With many private firms — and some federal agencies — rethinking their teleworking policies, I asked a retired federal supervisor, referred to here as Terry, to list the pros and cons of teleworking from an employer’s point of view. This is what he said:
“From a management perspective, it’s all about production. No one says teleworking hurts production, but some managers want to see their employees working. But, whether in or out of the office, how do we quantify simply thinking?”
If a teleworker is not self-directed or self-motivated, teleworking is not going to succeed. The boss has to get over the trust issue with teleworkers.
In the government, if I offered teleworking to one person, I had to offer it to all. That is fair, but it does not work in reality. I did not like it that people thought of teleworking as a perk or a right. I did not like it that people were thought of being “out of the office” or “unreachable” while teleworking. That hurt my production.
Teleworkers are more likely not to have the materials or tools they need to do the job at home. Teleworkers are more likely to have technical issues at home that cannot be resolved. [And] teleworkers, using remote access for work files, open up security problems.
Teleworkers do not participate in brainstorming. Teleworkers sometimes feared damage to their careers because they are not seen as part of the group.
From an employee perspective, teleworking is almost universally accepted. Two-thirds of people want to work from home and 36 percent would choose it over a pay raise. People are sick of the rat-race, eager to take control of their lives, and desperate to find a balance between work and life.
The largest drawback appears to be research findings that working from home can increase feelings of isolation and that can impact how workers feel about themselves, their work, and their personal lives.
Working at home versus the office
As a manager, I did not have the seclusion of an office – I was in an open newsroom. So I took advantage of teleworking only when I needed seclusion and the absence of interruptions. When I did, I found my work when much more quickly – like writing annual reviews, working up programming proposals, long-term planning, or updating job descriptions. I found that I often worked longer hours, but that was mitigated by taking longer breaks – including workman visits or running to the store for something.
Life as a teleworker
As a boss and as a worker, I always felt that teleworking was like taking a day off. Even when I was working 12-hour days at home, it did not feel right. It is not for all jobs and it is not for all employees.
Generally, it seems one’s thoughts about teleworking are guided by age and position. I also believe the older you are and the more you are the boss, the more you distrust teleworking. We will all be dragged into the future — as I do not think teleworking is going away.