting to regain control of absentee workers by bringing them back into the traditional office.

However, the infrastructure required to support an influx of formerly self-directed telecommuters is not insignificant. Many companies reduced their office footprints and are now struggling to find phones, desks and network connections for these critical team members—with no guarantee of enhanced productivity or worker morale.

Telecommuting can be a difficult transition for some employees. They must develop the discipline to separate work from life, giving each its proper measure of attention. Some people find it hard to ignore the inevitable distractions of working at home, and run the risk of missing work deadlines, while others find it hard to resist working at every hour, which can disrupt family life and lead to burnout.

Based on our experience at ITS, however, we believe there is a lot of value in working remotely. We believe most employers and employees should at least experiment with telecommuting, while carefully monitoring their arrangement to ensure that, in an attempt to increase efficiency and reduce burnout, we don’t inadvertently foster the opposite.

I look forward to hearing your experiences with telecommuting, in all its forms!

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