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Advices and insights

The promises of telework are numerous today. Between productivity gains, savings for SMEs and better mental health for employees who benefit from the flexibility of teleworking, we sometimes forget the risks of teleworking. Here we take stock of the advantages, but also the challenges of teleworking for SMEs.

The importance for SMEs to adapt to telework

Telework refers to any form of work organization that allows work that can be performed on the employer’s premises to be performed by the employee outside these premises on a voluntary basis, using information and communication technologies. It is therefore necessary to distinguish telework from nomadic, home-based or itinerant work. From this conceptual clarification, it follows that it is important for the employer and the employee to agree on common rules for telework.

For small and medium-sized companies, telework means flexibility in the way they work and occupy their premises. It allows to reduce the occupied surfaces and is a real alternative when the employees’ movements are restricted like in period of confinement.

However, the main challenge in adapting SMEs to telework is to focus on management by objectives to ensure the responsibility and commitment of each employee remotely.

The economic stakes of telework for SMEs

These are probably the most important issues for SME managers. Recent studies have shown that real savings have been made by SMEs with the introduction of telework. This is particularly noticeable in the human resources area, as teleworking leads to less lateness and absenteeism. In addition, the significant reduction in transport costs, staff meal costs, etc., has an impact on the budget gap.

Finally, it should be noted that flexible work arrangements affect the SME’s overall costs and fixed expenses. There is a reduction in electricity bills, rearrangement to pay less rent, etc.

The challenges of productivity

When employees telecommute, they are less stressed by the sometimes interminable commute times between work and home. They spend more time in their home locations. They can even take sleep breaks knowing they have their files at hand. Thus, more rested and totally autonomous, employees gain in productivity and efficiency. They enjoy a better work-life balance, which positively impacts their well-being and performance, making them more efficient and committed.

The productivity of managers is also boosted. They can free up their time through telecommuting to focus on high value-added tasks. The simplification of management is noticeable when employees, who are more and more autonomous, do not hesitate to show initiative.

The social issues of telework

The vast majority of employees approve of telecommuting. This is a point that should not be overlooked, because for them, telework is more than expected. It has a strong added value on what can be called well-being at work. For employees, telework is not a constraint, but an opportunity to restore the broken balance between personal and professional life. On the other hand, some employees are reluctant to work remotely, because they feel the need for a professional framework around them to excel.

For these two reasons, it is complicated to force telecommuting. It is certainly an opportunity for some, but quickly becomes a torture for others. Taking into account these concerns and having the well-being of their employees at heart, some companies are innovating with flexible office rental with a pleasant, but also professional environment for the development of the SME’s activities.

The environmental issues of telework

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) can no longer be neglected today. And as far as ecological and environmental concerns are concerned, the reduction or even cessation of employee travel is positive for the state of the planet. The containment period has resulted in a decrease in CO2 emissions. The servers of the SME do not need to run as much when there are not as many workstations to run within the premises of the SME.

The challenges of telework communication

Telework communication issues are often raised to point out the challenges of working remotely. Some employees fear, perhaps justifiably, that they will lose all social ties with the SME and that they will not experience remote work well over time. Others are unable to delineate the boundaries between private and professional life and therefore struggle to physically disconnect from their work.

SMEs must therefore provide employees with efficient management and communication tools. If a tool wastes more time than it saves, it should be replaced. Generally, a five-minute group call can solve a problem and avoid long and laborious e-mail exchanges.

SMEs should also try to break down any sense of isolation by inviting employees to work collaboratively. To do this, don’t hesitate to schedule quick daily meetings so that all employees are informed of tasks, progress and changes that affect their departments. These meetings can be weekly for smaller groups.

It is also important to set aside time for informal conversations. This can be before or after work meetings. Doing so allows employees to chat more casually with co-workers, share interests, or get to know other team members a little more personally.

Also, schedule brainstorming sessions for teams to improve processes and let their creativity flow. Finally, don’t forget to have fun and enjoy yourself. Why not organize virtual activities like a movie night or online games.

The stakes of control over telecommuting employees

But it is difficult to fully control the productivity of the telecommuting employee. SMEs can use proportionate monitoring devices that are made known to the employee, such as screen sharing. But when it becomes permanent, this sharing becomes invasive.

Alicia Gomez - Senior Content Manager | Alicia is an author, blogger, and certified Enneagram coach with a bachelor's in Communications. She's been blogging for six years and run a consulting business offering communications, strategy. Her favorite quote: Be you. Break free. Break through.

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