6 questions you should ask when considering teleworking

Teleworking has been widely implemented and businesses are increasingly choosing this option. However, it is not suited for all situations. Here are six questions an employee should ask to determine whether he/she could benefit from teleworking.

Day 110: Home officeEarlier this week, Yahoo CEO, Marissa Mayer, announced that teleworking (also called telecommuting and remote work) would no longer be allowed at Yahoo. The move has reopened the debate on teleworking, which has been widely adopted across a broad range of industries.  On the one hand, teleworking – where employees work from home for either a portion or all of a work week – can be mutually beneficial to both employer and employee in terms of productivity, cost savings and work-life balance. However, both parties must also be aware of its possible impact on the corporate ethos and dynamics, which reportedly has been the impetus for Yahoo’s recent decision to pull the plug, as per the memo leaked to the media:

“To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side. That is why it is critical that we are all present in our offices,” … “Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home. We need to be one Yahoo, and that starts with physically being together.”  

Nevertheless, in these still tough economic times and client-driven environments where employees might increasingly need to work away from office, the benefits from implementing systems that facilitate remote work still make it hugely attractive to employers. While there can be some definite advantages to you, the employee, it is critical to carefully consider any proposal to telework. Below are six questions you should ask.

1.  Am I disciplined enough to work remotely or with minimal supervision?

For those of us who commute to the office, we experience the grind: the discipline of getting to work on time, and doing all you had agreed to do before the workday ends. At the office, there can also be continual interaction with the team, which can help you to manage commitments and deadlines. We suggest you ask yourself the following questions, which may help you to understand your own capabilities. When away from the office or working at home:

  • Am I able to keep track of all of my tasks and projects?
  • Do I need someone to regularly prompt me about imminent deadlines?
  • Can I pace myself with respect to tasks I must advance, or just to manage my workday?

2.  Is my job suited to teleworking?

The extent to which a particular position or role might be suitable to teleworking can sometimes be overlooked, but it is important to appreciate that some jobs, without considerable adjustment, do not lend themselves to that arrangement. Examples might be positions where the needed resources are or must be resident in the office, such as in electronics assembly, quality control, or where confidential or commercially sensitive information must be handled. Hence do ensure that you confirm the resources that will be made available to you remotely, and understand the extent to which any omissions could affect your ability to perform.

3.  Is my working style suited to teleworking?

Although you might be disciplined and organised enough to work away from the office, it is crucial to understand you own work style. For example, do you thrive when working alone? Do you do your best work when there are people nearby to bounce off ideas, or when you are working closely in a team? If it is the latter, teleworking from home might not work well for you.

4.  What are my employer’s expectations?

Regardless of who proposes telework – employer or employee – both parties ought to be aware of each other’s expectations when this arrangement is implemented. Though not always expressed, in the traditional work setting, most employers are paying for you to be at the office – to be available during the prescribed period, even if you have little to do.

  • In working away from the office, can I be more flexible with my work hours at home?
  • Although permitted to work from home, is my employer truly comfortable with the loss of control or limited oversight I will now have?
  • Will my relationship my employer suffer, if I telework?

Asking questions such as these would help you to understand what your employer’s expectations might be, and limit possible fallout.

5. How might my personal/family life be affected?

Although may people jump at the chance to work from home to escape the 9-to-5 grind, or with the expectation that it will automatically improve their work-life balance, that might not necessarily be the case. In a study for iPass, an enterprise mobility network provider, conducted in 2011 by the University of Sheffield, found that almost 75% of mobile workers surveyed worked excessive hours – between 5 and 20 additional hours per week – which in turn affected, among other things, their stress levels, sleep and recovery, and ultimately work-life balance. Hence it is important to consider the extent to which you might be able to achieve the balance you desire.

6.  How might the office dynamics change?

Finally, although tied to point 4, the issue merits some specific attention. Offices are social environments where frequently the culture of presenteeism – the need to be seen around the office – is still prevalent. Hence in working away from base, you ought to consider whether your professional growth and development could be marginalised. For example, could you be overlooked for new responsibilities, or opportunities?

In summary, although teleworking potentially offers both employer and employee significant advantages, the actual mechanics and implications must be carefully considered prior to implementation. More importantly, and evidenced by the Yahoo experience, following roll out, it is also advisable that this option is regularly assessed to ensure that it continues to support organisational strategies and goals.


Image credit: samwebster (flickr)