Pros & Cons of Alternative Work Arrangements: Home Office, Virtual Teams and Telecommuting

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Shawn Grimsley

Shawn has a masters of public administration, JD, and a BA in political science.

Alternative work arrangements have become more popular because of the flexibility they provide for getting things done. Learn about the definition and the different types of alternative work arrangements, including telecommuting, virtual teams, and home offices, and explore the pros and cons of using them. Updated: 10/06/2021

Alternative Work Arrangements Defined

Alvin is a human resource specialist that has been asked to review the company's current policy regarding alternative work arrangements. Alternative work arrangements involve providing flexibility in how people engage in work activities and how companies utilize labor. Alternative work arrangements include flexibility in:

  • Hours
  • Locations
  • Workspace
  • Number of employees in workforce depending on current needs
  • Employee skills and abilities

In the old days when Alvin started with the company, all employees clocked in at 8:00, took an hour for lunch, and were on their way home at 5:00. Employees were almost always hired on a permanent basis. Nearly all employees worked at the company's facilities.

Nowadays, Alvin's company has employees working at different times and even employees that work from home. Moreover, the company will often hire employees on a part-time or even temporary basis depending on its current business needs. For example, the company employs a large number of temporary and part-time employees during the holiday season due to increased demand for its products. When the holidays are over, it terminates the temporary employees. When the company needs a worker with a special skill set for a special project, it will hire an expert on a short-term contract basis. When the project is done, the contract is over.

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Telecommuting and Virtual Teams

Let's take a quick look at some of the more prevalent types of alternative work arrangements for employees.

Anne works full-time for Alvin's company, but she rarely steps foot on company property. Her commute involves going to her home office, which is equipped with a computer, high speed Internet, and dedicated phone and fax lines. All of her work activities are done at home. Anne is considered a telecommuter, which is an employee who works remotely from home.

Anne isn't just a telecommuter working from her home office; she's also a member of a virtual team that spans the globe. A virtual team is a team whose members act and interact through electronic communication. Members can be in adjoining cubicles or separated by oceans and continents. In fact, Anne's team members are located around the United States, Canada, Australia, and various countries in both Europe and Asia. They communicate with each other over the phone, emails, faxes, and through Internet video conferences and share files uploaded and downloaded using cloud computing.


Alternative work arrangements offer organizations some advantages. Alternative work arrangements can help with employee retention. It helps employees improve their work-life balance. For example, instead of spending an hour a day in the car commuting, Anne gets to spend that hour with her husband and children, while the company doesn't lose a minute of productivity. In fact, it may make employees more productive, as they are not worn down by the grind of long commutes.

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