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Advantages & Disadvantages of Telecommuting

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A study in 2012 by Wrike, a software collaboration firm, revealed that many people are warming up to telecommuting. Eighty-three percent of the respondents said that they were spending at least an hour or two working from home. Forty-three percent of the respondents also stated that they were working remotely more often, in comparison to two years earlier. The Atlantic magazine reported that as many as 34 million people were working from home in 2011; however, several advantages and disadvantages are associated with telecommuting.

Cost Efficient

Telecommuting saves people from incurring fuel expenses associated with driving to and from work. They avoid additional expenses, such as fast food lunches and morning coffee. Employers also save on the cost of creating and maintaining office and parking space for employees. According to management consulting company JALA International's president, Jack Nilles, companies can save close to $11,000 annually per worker. Employers also benefit from high employer retention because telecommuting enhances job satisfaction. A study by Cisco in 2008 revealed that 91 percent of the 2000 respondents felt telecommuting was significant to their job satisfaction.

Increased Productivity

Telecommuting removes employees from office distractions and allows them to concentrate on their duties, which enhances their productivity. Examples of such distractions include impromptu meetings, people moving around the company and interruptions from other workers. According to Global Analytics Network, an independent research firm, businesses incur annual losses of $600 billion because of workplace distractions. Various firms that have adopted telecommuting have benefited from increased employee effectiveness, including Dow Chemical, Best Buy and British Telecom, which have discovered that their teleworkers have a 35 to 40 percent increase in productivity.

Poor Staff Relationship

Unfortunately, telecommuting interferes negatively with the relationship between teleworkers and non-teleworkers. A study in 2008 by Professor Timothy Golden of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Lally School of Management and Technology revealed that some non-telecommuters felt less satisfied with their jobs and were likely to quit. They also felt that they had weak working relationships with telecommuters, which hindered the overall company productivity. Golden stated that other factors, such as the amount of face-to-face interaction, job autonomy and telecommuting could also breed this poor relationship.

Career Stagnation

Working from home makes it difficult for a manager to monitor the performance of teleworkers, and people who adopt this work arrangement often find it hard to gain recognition for their efforts through promotions or performance reviews. Some telecommuters do not get clear performance goals because their managers consider employees who are often in the office to be harder workers. In such a situation, the affected teleworker can opt to work both in the office and at home.