Telecommuting done right

Satisfied with his work. Cheerful mature man working on laptop and smiling while sitting at his working placeNationwide, it’s estimated that 43 percent of all employees work remotely at least part of the time. Research shows that telecommuting has numerous benefits to employers (such as more productive and engaged workers) and employees (less time and cost involved in commuting and greater work-life balance).

Yet Gallup’s State of the American Workplace report reveals that telecommuting yields the most benefits to employees and employers when workers do not spend 100 percent of their time at home. They’re more engaged when they spend some of the workweek working remotely and the other part working in a location with their coworkers. The optimal engagement boost, according to Gallup, occurs when employees spend 60 percent to less than 80 percent of their workweek — three to four days — working off-site.

Why is this the case? There are numerous factors that come into play. One important one is the out-of-sight-out-of-mind issue. Numerous studies show that telecommuting workers on average are as productive or even more productive than employees who work in the office and who have greater distractions to deal with. But when an employee is in the same office as their manager, it’s easier for the manager to see and recognize achievements, according to Gallup. When the manager and employees are in different locations, there are fewer opportunities for this to occur. That can leave telecommuting workers feeling undervalued and less engaged. Managers need to make sure they are celebrating the successes of — and offering advancement opportunities to — both in-office workers and telecommuters.

Another reason why a 100 percent telecommuting plan is not always ideal is that fully remote workers do not get that opportunity to connect with their co-workers, which can lead to feelings of isolation. Human beings crave connection with others. Employees form bonds with other employees in office break rooms, lunch rooms and at the water cooler and coffee pot. Even small amounts of face time with co-workers and managers can help increase the odds that an employee’s telecommuting efforts are successful for everyone involved.