No work arrangement is perfect. Whether everyone in your office works on-site or regularly telecommutes, there will be upsides and downsides. The goal of every manager is to create a policy that attempts to address everyone’s needs, as well as the needs of the organization as a whole.
With this in mind, it is important to consider recent research from Georgia Southern University and Brigham Young University, which sought to measure the effects that a telecommuting policy may have on company leadership effectiveness. The researchers found that those who work remotely on teams can struggle to be seen as leaders. Communication problems can manifest, and it may be difficult for workers to build relationships equally. Many employees, it seems, have a subconscious bias toward coworkers who are physically present.
This finding may seem alarming to leadership teams that have adopted telecommuting policies, but it doesn’t have to be. The researchers concluded that organizations can see improved results by ensuring that teams are located in the same place – or that everyone is working from home at the same time. This way, no one ends up at a disadvantage. Employers can work with this, by broadening telecommuting policies so everyone takes advantage of them, or by mandating that certain meetings must require an office presence.
Telecommuting is obviously growing in popularity. in 2015, Gallup found that 37 percent of the U.S. workforce has worked from home, with the average employee doing so twice per month. Workers value the flexibility that telecommuting allows them, and employers value increased morale. Rather than use this study as an excuse to shut down talk of telecommuting, employers should give serious thought to how they can make such policies work better.