Telecommuting is a work arrangement where employees use technology solutions to work from home or another location, and do not commute or travel by traditional means (i.e., car, bus) to a central place of work, such as their office.
- virtual job
Telecommuting reduces barriers for employees to get to work. These barriers may include access to a car, bus, ferry or other mode of transportation to travel to a central place of work.
Telecommuting has existed for several decades and has become more popular with the increasing availability of technology that allows employees to perform work remotely. Employers across the state, country and world offer the option to telecommute to employees in urban, suburban and rural settings.
Employees may have the option to telecommute for all or part of their regular workweek. Telecommuting may be an informal arrangement, or a formal arrangement with a signed agreement between employer and employee that includes schedule expectations, planning, and documenting work being done while telecommuting.
Telecommuting can increase employee productivity when implemented effectively. Additionally, because employees may have varying preferences, telecommuting may be most effective when voluntary.
When to use this strategy
Telecommuting makes sense when:
- Employee job functions do not require them to be on-site and their work is suitable for telecommuting (e.g., reading, writing, editing, data entry, data analysis, programming, telephone calls, research, project scheduling).
- Employees have the necessary technology to complete their work (e.g., computer, secure internet connection, telephone).
- Dedicated, safe workspace is available (some work may also require a quiet space).
What you need in order to implement
Telecommuting requires planning and collaboration. Employers implementing telecommuting should:
- Develop and implement telecommuting policies, specifically regarding communication, expectations and when to use telecommuting.
- For larger telecommuting programs, identify a telecommuting coordinator to manage and improve the effectiveness of the program.
- Identify specific positions that are suitable for telecommuting.
- Provide training, support and resources to staff.
- Consider the cultural implications and barriers that currently exist in the organization. Transitioning to telecommuting programs will change the way employees work, collaborate and communicate.
- Ensure the right amount and type of technology is available to employees.
- Determine what security protocols the organization may need as employees use alternate computers or connections that may not be secure.
Learn more about this strategy
Research Advisors: Information on who should telecommute and the types of challenges that can arise.
Emory University: A breakdown of telecommuting-related strategies, definitions, benefits and challenges.
Transportation Center, University of California-Berkeley: A defining telecommuting research study (similar research on productivity gains is available from Stanford and CBS)
Viack Corporation: A guidebook for managing telecommuting employees.
About key characteristics
Telecommuting is a low-cost, high benefit method to reduce traffic volumes during peak times. Costs could include equipment and services to facilitate telecommuting, such as laptop computers, telephones, high-speed internet connections, etc.
Depending on the type of industry and job functions, technology needs could range from low to high.
Although some telecommute-suitable job functions are very independent in nature, employees can still experience a high level of collaboration with supervisors, managers and co-workers.