HR Policies & Procedures

Pros and Cons of Telecommuting

Telecommuting has made the news a lot in recent years. Technology has enabled this growing trend, and more and more companies are taking advantage of it. That said, there are many pros and cons to consider before implementing a telecommuting option for employees. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of allowing employees to telecommute.

Pros of Telecommuting

From the employer’s perspective, there are many advantages to allowing employees to telecommute, even if it is only part-time. Here are a few:

  • Employees will often be able to work during emergencies, which keeps the organization running in case of inclement weather or other circumstances.
  • Studies have found that telecommuting creates happier, less stressed employees.
  • Higher productivity can come from having fewer distractions. Productivity can also increase because of the fact that employees often work more hours when they don’t have a commute.
  • Employers enjoy an improved retention rate for employees due to employees having a better ability to achieve work/life balance. Higher retention also lowers total recruiting costs.
  • Allowing telecommuting can give employers a wider geographic reach with employees in remote locations. This can also be helpful in recruiting for hard-to-fill roles. It can even mean reduced relocation expenses.
  • Employers can see direct cost savings through:
    • Less electricity used;
    • Consolidation of office space;
    • Less office supplies needed; and
    • Less furniture needed.
  • Employees may take fewer sick days if they can still work at home when they just feel a little “under the weather.” More flexible working hours can also reduce full-day absences for nonwork events that take only a couple of hours.
  • Employers can use telecommuting as a recruiting tool.
  • Employers with a focus on sustainability can promote the fact that their employees use less fuel in commuting. (This is just one way that telecommuting can be promoted as environmentally and socially responsible.)
  • Telecommuting employees can feel empowered and trusted—and thus take more proactive steps that benefit the company.

Cons of Telecommuting

Naturally, there are also some potential downsides for employers when employees telecommute. Here are a few to consider:

  • There may be a perception of unfairness or even a risk of discrimination claims if telecommuting is not available to everyone.
  • It may be harder to track employees’ hours. For salaried employees, telecommuting means it’s easy for them to work—and thus trigger the requirement they be paid—even when they would otherwise not be working. For hourly employees, if working time is not tracked well, it could risk unpaid overtime wage/hour violations.
  • Employers often fear that employees may waste time or overreport hours when there is no one to actively supervise their workday.
  • Conversely, there is also a risk that employees will work too many hours due to less separation between work and home. This can result in overtime obligations or employee burnout.
  • Employers face a higher data security burden when work is being done at multiple locations on multiple devices. There is a greater risk of data being unsecure on personal devices as well.
  • Employers may face some up-front costs to provide equipment to work from home if the employee’s current office setup cannot be used.
  • There is also a fear of loss of synergies from in-person interactions.
  • Extra effort may be required for:
    • Teambuilding;
    • Ensuring telecommuting employees aren’t left out or overlooked; and
    • Keeping everyone on the same page with projects.
  • The legal line is unclear in terms of employer responsibilities for injuries at home when employees are telecommuting.

Does your organization allow some or all employees to telecommute? Is this allowed some of the time or all of the time? What have you found to be the pros and cons of allowing telecommuting?

**This article does not constitute legal advice. Always consult legal counsel with specific questions.**

 


About Bridget Miller:

Bridget Miller is a business consultant with a specialized MBA in International Economics and Management, which provides a unique perspective on business challenges. She’s been working in the corporate world for over 15 years, with experience across multiple diverse departments including HR, sales, marketing, IT, commercial development, and training.