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Companies mulling over a telecommuting structure for employees will need to look into setting clear expectations and maintaining communication.

 

ANDREW CHAN
ACI HR SOLUTIONS
CEO

The uptake of telecommuting in Asia is still relative rare despite being widely practised in other parts of the world. Why do you think that is the case?

Asia has been slower in adopting telecommuting or work-from-home practices because the region still holds a more traditional view to employment, where work is associated with being physically in an office. I think we’ve all heard or seen employees waiting for the boss to leave the office before leaving themselves, regardless of productivity.

Another reason could be the fact that the distance between homes and offices in Asia is generally shorter compared to countries such as the US and Australia, and public transport is also more convenient.

What are some benefits of telecommuting?

Employees today are constantly seeking work-life balance, a flexible work environment and are more interested in making their job accommodate family and personal lives. To an organisation, telecommuting can be a great recruitment and retention strategy.
If implemented correctly, telecommuting has actually been proven to increase productivity. Employees save time spent on travelling to and from work by utilising their full potential to bring their best efforts to the company. Moreover, interruptions occur constantly in a normal office environment, which can be eliminated by working from home.

There are also obvious costs benefits to an organisation because telecommuting can reduce office space and other associated expenses involved when housing a full team under the one roof. Lastly, and many may not realise, but there is also the environmental factor, with the added benefit of reducing our carbon footprint by having less people on the road travelling to and from offices.

As a manager looking to implement a system of telecommuting, one of my concerns is the loss of productivity. What are some things I can do to ensure this doesn’t happen?

To begin with, you must get your structure right. Evaluate your existing objectives to ensure they are measurable and quantifiable; set expectations clearly, and be prepared to change your expectations in order to best measure productivity for telecommuters. Managers may also need to change their mindset and focus on evaluating results rather than activities.

Maintaining communication with telecommuters and providing regular feedback on performance is the key to success. Also make sure you keep telecommuters informed of company events and milestones, and encourage co-workers to keep telecommuters “in the loop” on formal and informal work events so that they are kept engaged and do not feel left out.

As an employee, what are some things I should take note of when I work from home?

Time management and discipline is fundamental to success. One of the main problems with working from home is that home and work will merge and there’s little distinction to separate the two. Make sure you have a pre-work ritual — you might take a shower, dress for work, eat breakfast, and plan your day, for example. But the main objective is to give yourself a sign that you’re starting work and leaving home behind. Set a time to start and end work. However you structure it, always ensure you fix a time to stop working. Otherwise, you’ll work way longer than you would at the office, because there’s no home to go to.

If there is company at home, you’ll want to find a quiet place to work and eliminate distractions. You can’t get stuff done with the television playing in the background or children screaming. If possible, work from a separate room away from the family area. Also ensure that your technology is up-to-date, such as high-speed internet and clear phone signals, just like it would be in an office.

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