Recently, PGi conducted a survey of knowledge workers around the world on the subject of telecommuting. Out of over 3,000 workers surveyed, an overwhelming majority (79%) have the opportunity to work remotely at least one day a week.
Our survey also shed light on both the perceived benefits and negatives of telecommuting around the globe. While anecdotal evidence, the numbers reveal some of the challenges facing this new era of work, while also reinforcing the benefits that so many modern workers are striving toward when demanding flexibility in their hours and workplaces.
For CIOs and other IT leaders who will enable the next generation of remote work, it’s vital to understand both the pros and cons of telework:
From a cultural perspective, perceptions overall about telecommuting seem to be on the rise. Out of all the teleworkers who responded to our survey, 66% reported that telecommuting has become more positively viewed within their organization.
Let’s take a look at some of the specific pros our respondents listed:
Saying No to Commutes
In both North America (NA) and Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA), the top perceived benefit of telecommuting is eliminating or reducing commute times. While perhaps an obvious benefit (“commute” is right there in the word “telecommute,” after all), it’s still worth noting, particularly as a primarily personal benefit rather than a professional one. It’s all about flexibility.
Interestingly, our third surveyed region, Asia Pacific Japan (APJ), aligned with NA and EMEA when it came to the second ranked benefit: better work-life balance. The proliferation of mobile devices and cloud-based applications has made work less of a place you go and more of something you access whenever and wherever you choose. And teleworkers are able to reap those benefits with better balance between personal and professional commitments.
For all of the benefits we like to espouse about telecommuting, there are still challenges facing the truly digital workplace.
For example, 54% of non-teleworking respondents to our survey said they remain in the office because telecommuting simply isn’t an option in their role. In other words, there are still some logistical barriers to the remote work shift that will have to be overcome, whether through new technologies, business processes or reimagined roles.
In addition, here are a few of the perceived negatives of telecommuting around the world:
(Note: In the APJ version of the survey, teleworking respondents were not asked for their top negative perceptions.)
It’s Lonely Out There
The top ranked negative aspect of telecommuting was office alienation and a feeling of disconnect. Remote workers simply don’t have as easy of a time developing rapport with a team that has the benefits of in-person, candid conversations and spontaneous brainstorms.
Failure to Communicate
The second highest ranked negative aspect of telecommuting was also unanimous between NA and EMEA: poor communication. This speaks volumes about the challenges of enabling collaboration today. All of the tools are there—email, unified communications, online meetings, team workspaces—and yet communication continues to be a hurdle.
Both of these answers—loneliness and poor communication—highlight that collaboration technology isn’t a silver bullet. It still falls to leadership to drive adoption and put processes in place to ensure that their increasingly remote workforce is fully integrated and their virtual teams are nurtured just like in-person ones.
Offering flexible work programs will continue to be a key differentiator for companies looking to attract and retain top talent. It’s essential that organizational leadership, from HR to IT and everything in between, be aware of not only the benefits of telework but also the potential challenges. With this awareness in hand, business leaders can ensure that the right technologies, processes and protocols are in place to create effective remote workers, rather than alienated ones.
For more information on buying, deploying and nurturing collaboration within your organization, download our free buyer’s guide today.