A State of the American Workplace report indicates that employees who work remotely at least one day per week are more engaged than co-workers who work full-time on-site. In fact, many studies show that telecommuting can actually boost productivity while reducing turnover, improving employee morale, and promoting sustainability. The belief that employees are likely to slack off when out of sight is a common misconception.
At MIT, telework opportunities include:
- Regularly scheduled work at home part of the week, as negotiated with the employee's supervisor.
- Regularly scheduled work at another work location, designated by the employee’s supervisor, part of the week.
- Occasional work at home to address a personal need, such as a home repair or transportation issues.
- Occasional work at home to focus on a specific project, such as writing a final report.
Potential Benefits of Off-Site Work
- Employee keeps full pay and benefits.
- Employee saves commuting time and costs.
- May enhance task productivity due to less interruption.
- May promote the sharing of facilities or equipment.
- May promote environmental sustainability measures, such as the reduction of pollution.
- May ease parking demands on the Institute.
- May provide extended hours of service as supervisor may approve an alternative work schedule from home.
- May provide a heightened sense of autonomy and enhance capacity for the employee to work more effectively.
Potential Challenges of Off-Site Work
- Not all tasks are performed easily off-site.
- Supervisors may experience challenges overseeing and evaluating off-site employees.
- Employees may be unable to stay motivated in the telecommuting arrangement.
- Employees may overwork since they are unable to delineate work hours from non-work hours.
- May create difficulty in scheduling meetings or coordinating projects, requiring changes in team practices.
- Telecommuting employees may experience fewer networking opportunities with coworkers.
- Employees must designate an organized workspace at home and may incur additional expenses, such as increased heating or electric bills.
- May require purchases of equipment and supplies, such as a telephone or computer.
- May require equipment or software purchases and training in order to support effective communication among the employee, supervisor, and team—such as a conference call, Skype, or instant messaging.
- May require employees to adapt their work environment in order to be ergonomic and free from hazards. See this Occupational Safety & Health Administration checklist for more information.
An employee's proposal for off-site work should address:
- The on-site/off-site weekly schedule, including the amount of time that will be spent in the office per week and when.
- The equipment required to accommodate this arrangement and who will provide it, keeping in mind that the Institute does not typically cover such expenses.
- How meetings, joint projects, and other team activities will be accomplished, including recommendations for software or hardware purchase.
- How communication with coworkers, managers/supervisors, and clients will continue without interruption, including recommendations for changes in team practices.
- How a flexible work arrangement will be supervised and evaluated.
- The kind of technical support required, if needed.
- An understanding that child care, elder care, and other significant responsibilities cannot be performed while working off-site.