Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Telecommuting, the next frontier

As the IT industry grows, talent shortage looms (I don't believe this etc.), traffic makes life miserable, there is a rising sun on the horizon. Telecommuting, the one stop shop for all ills including employee retention, satisfaction and the works.

Telecommuting, as an option, is not something you see in India out of IT. Even within IT, it is available as an option only to certain sections of the workforce and then again, it is not as prevalent as it is in the US. There is a lot of scope for working from home as a concept, but it hasn't still caught on.

One simple reason is that, for telecommuting as a concept, you need a disciplined workforce who can make the distinction between staying at home and working and staying at home itself. Telecommuting does not mean that you loaf around - it means that you are available for the 8 odd hours over phone, IM or mail. You are expected to attend critical things that may come up during the workday. It also means that you cannot have crying babies as you take that teleconference meeting from home. We do not make that distinction very well. For us those boundaries are, really, quite fuzzy. Which is one of the first hurdles that has to be crossed. Many companies do give that option and it is a welcome relief if you get to avoid that commute even partly.

What also prevents companies from going the whole hog (and really, this is a secondary issue) is that broadband connectivity needs to improve by leaps and bounds.

So, as we wait for telecommuting to pick up, companies are using other innovative methods. Some of it involves satellite offices at various points or having multiple offices across the city and allowing employees to work out of any office a few days a week with one day of reporting to HQ. Expect more of this in future as telecommuting becomes an option to reduce real estate costs, transport costs et al.


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Abhay said...

I guess telecommuting also requires good internet bandwidths and stability of this connections overall which most cities (let alone towns) are missing in India.

Anonymous said...

Yup, thats partly true too, though I think that the bigger thing really is a attitude change both on the part of employees and employers.