Currently technologies develop very fast, making it hard for people to keep up with them. The development of these technologies causes changes in all aspects of life. Regarding professional life, new technologies influence the way of working. Telecommuting is a new way of working, which makes use of those new technologies, in which high speed internet is most important. Telecommuting or telework is a way of working in which an employee is able to stay at home and work on his or her own computer instead of having to go to an office. For the sake of cost reduction and global environment improvement, telecommuting is heavily recommended by lots of organizations. Telecommuting is a new way of working that is presented to be a environmentally cleaner, cheaper and more flexible way of working. However, could telecommuting be only positive for the employee and his or her employer? There might be some disadvantages concerning this new way of working. This paper gives an insight in the advantages and disadvantages of telecommuting, both for employees and employers. First, telecommuting is described more thoroughly, followed by the advantages and disadvantages of telecommuting.
Gap: many articles write about the advantages and disadvantages of telecommuting, though there are contradictions between them, in this paper is tried to give views from different angles, in order to create a better overview is the advantages and disadvantages of telecommuting.
What is telecommuting?
Telecommuting, also known as e-commuting or e-work, is the term used when individuals take advantage of the many technological advances to work from anywhere they desire, giving themselves flexibility in their hours and work locations (Helsin, 2007). Furthermore, it is important to note that telecommuting should be approved by the employer whereas telecommuting is a topic of which opinions differ. Not every organization allows its employees to work at their home instead of at the actual office. Telecommuting seems to be mainly driven by a change in management attitudes, improvements in technology, savings in office costs and the demand from the staff (Haynes, 2000). While saving costs is an aspect which counts for every organization, the choice to use teleworking seems to depend on the demand from staff and management. An exhibit by Harpaz (2002) displays that the biggest countries in telecommuting in 2002 were the USA (27%), Sweden (15%), The Netherlands (14%) and Finland (17%). The reason for such a high rate of telecommuters in the USA could be the size of the country, as the long distances make staying at home a good alternative. Counties like Sweden, The Netherlands and Finland are European's best developed countries regarding ICT facilities, which are needed for telecommuting. Telecommuting seems to be adapted quite a lot, for sure in countries in which the driving aspects of telecommuting are present.
Advantages of telecommuting
Flexibility in work locations and time
In the majority of the current households, both partners have a fulltime job. It is hard for two people who both have a fulltime job to balance their professional and private life, especially while they have children. A common occurrence is young children staying at a day-care from 7.00 AM until 6.00 PM. As soon as they have finished their dinner, they already need to go to bed. In order to see each other more frequently, so to balance the combination of a private and professional life, telecommuting is a useful way of working. While conducting telecommuting, one gets more autonomy on his or her distribution of time. This rise of flexibility gives telecommuters the possibility to pick up the kids after school, instead of leaving them at a day-care, or, in case of no kids, to let the dog out. Despite of the advantage for the employee to be able to be more flexible in his or her work, for the employer it is hard to check what the employee is actually doing while he or she is not at the office. A change in management attitude is crucial for telecommuting to become successful in an organization (Haynes, 2000).
DISADVANTAGEEMPLOYER Self-discipline: work according to self-imposed schedule; not enough/ addicted to work(because of irregular working times)
Reduction of travelling costs and time
An important problem which is to be solved by telecommuting is the cost and waste of time due to travelling to and from the office. Working at home eliminates the expensive fuel costs and the time one would lose by having to drive to his or her office. Another advantage is that while more people work from home, less traffic jams would occur. Not only these direct benefits like saving time and costs are important, not having to drive to work means there would be less frustrations in traffic and one is able to sleep longer. The employee will probably become more satisfied, which will have a positive influence on the motivation and productivity. So telecommuting has very positive effects on employees regarding the travelling costs and time.
By conducting telecommuting, a person is no longer attached to his or her physical office, so the combination of two jobs could be more likely. Though, for lots of people having two jobs would be too time expensive. While people do not longer feel as connected to their job as they used to when they were physically present at the office, job-hopping becomes more likely. People tend to have the strong desire to have more control over their own careers. Because they feel less connected to an organization when they telecommute, they feel more free to quit and find another job. This development is not only an advantage for the employee, it could be an advantage for an employer as well. Employers could make use of those frequently switching employees by temporarily hiring them when they are needed for a project and by dismissing them as soon as they are no longer needed or when they do not work as good as is required. On the other hand, this development could become a disadvantage for organizations as employees could tend to switch jobs that frequently, that it becomes hard for organizations to manage their human resources. Thus professional flexibility as a result of telecommuting could be an advantage for employees as they will be able to combine two jobs or to make use of job-hopping.
