When I began my career years ago, a 9-5 job meant heading into the office in the morning, working all day with colleagues, then heading home at 5 pm. Communication was primarily through face to face conversation, or phone calls to external clients and partners. Major decisions were made by gathering in conferences rooms with everyone on the team sharing opinions and ideas.
Fast forward to today, and a typical desk job is quite different. The 9-5 routine is almost non-existent, with employees working flexible hours or remotely, without ever stepping foot in the office. Employees are communicating though a variety of devices from various places, sometimes never meeting in person. Although telecommuting seems to be the new normal, the long term impacts are still uncertain.
Personally, I prefer a hands-on managerial approach, walking around the office and having direct contact with my team. When my employees work remotely, we lose that personal connection. More often than not, communications via email and phone are strictly business. You lose the opportunity to have that friendly conversation with employees about what they did over the weekend or how their family is doing.
For conducting business, I’ve always found that collaborating and sharing ideas in a group, rather than over video or by conference call, is more productive and flows easier. There’s a sense of camaraderie that you don’t experience when employees work from home. Productivity isn’t a concern since I can see my staff hard at work in the office, and if there is a last minute emergency, we can tackle it together in person rather than scramble to connect by device.
However, there are pros to telecommuting. Some people are more productive when working remotely. They’re able to focus on the job at hand without the distraction of office conversations. Technology enables them to be reached anywhere, at all hours of the day. They are also able to access their work files with a single log-in. What’s more, telecommuting allows for a better work-life balance. For example, employees can work remotely when their child is sick rather than pushing the work to someone else or staying out a day, which can hurt productivity. Employees may also log more hours when remote because they are able to contribute the time spent getting ready and commuting, and end up working earlier or later as a result.
When deciding whether telecommuting is beneficial or detrimental overall, it comes down to balance. What is the right balance for your company? On a high level, is your industry telecommuter friendly? On an individual basis, what positions would be just as, if not more, productive if the employee had the option to work remotely? Finally, what’s best for your company as a whole?
As we’ve learned during our recent ASM meetings, technology provides us with endless new tools to do our jobs more efficiently. In order to grow, we must embrace those changes, but in a way that uniquely improves our overall productivity, employee relationships, and work environment.
Joseph Bodio is the president of the Associated Subcontractors of Mass., Boston and is president and CEO of LAN-TEL Communications, Norwood, Mass.