Is Telecommuting Right For Your Business?

Written by Celeste Heiter for Gaebler Ventures

Telecommuting is one of the fastest-growing trends in contemporary business management. It's cost-efficient, it's "green", and it's good for employee morale. But is it right for your business? This list of pros and cons will help you decide.

In this age of global connectivity, telecommuting is a rapidly-growing option for businesses of all types and sizes.

Some companies allow their staff to telecommute on certain days of the week, and work on-site the rest of the time. Others, especially web-based businesses may operate with a staff comprised mainly of telecommuting employees. Although telecommuting has its pros and cons, it's certainly worth considering whether it is a good idea for your business. So take a look at your staff and ask yourself how many of them could be working from home.

Types of Jobs for Possible Telecommuting:

Any work that can be performed on the telephone, on the Internet, via e-mail, with a software program, or in files that can be stored on a flash drive or CD is suitable for telecommuting. Those jobs include but are not limited to:

Research and development

Data entry and analysis

Writing, editing, and proofreading

Telephone support

PR and Marketing

Website maintenance

Graphic Design

Pros to Consider:

Telecommuting requires little more than a telephone, computer with Internet access, a fax machine, and basic office supplies, most of which your employee may already have.

Telecommuting is a "green choice" since your employee will save fuel and cut down on auto emissions by working from home.

Your company will save office expenses and energy costs since your employee will be using his or her own resources at home, although you may want to consider offering your employee compensation for the cost of working at home.

Telecommuting allows your company to maintain a larger staff without increasing office space.

Telecommuting cuts down on absenteeism, since employees will still be able to perform their jobs in the event of problems such as car trouble, a sick child, or bad weather.

Telecommuting employees are more productive because the hours typically spent getting ready for work and traveling to the office can be spent actually getting work done.

Employees who work from home tend to have a more positive morale, since they spend less time with a stressful commute and more quality time with family.

Cons to Consider:

Only employees who can be trusted to work without supervision may be eligible for telecommuting.

Staff interaction in an office environment may be crucial for effective business operations.

Immediate crisis management may be difficult with telecommuting employees out of the office.

Essential on-site resources may be impractical or unavailable for home use.

Data security may be an issue.

Special insurance coverage may be needed for telecommuting employees.

Possible Solutions for the Cons:

If staff supervision is a concern, have telecommuting employees check in periodically by phone, and set quotas for work to be submitted electronically at intervals throughout the day.

For staff interaction, ask your telecommuting employees to spend a portion of the week working on-site, or attending staff meetings.

Discuss contingency plans for immediate crisis management, including establishing a chain of command, and outlining a plan of action for possible emergencies.

If on-site resources such as libraries, software, and equipment are impractical or unavailable for home use, look for possible alternatives such as online sources, rental equipment, or additional software licensing for multiple users.

For sensitive data security, ask your tech staff to set up a remote desktop system that is password accessible only through your company network.

If additional insurance is required for telecommuting employees, contact your agent to discuss economical options.

Celeste Heiter is an entrepreneur and professional writer. She has owned several businesses, is a graphic designer and an expert on Japan and its culture. Today Celeste devotes her time to writing about a variety of business topics.

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