Reduces office size
The use of telecommuting could result in lower costs in organizations. While organizations always target on saving costs, current economic difficulties will make organizations even more aware of saving costs. Organizations are not only able to reduce costs because of the earlier mentioned travel costs which will be saved, but also because the offices could become smaller. Organizations used to need to facilitate at least one desk with a computer for each employee, because of a part of the staff is staying at home, the office size can be reduced. This will save money, not only for the less square meters over which a company needs to pay rent, but also because there will be lower electricity costs. Thus, next to the reduction of travel costs, telecommuting can result in lower costs because of the smaller size of an office that is needed.
The effects of telecommuting on the employees' health are doubtful. It is hard find whether they could be allocated to the section of advantages or to the disadvantages. Earlier described advantages state that the fact that an employee could become more flexible in working times, could make them more satisfied. On the other hand, an employee who works at home seems to need to make sure there is a good balance between private and professional life in order to avoid a burn-out (Peters, 2010). In order to create this balance, an employee needs to have the adequate facilities at home, which contain a decent working place with access to new technologies. Also, the employee would need to have a place where he or she could get some distraction from work occasionally. So in order to work from home, while taking care of its health, an employee should be able to create a balance between private and professional life and make sure there are adequate facilities.
Disadvantages of telecommuting
A crucial difference between working at home and working at an office is the presence of colleagues. The fact that someone works all alone throughout a day, could affect its performance. Although it does not count for all people, many people seem to need to have the feeling of belonging to a team (Harpaz, 2002). This psychological aspect of being separated from the office environment which contains colleagues, new developments and occurrences is for many people very important. Those people like to interact with colleagues and to share what they are doing. So although people seem to feel better when they stay at home, because they are able to see their partner and children more frequently, the lack of having colleagues around could affect the quality of their work in a negative way. Other disadvantages of working at home are that some people would like to be seen and others would like to have responsibilities at the office (Novay, 2011).
The fact that an employee works at home, means that important documents with information need to be accessible from home. For an organization this gives the risk that confidential documents could be stolen from the desk at the employee's home or his or her car. Most employees live in a surrounding which is less secured than the actual office. As soon as an employee is about to work at home, his or her manager will not be able to check where those important documents might be (Sturgeon, 1996). Again, for an organization it is important to trust employees, otherwise telecommuting will not work properly. Documents could be divided in physical documents and electronic documents. For organizations it could be hard to secure the physical documents, however the electronic documents could be secured a little better. By providing employees a laptop, on which they can work at home, with the best security software, the chances of spyware might be reduces. Still the employee needs to preserve the laptop on a secure location, in order to make sure the laptop itself will not be stolen. Depending on the measures both employers and employees take, the security of information could be reduced, however the problems with the security of information will remain to be a big disadvantage of telecommuting.
There have been a lot of articles written about the advantages and disadvantages, however it has been showed that the arguments given in those articles differ in some parts. This paper states the most important advantages and disadvantages given in those articles. It is generally believed that telecommuting is an important new trend in professional life, because of its many advantages. In short, flexibility in work locations and time, reduction of travelling costs and time, professional flexibility, reduces the office sixe and the increase of health seem to be the most important advantages. Though, there are also disadvantages of telecommuting: isolation and security risks. On this basis, it may be concluded that the phenomenon telecommuting has some disadvantages alongside of the advantages. While in this paper it shows only two disadvantages towards five advantages, this does not indicate that those five advantages weigh heavier than the two disadvantages. I think that an organization could only have its employees to telecommute while keeping both advantages and disadvantages in mind, because there are two sides. The employees themselves should consider both sides as well. Given this, it could be said that for many people it is interesting to make use of telecommunication. It might be very useful to be able to work during a time schedule that works best for someone's home situation and also for his or her career. Whether telecommunicating is good for someone's health is not certain and seems to depend on each person individually, there are people who cope better with the autonomy they get in dividing their time in personal and professional moments. Telecommuting seems to be a good way to combine the extreme busy life people currently tend to have, the environmental issues everyone wants to improve and . Assuming that the techniques will improve during the coming years, telecommuting could probably only get easier to apply. Regarding the advantages and disadvantages, it would probably be hard to choose for a professional life in which telecommuting would be applied throughout the entire week. I think that telecommuting is useful, but only if it would be used during one or two days a week, in order to keep away isolation risks and to make sure that employees keep up with news on the office floor. Telecommuting is useful for both employees and employers, though too much use of telecommuting could cause risks.