We live in a mobile world. Technology has changed the definition of “workplace,” enabling us to be effective and productive wherever we are (home, airport, waiting rooms, etc.). Flexible workplaces are more popular than ever before and as the lines between business and personal life continue to blur, telecommuting offers a solution to help workers balance (and sometimes juggle) their work and personal lives. Virtual work arrangements can be a game-changer for us, empowering us to have both a successful professional career and a happy personal life.
Benefits of Telecommuting
Eighty percent of U.S. knowledge workers are employed by companies that have a telecommuting or virtual work arrangement program in place, according to a recent teleworking survey, commissioned by my company, PGi. Telecommuting is rapidly becoming one of the most attractive benefits a company can offer, and research indicates 80 percent of employees consider telecommuting to be a job perk.
As employers continue to realize the business value of teleworking and the importance of work-life balance, workers are gaining more control and flexibility over scheduling. Flexible hours enable busy professionals to work early in the morning or late at night, allowing more time to go to a doctor’s appointment or tend to children’s special events. For me, virtual work enables the flexibility to take care of my dogs, Jesse and Jasper, when a sitter isn’t available and maintain my multi-tasking excellence. I can take care of my mom in her home when needed, and still not miss a single meeting, even with our global HR team in their own time zones. And, cutting out the distractions of the office just one day per week helps me clear out email clutter, focus on completing tasks and take advantage of a change in scenery to spark strategic or creative thought processes.
The virtual workplace not only affords more balance, but also allows us to spend more time on ourselves. Workers report that telecommuting reduces stress levels and improves morale. Imagine having enough flexibility to have time to prepare a healthy meal or participate in fitness or recreational activities not easily accessible to the traditional 9-to-5 crowd!
Finding the Right Fit
Telecommuting is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Everyone’s situation is unique, and the key to building an efficient, productive workforce is to identify not only the unique needs of an employee, but also those of the team. For businesses, placing the wrong work style or preferences in a virtual workplace role can prove challenging for both the employee and the team. By understanding the personalities of your workforce, the employer and employees can enjoy many or all the benefits of telecommuting: improved productivity, better morale and reduced stress and cost.
Employers should consider several situations when starting or expanding virtual work arrangements. For example, does the worker have a back-up plan in case the Internet crashes at home? Are their mobile devices adequate for what is needed? As important as technologies, personality is another important factor to consider when making arrangements for virtual workers. At PGi, we have identified seven telecommuting personalities and the leadership tactics, tools and technologies for success in virtual roles. Whether you manage or work with the “24/7 worker,” the “multitasker,” or any of the other five personalities, there are many techniques you can use to help virtual teams collaborate and achieve success from anywhere.
Business today is conducted virtually anywhere at any time, opening new options for workers to successfully manage their work and personal lives. While navigating the waters of flexible work arrangements, remember the different personalities and needs of remote workers so you can help them experience the advantages of telecommuting. If time is the most valuable resource we have, we must find ways to use it as efficiently as possible to bring productivity and growth into our businesses.
About the author: Alison Sheehan leads PGi’s global human resources management, a team of HR professionals that provides support and services to over 2,100 PGi associates worldwide. With employees in 35 states in the U.S. and 25 countries around the globe, PGi’s HR strategies for talent acquisition, development, management, and rewards rely on virtual collaboration and workplaces for their success.