Do you remember the first time you heard about a friend who enjoyed the privilege of telecommuting? You probably thought “how lucky” they were, or even experienced anger or jealousy. Things have certainly changed. Today it's pretty common. You've probably done it yourself.
Businesses have realized that telecommuting can vastly lower their overhead, and that quite a few people thrive working away from the office. There are many changes our modern digital era has ushered in, starting with the idea of a virtual office. There are pros and cons depending on whom you ask (or, if you're asking Marissa Mayer, depending on what day it is). However, for better or worse, telecommuting is here to stay and likely only going to get more pervasive.
Are you a telecommuter (full-time or part-time), or do you work in a traditional office? There's a good chance that, even in a more traditional office, you know at least a few telecommuting colleagues. Here are some ways telecommuting is changing the workplace in America:
1. We know a lot more about technology.
From the latest conference call tech to having a strong opinion on which cloud sharing service is best, there are fewer and fewer Luddites in today's offices. This is a good thing. It means that hundreds of new companies are catering to the needs of the world’s fast-growing small businesses and startups. Employees are staying sharper, as well as more competitive and knowledgeable on the latest tech. You've probably been invited to more tech-related training seminars than you ever imagined, and likely either love or hate Windows 8.
2. The earth is greener.
Or at least on the way to potentially getting greener. There's no denying that all those miles workers put on their cars have an impact on Mother Earth. If you’re now walking, taking public transport, carpooling or even cycling to work, you’re making a huge difference. Telecommuting has changed not just the workplace, but the entire world--for the better. Keeping a smaller carbon footprint will increase in importance as billions of people in underdeveloped economies throughout the world move online in the coming decade.
3. Multitasking is a necessity.
For some reason, many people (including some managers) think that telecommuting means you have more time on your hands. This is generally incorrect. People who don’t work in an office still have the same deadlines and requirements that their coworkers have. Often, however, since they may be facing distractions that employees at the office don’t deal with, they are required to multitask. This development is not always seen as positive, since numerous studies have shown people don’t multi-task well. Doing too many things at once can lead to higher stress, particularly for workers who can't say no or are overachievers.
4. You might feel lonelier.
Depending on your degree of extroversion, telecommuting can leave you feeling pretty lonely. There's a big difference between having co-workers physically present and simply chatting with them on IM, the phone or video conferencing. The flip side to this of course is that introverts who telecommute may find themselves becoming more successful or just feeling better because they don’t have to deal with personalities of other people as much. Telecommuting isn't for everyone, particularly very social workers, so make sure you match your job to your needs.
5. You're never off the clock.
A big downside to telecommuting is that some businesses basically require you to be “on” around the clock. People who work for fast-paced startups know what this is like. Your founder knows you got that message at midnight because of the read receipt. He or she may not think it's a big deal to ask you to “just keep managing the company social media page” while you're on vacation--after all, you'll be posting selfies from the beach anyway, right? This requires strict guidelines and rules because everyone needs and deserves time off.
6. You're part of a global company.
Telecommuting has easily allowed for expansion around the world. You might now have co-workers in Japan, India, Britain or on the other side of the country. You'll likely never meet these people and know them just by their signature and maybe social media photos. The globalization of the workforce has arrived.
Telecommuting brings a brand new era of the office. For some, it's a great thing that allows for the flexibility necessary in work-life balance. For others, it can be a tough adjustment, especially if you're used to a classic office and liked it that way. It's a learning process for everyone and there will be ups, downs and all kinds of spins before the "new office" is in full working effect.