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The spread of technology has effected a paradigm shift in the nature of work. Telecommuting has now become an established way of work. The transition from a traditional office worker to work from home employee, however, remains difficult for many employees. The telecommuting employee requires encouragement in aspects such as social life, compensation, recognition, and skill-set enhancement to ensure success of the telecommuting initiative.
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Employees in a traditional office interact and network with one another and develop healthy social lives outside of work. The telecommuting employee remains marooned in his or her own island and lack of active interaction with colleagues leads to little or no social life with colleagues. The loss of opportunity to cultivate a social life and reap the resultant benefits are one major pitfalls of telecommuting.
Encouragement for employees working from home could take the form of a healthy, vibrant online community where the employee can have active interaction with other telecommuters and cultivate a social presence online. Other ways to provide work from home employee with a social life includes periodic company-sponsored outings, group meetings and social get-togethers.
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Although telecommuting employees save on commuting time and costs, they miss many fringe benefits and unlike the employees in the traditional office have to bear the costs of their own home office including energy charges. The work from home employee also miss many formal and informal rewards or perks connected with the job ranging from policy-driven perks such as office breaks to informal perks such as colleagues birthday celebration.
Some states mandate payment of 110 percent of the normal wages to the home worker to compensate for the home worker's cost of maintaining the home office. The legal issues notwithstanding, employers need to encourage the home worker by ensuring that their policies provide for equal compensation to both the normal commuting employee and the telecommuting employee.
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As the adage goes “out of sight, out of mind.” The lack of physical presence in the office leads to the telecommuting employee kept out of the loop concerning important news and the office grapevine. Telecommuters are sometimes even overlooked for promotions.
Companies need to encourage employees working from home with equal treatment similar to the office based employee in all aspects such as being in the loop, remuneration, promotions, and recognition. The onus is on the Human Resource Department to keep track and congratulate telecommuting employees on their birthdays, anniversaries, and other special occasions. In additional, it should be up to the in-office team to recognize the telecommuting colleague’s achievements and keep them in the loop for all news and office events or changes.
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Telecommuting employees work without real time supervision and often continue doing the same job repeatedly without the informal job rotation or diversions that usually comes when working in a traditional office. The result is stagnation and even erosion of the telecommuter’s skill set and monotony often leads to rustication.
The responsibility of the employer is to encourage telecommuting employees to help improve their skill set while also making them a part of an online expert community. The work from home employee needs connection with mentors who provide real-time assistance and arrange formal training programs to compensate for the isolation. Mentors and supervisors should also consider providing a work rotation wherever possible. The telecommuter’s supervisor has a greater responsibility to provide timely feedback and reacting to problems promptly.
An online forum for telecommuters to discuss work related problems with one another and seek help from peers, just as done face to face in the traditional office setup, will serve as good encouragement for the telecommuter.
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Working from home leads to a better work-life balance, but only for those who know how to handle pressure and manage their time efficiently. Very often, basic domestic responsibilities or considerations such as the need to answer the telephone or disturbances from the kids distracts the work from home employee, leaving them unable to concentrate on the work properly, resulting in unneeded stress and frustration.
Employees working from home require training on how to concentrate during distractions, how to better their time management skills, and how to manage stress. Both the employer and the employee’s family members should work to support the home based employee.
A study of telecommuting pros and cons suggest that providing proper encouragement for employees working from home helps address most of the telecommuting concerns and convert the cons into pros.