Working from home

Why are leading companies allowing their employees to telework?

by Global Expert Systems

Defining Telework

The Telework 2011 World at Work Special Report defines telework as the ability to “work from home or another remote location, either for an employer or through self-employment”. In the literature on telework you will also come across other terms that encompass ideas such as telecommuters, mobile workers, nomad workers, web commuters, e-workers or agile workers.

In essence, telework refers to “anyone who usually works in an office setting but works remotely at least one day per month during normal business hours”. The report went on to state that 25 per cent of the American workforce currently engages in some form of telework.

We do not yet have similar data for the Caribbean, but GES and other HR consultants in the region are busy collating data through ongoing surveys to determine the level of telework activity, especially in Barbados, Trinidad and Jamaica. However, at first glance, we can safely state that the practice is on the rise in the Caribbean.

Why is telework on the increase?

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that there is an obvious correlation between technological gains and the telework phenomenon. Broadband technologies, the Internet, smart phone, powerful laptops and PCs, specialised software and remote storage and backup have all contributed to the rise in telework.

With these technologies in place, employers are now a lot more comfortable allowing their responsible employees to work remotely. Needless to say, the IT field has the highest levels of teleworkers.

Secondly, today’s workers are negotiating better work-life-balance packages and telecommuting continues to be a perquisite (perk). Here are some of the benefits of telework.

Benefits of telework:

1. Telecommuting is also a term you will come across. This allows you to avoid the obvious woes of traffic in most major cities and certainly in every Caribbean country today.

2. This brings a savings in transportation cost. To many this may seem insignificant but in bigger cities, transportation can easily reach US$500 per month. Certainly in Barbados, with high gas prices, this can be a savings of at least US$250 per month.

3. Most telecommuters state that they are more productive working from home since they avoid the intrigues of office politics and other distractions.

4. Telecommuting reduces the level of stress attributed to the office environment and traffic.

5. The flexibility of not having to stick to a normal work schedule and feeling the pressure that your personal life is under threat if you spend long hours away from home. Lots of teleworkers will tell you that they actually work longer hours from home since real commuting is eliminated.

6. The company can also see real gains in employee productivity and in the process reduce office overheads.

The downside of telework and telecommuting

When GES interviewed teleworkers they were all unanimous in saying that self-motivation is a key factor in telework. Without the discipline and control of having to report to an office everyday teleworkers will tell you that they have to find ways to keep themselves motivated. Many teleworkers complain of the following:

1. Boredom can step in since you have limited reaction with co-workers.

2. Lots of teleworkers gain weight since they constantly eat as a comfort.

3. Distractions are common — family, TV, household errand or the simple urge to go to bed and nap.

4. Leaving assignments undone and then feeling the pressure to deliver them at the last minute. This usually happens if there are no real monitors and control systems in place for the teleworker.

Five tips that really work for telecommuter:

1. Act as if you are still going to the office every day.

a. Wake up early as you normally would.

b. Go through the same routine.

c. Even slip into office wear — obviously without the tie, jacket, suit, shoes — but do dress nicely and wear a pair of comfortable shoes.

2. Have a dedicated place in the home to work where you can close the door and quarantine yourself away from the distractions. Do set up a real home office!

3. Take your breaks and lunch at set times as you would in the real office environment. We also recommend, if it’s possible, leaving the home office and walking around the corner or driving down the block to purchase lunch.

4. Check in with your company’s base at least twice a week or more if necessary. Some jobs will require you to be linked in to the base every day but if that’s not the case, it’s important to connect to base via web camera, Skype, teleconference or simple telephone calls. This will help to motivate you and give you the added control.

5. Do not put a frigobar in your home office and do not put snack nearby.

Five tips for employers:

1. Telecommuting should only be given to those who have demonstrated the discipline to self-manage, self-supervise and self-motivate

2. You can test your employees gradually, allowing them to telecommute on a needs basis. If they’ve have demonstrated that they are capable of producing equally well remotely, you may increase the telecommuting time gradually.

3. Telecommuting can be used as a perquisite or prize for top employees. This will be added value to their work-life balance.

4. Do put monitoring systems in place without undue pressure. There’s a feeling that as an employer, you are giving up some control, but it’s important not to create unrealistic targets and workloads because you may perceive the teleworker to be “getting a break”. Do not increase the workload.

5. Connect with the teleworker on a regular basis and demand output and reports.

These are just a few of the recommendations GES has been offering to its clients with some degree of success.

Telecommuting in the Caribbean

Finally, there is growing evidence that telework and telecommuting are on the increase in the Caribbean, though we are not likely to reach the levels of 25 per cent of the workforce anytime soon. However, we predict that in the next decade with the rise of more independent workers and consultants, self-employment and further penetration of Internet technologies and cheaper telecommunication costs, we are likely to see a significant increase in teleworking within our region.

Next week we will examine “Talent Management and the Work-Life Balance?”

Don’t miss the 1st Caribbean & Latin American Conference on Talent Management on September 25th in Barbados and September 26th in Trinidad. Feel free to visit Global Expert Systems online at or email us at for more information.

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