(Editor’s note: In keeping with our recent telecommuting theme, Jessica Halcom from TechnologyAdvice shares her thoughts on telecommuting’s impact on company culture.)
Today’s employees work from a smorgasbord of cloud-based systems and take business calls on a native smartphone app, making it easy to work from any location. Throw a few team collaboration tools like Google Hangouts and Slack in the mix, and you could argue that there is no “need” to physically be in an office. With 37 percent of the American workforce working from home at least some of the time, there is now enough data available to understand the impact telecommuting has on company culture. So, does telecommuting displace company culture, and if so, to what degree?
Impact on employers and employees
The opportunity to set employees up remotely is attractive on many levels, which is why so many companies are doing it. Not only do people like cutting a long commute out of their lives (which means less stress and more time to be productive), but they also love the flexibility of making their own hours, spending more time with their families, and the ability to focus on their work without all of the interruptions of an office.
Employers like the telecommute option for several reasons. First, the labor market is tight. Finding talent is tough, and if your ideal candidate lives in another city or state and isn’t too excited about relocating, they can join your team from their current location. Employers also like the fact that remote employees save space and overhead costs. Most importantly, a work from home option makes employees happy, and happy employees are productive employees (usually).
Impact on communication and connectedness
Studies reveal that some remote employees feel isolated and lonely. For many, work is also a place to socialize, bounce ideas off of one another, build relationships, and form team bonds. Sometimes, the employees working from home end up being aware of things like decisions or changes only at a high level, while those in the office are involved at every stage. They also miss out on things like going to lunch with colleagues, hallway conversations, and office small talk. Over time, some remote employees can start to feel left out.
With the modern HR software tools available today, remote employees can easily stay engaged during the day through built-in chat features and video conferencing. Leadership can also work with telecommuting employees to determine dates throughout the month or the year where those employees would be expected to travel to the office and meet face-to-face. It’s also a good idea to check in regularly with employees working from home to make sure they feel connected, that they aren’t lonely, and that they are thriving in their positions.
Current culture’s impact
Another factor to consider when evaluating whether your current culture is supportive of telecommuting. Consider whether or not your culture is inclusive of telecommuters and regularly recognizes the value they add to the company. If you find that your culture isn’t supportive, start with executive leadership. When a company’s executives perceive and portray working from home as a viable option with clear advantages, the rest of the company will follow suit.
Telecommuting undoubtedly impacts an organization’s company culture. However, the impact on employers and employees can be positive if communication and connectedness are carefully considered. Also, be sure to evaluate whether your current culture is supportive of telecommuting.
Jessica Barrett Halcom is a writer for TechnologyAdvice.com, with specializations in human resources, healthcare, and transportation. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay and currently lives in Nashville, TN.