Telecommuting in Today’s Organizations
December 12, 2012
The structure of an organization is constantly changing, they are always trying to find ways to promote creative thinking, reduce costs, and most importantly communicate effectively. However, communication can be difficult at times when not all the members of an organization are physically present. Today more and more organizations are venturing into employing their staff from remote locations that may not even be near their main office, they are venturing into teleworking or telecommuting, better known as working from home. “Working from home is not a new phenomenon. Before the industrial revolution, most work was carried out at home or nearby. The real change, then, is not the advent of telecommuting or that work takes place at home but that telecommuters work at home but within the structure of an organizational framework” (Harpaz, 2002, p. 74). The dynamics of working from home have now changed, the worker is no longer working for themselves, but instead a bigger organization that they have to answer to and communicate with. Therefore communication techniques become a big part of the telecommuting, but they can also be a problem. There are many advantages to telecommuting, not only for the individual and the organization, but also for society, however there are also disadvantages. The way of managing these employees’ changes, which means that managers have to learn new ways to manage their remote teams, is based solely on communication and trust. For many new managers this is a learn as you go process. “In many cases, organizations have sought to capitalize on the opportunities and benefits without having a plan in place to manage the downside pitfalls” (Interaction Associates, 2007, p. 3). Although the telecommuting process is relatively new to organizations of today’s world, many organizations have been successfully implementing this mode or organizational structure, The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society is one of these organizations. The purpose of this paper is to discuss telecommuting as a growing trend in many of today’s organizations, it will probably only get bigger as the years go on, and therefore the question that needs to be answered and many organizations need to ask is: What role will telecommuting play in the organizations of the future? What is telecommuting?
Telecommuting is “the substitution of information technology for the commute to and from work; ie periodic work out of the principal office, one or more days per week either at home, a client’s site, or in a telework centre. A subset of teleworking (although they are often used interchangeably), once the distance to work is great enough to make regular commuting impractical, the term teleworking takes over” (Kippenberger, 2000, p. 27). This definition therefore means that teleworking is “any form of substitutions of information technologies (such as telecommunications and computers) for work-related travel; moving the work to the workers instead of moving the workers to the work” (p. 27). And according to Harpaz (2002) a “telecommuter can structure his/her work tasks and working life in many ways – dependent on the nature of the work, the organization, the customer-base, etc” (p. 75). For the purpose of this paper the definition of telecommuting will be relatively simple; it is the ability of an individual to work from a remote location while maintaining constant communication with the employing organization. Figure 1 (p. 76) below shows the percentage that telecommuters make up in the work force in various countries.
Although this chart was created based on information from ten years ago, at that time almost 30 percent of the work force in the United States were telecommuters. According to the data presented by Ahmadi, Helms, & Ross (2000) “the number of telecommuters in the US business market will continue to grow by 15 percent...