Best practices

Telecommuting vs ‘Telepresence’

There are countless articles all over the internet describing telecommuting and how that compares to “traditional” working in an office. However, most of them deal with the matter under the assumption that the employee is either self-employed, or has a flexible working schedule. That means, when comparing the two types of employment, one of the key advantages of telecommuting is presented to be the freedom in making use of your time in your own way.

This is not necessarily an advantage though. Under the light of recent developments, where Yahoo and now Best Buy are cancelling their flexible work programs, it would be interesting to present a third option: working from home, but in an office at the same time (for the sake of this post, let’s call this “telepresence”). This means that you get to work from the location of your choice but under the 40-hour schedule and availability obligations you would have if you were to work in an office (I have been working this way in our company for several years).

So, how does “telepresence” relationship compare to the other two extremes (and why is it better)?

You can find telecommuting vs office work comparisons all over the internet, so I’ll only present a list of “telepresence” advantages compared with telecommuting:

  • Communication amongst your team members is easy, as everyone is online at the same time.
  • Meetings don’t need to be scheduled beforehand; they can take place immediately, as if everyone was in the same office (in fact, even faster than that)
  • Your clients can reach any member of your team during work hours, which is especially important for the company’s reputation.
  • Supervising is easier as you can ask and see work in progress, discuss issues or changes and delegate tasks at any time of day – just as you would in an office.
  • In case of an emergency situation you know that every member of your team will be online and available to assist you immediately (during working hours, at least)

I would say that this kind of employment combines the best of both worlds. Obviously, telecommuting in general is not the Holy Grail, nor suitable for every kind of working relationship (or people). But if companies were to employ stricter policies rather than providing full flexibility to employees (such as the ones described above) there would be far more people willing to try it!

About the author: Periklis Venakis is a software engineer at Epignosis, working as a web developer and elearning specialist. He has been actively participating in the development of the eFront and TalentLMS platforms for the past several years.

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