Data in everyday life: More about telecommuting

Drew Leisen

Last month I wrote about a rising trend in companies across the country: telecommuting, or working from home rather than from an office, plant, shop, etc. The benefits of telecommunication are pretty clear: a more comfortable work environment, less pollution and traffic, and less overhead for company offices. However, just like everything else, nothing is perfect! Today we will be taking a look at some of the less positive consequences of telecommuting.

For most companies, information security breaches are among the most dreaded incidents that can happen. A mixture of compromised data and public image taking a hit have resulted in IT departments implementing intricate security measures for their employees. However, even the most secure security system can be useless if users, either knowingly or not, give away information such as passwords. This can allow hackers right through the security. This is one of telecommuting’s biggest question marks. Even though the security measures will be in place at a home office through VPN connections, the personnel who make sure your information is secure are not available at a moment’s notice. Another risk is the 50 percent of telecommuters who often use their own personal computers for work purposes, meaning that a non-secured device could be accessing sensitive company information.  The best way to combat these security risks is to educate telecommuting employees on how to safely work from home. However, many companies do not educate end users.

Besides the security risks, another big “what-if?” is whether or not employees working from home work as efficiently as those who are at the office for their work day. Readers, would you be able to do the same amount and as high quality work if you had all the luxuries of home around you all day? Could you ignore the call of social media, or your living companions? It really comes down to the answer. Sometimes the answer is no, and the work done suffers as a result.

One last issue is whether people who work from home generally put in more hours in their work week. This can cause an issue with work/life balance. According to a 2012 Bureau of Labor report, workers who have telecommuted have consistently worked more hours than their office attending peers.

Take a look at this SQCpack chart:

A much higher percentage of telecommuters with college degrees were working 40+ hours during the work week. Does having the ability to work from home seem like a privilege that compels employees to put in extra time? Or are workers intrinsically motivated to work when they are surrounded by a familiar environment?

Wondering if you would be an efficient telecommuter? You can test your readiness to work from home here: