28.05.2013

What Influence Can Telecommuting Have on Employee Engagement?


Recently, there’s been a lot of debate around the growing telecommuting trend, much of this debate started with Marissa Mayer revoking telecommuting privileges at Yahoo! The pros and cons have been laid out and argued, but at the end of the day, as always, it depends on your company, your situation, your employees.

But, how does telecommuting affect employee engagement and company culture? To look at this through a slightly different lens, I wanted to contrast some of those pros and cons with the key drivers of employee engagement. We recently wrote about the Top 5 Drivers of Employee Engagement, looking at data from 2012, these are the drivers we found to be the strongest:

  1. The employee’s belief in leadership to make the right decisions
  2. The ability for the organization to communicate the importance of its people to its success
  3. Whether or not the organization communicates a vision that drives the employee
  4. The employee’s belief that there is a career path for them at the organization
  5. Does the employee feel that they are growing in their role, and increasing their mastery within their field

Interestingly, many of the pros of telecommuting; work/life balance, greater productivity, less interruptions, less time wasted commuting to work, less stress, etc. don’t really translate into these top five drivers.

The cons however, seem to have slightly more alignment to these key drivers. For example, one con of telecommuting is the potential disconnect between remote employees and those onsite, or even their managers. If employees are disconnected from their direct supervisors, how connected will they be to the higher level leadership within the organization? How will that leadership and vision be extended to those employees that are working remote? It’s not a given they will be disconnected, but it’s something that can’t be overlooked.

More than one of these key drivers are linked to learning and development; employees want to know they have a future at the company (there’s a clear path, or potential path), they want to see their skills are improving over time and they are becoming master’s of their domain. How will telecommuting affect learning and development for remote workers? How will their career paths differ from those onsite everyday? There are ways to address L&D for telecommuters, you can have more online programs, and take extra care in building in feedback loops and creating opportunities for training and growth–even if its also through “virtual” means, but as a critical driver for engagement its another critical piece not to be overlooked.

Communication is also at the root of employee engagement. If your considering how to implement telecommuting policies, think about how the organizational vision is communicated and experienced by employees? How will success and accomplishments be shared and acknowledged? These are all elements that feed into the overall engagement of your organization. A telecommuting model, or some form of it can be extremely effective, but not without the consideration of how you will facilitate that on-going communication, feedback and engagement.

There’s no right answer to the telecommuting conundrum, but it’s worth considering how you will design telecommuting policies that will support the key drivers of employee engagement and create the best outcomes for both your employees and the organization at large.

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