The Rewards and Dangers of Telecommuting

The rise of technology is often associated with a singular, common benefit: technology saves us a lot of time. The tractor made it faster and easier to farm, the typewriter made it faster to write, and the internet and computers make it faster to work. For many workers, their entire job can be done entirely with a laptop and a smartphone. This naturally raises an important question: why bother coming into the office at all? Staying at home not only saves all the time of the commute, but much of the ancillary time of “getting ready” for work.

Many businesses and workers agree! The rise of remote-work job sites like FlexJob shave shown employee’s desire to permanently skip rush hour, and plenty of successful businesses (including Abnormal Group!) have moved many of their workers, if not all of them, to remote and virtual work. Amazon alone announced they are hiring 3,000 remote workers just for customer-services roles, allowing workers to escape the workplace “prison” of a call-center.

There are many environmental benefits too: for every worker staying at home, that’s one less commuter adding to transportation costs every day. Many major cities are considering subsidizing business and workers to telecommute to ease traffic, lower air pollution, and decrease the burden on the city’s transportation network.

This isn’t to say that there are not downsides. For managers, it can be more difficult to know how well projects are progressing when you can’t see your workers. It can also be more difficult for remote workplaces to have those water-cooler interactions that can lead to spontaneous innovations. From an employee engagement perspective, it certainly takes extra effort to build a successful culture in a virtual environment.

But the rewards are strong, too. Virtual offices have access to national talent and national clients by not limiting themselves geographically. For employees, many believe that working remotely gives them more freedom and flexibility, not just with their time but also with how to conduct their job successfully.

Either way, businesses and workers need to be aware of the possibilities, because one thing is certain: telecommuting is here to stay.

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