Telecommuting in practice

Telecommuting capabilities that exist today have made it possible for employees to be located anywhere on the globe and still do their jobs. With this potential companies no longer have to consider locating near their workforce. For example, when Ravi a senior proof reader with a Bangalore based medical transcription company received news of his father’s accident in Chennai he realized that with both parents requiring nursing (his mother was afflicted with debilitating osteoporosis) it would not be possible for him to continue in Bangalore. However, instead of accepting his resignation his HR manager suggested that since the company allowed employees to work from home, Ravi could take up that option. Within a week, Ravi’s computer at home had been loaded with the company software ad a broadband connection. And he got to work – from his living room.

Working from home or telecommuting had gained rapid ground in Bangalore’s software industry. IBM allows employees (project upwards) to work from home. At Accenture all employees in functional areas like human resources (HR), finance, marketing and information technology (IT) can telecommute. By 2006, Bangalore based IT firm Yodlee Infotech Pvt Ltd plans to make telecommuting available to all its 150 employees. They propose to provide all employees with a computer, telephone and broadband connection at home as part of their salary component. Prudential ICICI has done away with the office convention of a nine to six routine and allows its sales department employees to come in at 11.00 am and to leave a 8pm. At Marico, there is no concept of affixed number of days of casual leave as long as the job is done. HSBC India has implemented flexi-time policy from February 2008. Other Indian companies that have opted for flex time include Lion Bridge India, YBrant Technologies and KPIT Cummins

India has a large number of knowledge workers who due to social and geographical constraints are not available to potential employers. (Women for example, who have to remain at home for their family or those unable to relocate to a new place) Telecommuting helps remove this barrier between employers and employees.

Much of challenge for employers in telecommuting revolves training managers in how to establish and ensure appropriate work quality and one time completion. Traditional face time is removed in such irk arrangements and managers need to control the work will have to change. Instead, more employee involvement will be necessary which will allow workers the discretion to make those decisions that affect them. For instance although a due ate is established rte work assigned to employees, managers must recognize that home workers will work at their own pace. That may mean that, instead of individual focusing work efforts over an eight hour period, he or she may work two hours here, three hours at another time and another three late at night. The emphasis then will be on the final product not the means by which it is accomplished.

Work at home may also require managers to rethink their compensation policy. Will it pay workers by the hour, on a salary basis or by the job performed? More than likely because certain jobs, like claims processing an be easily quantified and standards set, pay plans will be in the form of pay or actual work done. Beyond the compensation issue, managers must also anticipate potential legal problems that may arose from telecommuting. For example, what if the employee works more than 40 hours during the work week? Will that employee be entitled to overtime pay? The answer is yes! As such alternative wok site activities will have to be monitored by managers to ensure that employees are not abusing overtime privileges and that those workers who rightfully should be paid overtime are compensated.

Because telecommuting employee are often full time employees of an organization as opposed to contingent or temporary workers, it will be the organization’s responsibility to ensure the health and safety of the off premise work site. Equipment provided by the company, for example that leads to an employee injury or illness is the responsibility of the organization. Although management cannot constantly monitor workers in their homes, it must ensure that these workers understand the proper techniques for using the equipment. Additionally if accidents or injuries occur, employees must understand the regulations for reporting them. Generally that means for instance reporting them within 48 hours at which time management must investigate immediately.

For employees the two big advantages of telecommuting are the decrease in time and stress of commuting in congested areas and the increase inflexibility in coping with family demands. But it may have some potential drawbacks. For instance will telecommuting employees miss the social contact that a formal office provides? Will they be less likely to be considered for salary increases and promotions? Is being out of sight equivalent to being out of mind? Will non-work related distractions such as children, neighbors and the proximity of the refrigerator significantly reduce productivity for those without superior will power and discipline? Answers to these questions are central in determining whether telecommuting will continue to expand in the future.