Is Telecommuting Here to Stay?
Job seekers are increasingly considering telecommuting as a must-have benefit, and even employers are warming to its ability to boost productivity, worker satisfaction, and cost efficiency. What’s behind the growing popularity of working from home, and how can a well-structured telecommuting option benefit both employees and employers?
Workers want to telecommute
Telecommuting is becoming more common in the U.S. workforce: 24% of U.S. workers telecommute at least part-time each week. According to data compiled by Inc. magazine, the practice can save money for both employers and employees:
- Telecommuters save anywhere from $2,000 to $7,000 annually on transportation, clothes, child care, and eating out.
- Organizations that allow remote work save up to $11,000 annually per employee, primarily on office space, furnishings, maintenance, parking, and phone services.
In addition, 79% of workers want to work remotely, at least part of the time. And they’re willing to work harder to prove themselves: Nearly twice as many telecommuters (53%) work more than 40 hours per week, compared with only 28% of their office-bound colleagues.
A recent Staples survey backed up these figures, finding that nearly 40% of workers would choose the right to telecommute over higher pay, and nearly 70% would be willing to reduce other in-office perks in order to work remotely. Almost 20% would turn down a new job unless the option to work remotely was offered.
Employers and employees benefit
Obviously, working remotely and having a flexible schedule holds big benefits for employees. But what other advantages does working from home offer — to employers as well as employees? Plenty, according to several sources:
- Happier employees — Staples found that 65% of employers reported happier employees and that 33% reported less absenteeism in the workforce.
- Better work-life balance —The Staples survey also reported that 74% of respondents claim telecommuting helps them to balance work with the other parts of their lives — an important capability to avoid burnout in the fast-paced, high-stress work environments typically associated with the IT industry. In fact, 69% of survey respondents cited reduced stress as a telecommuting benefit.
- Greater productivity — The Mobile Work Exchange states that businesses that offer telecommuting can reap benefits such as improved productivity, real estate and other overhead savings, and improvements in employee retention and recruitment. Furthermore, Inc. reported that those who work from home are 11- 20% more productive at completing creative tasks, and 90% of managers see a productivity increase when they let workers have more flexibility in choosing when and how they work.
- More engaged workforce — Gallup’s State of the American Workplace report shows that companies that offer a telecommuting option see remote workers logging an average of four more hours per week than onsite workers and being more engaged.
Tips for success
Telecommuting has the best chance of success when it’s managed correctly and when employees are a good fit for the practice. Obviously, the environment is key: Workers need access to a high-speed Internet connection and preferably secure access to the company server via a high-quality virtual private network (VPN), and an established data backup and security plan for remote workers is absolutely necessary. eCommunications through IM and email, telephone and video conferencing support, and other collaborative tech tools are also vital due to the nature of the work.
Employees must be self-directed, able to manage themselves, and able to handle physical isolation from coworkers in the office. Those who are already performing well are likely to perform even better working remotely.
For the best chance of success, employers should establish and use consistent telecommuting policies that are based on the position rather than allowing telecommuting on a one-off basis. Employees should follow best practices such as being available during work hours, checking in regularly, and keeping track of and communicating work achievements and expectations.
Employees and job seekers place high value on telecommuting, which makes it a selling point for employers in their recruitment efforts. If you’re using an IT staffing firm like Chase Technology Consultants in your job search, the recruiter can negotiate telecommuting options as part of your compensation package. Telecommuting has become an integral part of workplace life and is likely to continue becoming even more commonplace as an employment requirement and a work option.