What is telecommuting?
Telecommuting is the slightly fancier term for working from home, often because there is no office space to commute to. You might also hear it called “teleworking“, work from anywhere”, or “flexible workspace.” Telecommuters can be in full-time employment working for a business, employed on a part-time basis by multiple companies, or be self-employed, working as and when they please. If you have ever heard someone call themselves a “digital nomad” they mean they aren’t tied down to any physical location and take on telecommuting jobs instead. So long as they have the tools to create a digital workspace, like Dropbox, your team is free to set up in whatever remote locations they please.
So, what is telework?
Telework is the work done by a telecommuting team. That means work that can be carried out remotely, without needing to be in the office or in the same room as their colleagues. If your team hasn’t been remote working for most of this year already, perhaps you doubt how much work can really be done at home. So you’ll be pleased to know it’s been found to be more effective than the standard in-office day in studies.
How can telecommuting help business?
There are several ways telecommuting is thought to help people, and therefore their companies, thrive. Here are just some of the most common benefits of telecommuting:
No one enjoys the commute. After all, who enjoys hours of lost time and pricey tolls and fares to match? Remote working removes this stress. No more rushing out the door, no more spending evenings in traffic jams, or waiting out train delays. No more absenteeism because of a plumbing emergency. Your telecommuters can structure their day to be most productive. 8 am – 9 am no longer must be blocked out for the commute. Everyone can work the hours where they feel most productive, no matter if that’s at 8 am or 6 pm. Plus, if you are combining the telecommute with flexible hours, you can even get the best out of your team’s night owls. That means greater motivation, greater productivity, and better talent retention.
Work across time zones
One of the biggest benefits to remote work is that it can be done anywhere, in any time zone. While that can make finding a mutually agreeable time for a phone call a bit tricky (but with asynchronous communication, phone calls may not even be required), it also means you can be an “always on” office. While your team in New York sleeps, your London office can be working, allowing you to be more responsive than ever.
The obvious one. If your team isn’t in an office, you don’t need an office. Goodbye extortionate city rent. The same goes for your team, who don’t need to be forced into tiny bedrooms in big cities just to be able to reach the office every day. Working from home means your team’s work isn’t dictating where their home is, and that is a massive boost to anyone’s mental health and happiness. Companies can even pass on these reduced costs to employees by offering their team a stipend for electricity and internet that they use purely to do their work. Sending out a takeaway voucher to everyone on payday is sure to be appreciated as well. After all, there are no more kitchen coffees to catch up over.
Cons of telecommuting
There is one main area that your team may agree is a downside of teleworking, and that is the social aspect and lack of face-to-face time. When all your team is set up alone in their home offices, without a shared work environment, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that they are a team at all. This is why communication is absolutely key.
Zoom calls with a refreshment every Friday afternoon is one way to do it, but that doesn’t account for team members on the other side of the globe. The most valuable communication is the type that is completely embedded into the work schedule. Like real-time edits and annotations, collaboration on shared documents, or Slack messages at any hour of the day. Your team needs to know that they are able to communicate whenever they need to, not just in the hours of an arranged video call.
Keep the special things special
For special events like the holidays, try and arrange get-togethers for team members who are close to one another. For those who are truly remote, arrange an online party, and make sure you send out your Christmas cards and maybe a little treat or two. If your traditional office was always proud to talk about “doing its best” for employees, then your remote office should operate on the same values.
How to get started with telecommuting
If you’re ready to make the change that many are already making, it’s a bit more complicated than sending everyone home and telling them not to come back any time soon. It will require planning and finding the best tools to support distributed teams.
Remote teams won’t be able to work without internet, so find out if your individual staff members are able to support this in their own homes. You may be saving money on no longer having an office, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t re-invest it into your business. See what allowances you can make to help your team get set up with the wi-fi they need. Plus, you should opt for software that lets you work offline if the internet does cut out.
Technology is key to the boom in remote working, so your business needs to be appropriately equipped. Maybe you think you can stick to word documents written, saved, and then passed around via email attachments—but that’s not going to fly with flexible work. It’s only a matter of time before you lose the file altogether. Dropbox removes many of the potential errors of these old-fashioned methods. With shared documents that can be edited by the team in real-time, there is no need for multiple documents. There is only ever one, completely up-to-date version.
Create an online digital coworking space where everyone is connected. With Dropbox, shared folders give everyone access to what’s important, with integrations that enable your team to do their best. There is an added emphasis on security when allowing your team to telecommute. Without having everyone—and their devices—under one roof, sensitive company data can be harder to track. Dropbox offers security controls that can give you peace of mind. With password protection, time-limit options, and enterprise mobility management, you can ensure links and documents are only accessed by authorized users.
Being able to work at home is not something everyone is equipped for. Some people may not have a dedicated desk and work area in their house if they don’t usually work there. Of course, there are ways and means of getting around this, but really, do you want your team to be working from kitchen tables, dressers, even ironing boards? Be sure to budget for office furniture requests and give your team the physical equipment they need for suitable working arrangements. This will, in turn, allow them to achieve better results.
No company too big or too small
Working with remote teams has revolutionized the way some of the world’s largest brands work. Just ask Dentsu, who have used Dropbox to minimize their mail costs and up their productivity both in and out of the office: “I’ll often check on projects using the Dropbox mobile app and send links to colleagues before I even reach the office,” says Account Supervisor Ai Ando. But don’t think flexible work options are only feasible for large corporations or sole proprietors working exclusively from a laptop. Telecommuting is a versatile system that can work for a wide range of business. And with the right tools, it can work for you too.