Is telecommuting killing your startup?

What the folks in tech won’t tell you is that there are often trends that seem like a good idea on the surface level, but are detrimental when you dig deeper – especially when you place scientific support into the mix.

One of these current trends is telecommuting and it’s picking up some major steam.

It’s not without its merits – lowered costs for smaller offices, a cutback on transportation time, and employee happiness all being a credible example of its assets. And heck, Branson is a supporter and he isn’t wrong all too often when it comes to success.

The truth is telecommuting is a short term “seems nice” strategy that has an evil side when we place it next to some very core tenets of human psychology.

In fact, for any young or old business, it could possibly be a revenue killer.

The telecommuting equals happiness lie

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Isolation leads to increased depression and decreased motivation. According to the Huffington Post, loneliness is a growing public health concern.

Anecdotally we have outsourced many items that in the past have required social interaction instead of technology. One could live for months without ever having to say a word to another living person. They could use Peapod and GrubHub for food and drink, Netflix for entertainment, online bill paying, pharmaceutical apps, email… and the list goes on.

Chronically isolated people have a greater chance of depression and increased chance of high blood pressure, infection and dementia. However, decreasing the number of human-to-human conversations in the course of day is directly correlates to feeling less motivated.

A study by Sigal Barsade and Hakan Ozcelik showed that the absence of ‘Jen’ in HR asking “how your weekend was” might be killing your level of productivity. But go ahead and spend more time in the comfort of your living room.

Your clothing affects your behavior

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We all love days where we can lounge around in a bathrobe and not have to shave, put on makeup or even contemplate brushing your teeth. But having to look professional also has some deeply interesting effects on our psychology.

For one, wearing professional clothing increases our feelings of power. According to California State University, individuals who wore suits had increased feelings of self-worth and importance. It goes further.

The study also found that suited subjects also maintained higher levels of holistic thought processing.

While few want to fall victim to the phrase “All dressed up and nowhere to go” there is always more of a reason to dress for co-workers then there is your cat, no matter how sophisticated his tastes are.

Communicating effectively

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While Professor Mehrabian could have been a tad off with his 55 percent of communication pertaining to feelings and attitudes is all in facial expressions, it does have immense effects on our understanding of others.

It’s for this reason alone that the internet is awash with books, guides and articles about body language hacks for greater likeability, neurolinguistics programming and power positions.

While that skype call may show your eye movements, keep in mind your large hand gestures, and body positions all become lost, skipping past an important part of conversation. Once the office becomes abandoned, a large portion of our understanding of others does as well.

Even the most isolated of programmers and creatives can get a lot accomplished with collaboration, creative briefs, teamwork, in-person brainstorming, team meetings, and executive speeches.

Finding your work spouse

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Having coworkers as friends has been proven to increase feelings of satisfaction within one’s workplace.

Any organization, startup or brand wants to have as many company cheerleaders as possible. The most satisfied staffs are those that are most loyal, don’t create HR nightmares and generally kick some ass and take some names. It’s even an added bonus when they can collaborate together and feel accomplished with each others help.

You know who doesn’t have many workplace friends? That guy/gal that doesn’t work at the office more than once a week.

While there may be a claim for people that have part-time telecommuting this can cut people out of any potential social circles. So, for the employer considering cutting costs by allowing programming teams to work at home, they may also be cutting their product, adding to new hire costs and seeing a far more short-lived base of employees.

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