Remote workers fall into one or more of these classifications:
- Road Warrior (slang) a person who travels extensively on business.
- Telecommuter is a term used for corporate employees who work from home offices for at least part of their normal working time, using computers and other telecommunications equipment. They are usually considered as a separate category of worker from owners of home based businesses, consultants or other self-employed entrepreneurs who operate from home.
- Home worker who is not necessarily a corporate employee. Could be a consultant or other independent.
We concentrated on the have our own survey results from LinkedIn. Some of our questions are similar to those asked on surveys by CIO Insight and Staples, but some are different. We used several LinkedIn Groups involved with EDI, Supply Chain, IT related and a “neutral” Group (university alumni). The questions (polls) we asked were:
- Is your productivity better or worse when you work at home? All of our responders said that productivity is better working from home. As a start; time spent commuting, is spent working. No distractions and they can work as early / late as they want. They can be at work in less than 30 seconds and have time to address issues and work other time zones in the evenings. One respondent would agree that working at home cuts out many of the distractions that you can hit in the work place, it also eliminates the stress from a morning/evening commute especially in a high traffic area. Respondents have found that they can also vary up their day so that it leaves more flexibility to meet a client's time frame. They are not sure why more companies are not on board with a work from home option especially in the technology world.
- Is your communications with managers and co-workers adequate when you work at home? Miss the interactions with co-workers. One respondent goes in now one day per week. And, this is beneficial, too, if they need to discuss work issues face-to-face with other team members.
- Does your company pay for your communications and office expenses? 90% pay communications, 60% pay “other office expenses”, but nobody seemed to buy office furniture for workers.
- How long a round trip commute do you save by working at home? It varied from short, to medium to long. But respondents from all three groups who elaborated their responses felt it was a waste of time.
- When telecommuting, do you work more or less hours? 75% worked more. But of those who explained, a lot of that was commuting time and the flexible schedule encourages additional efforts.
We have some fascinating facts from separate surveys by CIO Insight Magazine and Staples (office supplier who sells furniture). CIO Insight survey addresses out of office employees in general while the Staples survey is more focused on those who work from the home (and, of course, concerned with their office furniture, which most employers ignore with their remote workers). The top item on the wish list for a home office is a more comfortable chair!
From the CIO survey:
- 54% of respondents say their productivity is substantially improved due to their flexible schedules.
- 75% of respondents work more hours than before they went mobile, because of the increased flexibility that mobility affords them.
- 55% of respondents say they work 10 or more additional hours per week than they did before they went mobile.
- 86 percent of telecommuters say they are more productive in their home office.
From the Staples survey:
Telecommuters say their stress levels have dropped 25 percent on average since working from home.
Seventy-three percent even say they eat healthier when working from home.
76 percent of telecommuters are more willing to put in extra time on work and say they are more loyal to their company since telecommuting.
It is a “culture change” for both the worker and the manager. Best IT Practices for the Mobile Workplace which the manager should follow are:
- Incorporate policies that allow for use of a mobile device for work, and cover data security as well as device security.
- Remind workers about the potential for physical theft of devices on planes, trains, waiting rooms and terminals -- the most likely places where they get stolen.
- Even if you pay connectivity bills for mobile staffers, send to them monthly reports so they’re aware of their usage.
- Provide information on the costs of different connectivity options so employees can choose the most cost-effective options.
Managers have to move to management by objectives as opposed to the traditional management by observation / management by walking around. The terms telecommuting and telework were coined by Jack Nilles in 1973. The term "management by objectives" was first popularized by Peter Drucker in his 1954 book 'The Practice of Management'
Important to our discussions is the “Virtual Team”: A Virtual Team is a group of individuals who work across time, space, and organizational boundaries with links strengthened by webs of communication technology. They have complementary skills and are committed to a common purpose, have inter-dependent performance goals, and share an approach to work for which they hold themselves mutually accountable. Read about how virtual teams can outperform traditional teams.
While we “thought” most of our respondents were telecommuters, we interviewed a “home worker” and a “road warrior” (who works from home when not on assignment). Their feelings mirror the “telecommuter”.
An excellent resource for both the telecommuter and the manager is telecommuter.com You’re a business looking to implement a telecommuter program or simply to allow a few employees to work from home, there are many things you need to consider: Do you have the right infrastructure? Do your employees have the tools to be productive? Are your business's information assets and applications safe? Telecommuter.com is a one-stop resource for your business's telecommuting program, giving you essential information on everything from equipment to security.
Don't forget the motto of many telecommuters: "work is something you do, not something you travel to."