5 Reasons I Should Let My Workers Telecommute

In a business climate that is still fraught with uncertainty, the savvy business owner must look for every way possible to get the job done right at the lowest possible cost.

For many businesses, letting certain employees work from home is a viable way to accomplish both goals with no perceptible degradation of the company’s product or service quality.

Sadly, the February 2013 decision by Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer to end her company’s work-from-home program was widely -- and mistakenly -- seen as a harbinger of a change that was coming for all businesses.

However, as Mayer herself made clear in an April 2013 address at the Great Place to Work conference in Los Angeles, her decision was based solely on what’s right for the international Internet company at this point.

Productivity vs. Innovation

While she readily acknowledged that “people are more productive when they’re alone,” she said that for Yahoo!, that fact had to be balanced against the realization that “they’re more collaborative and innovative when they’re together.” For Mayer, at least at this point in her mission to turn the company around, it’s more important for Yahoo! and its workers to be innovative.

However, for thousands of companies, large and small, the challenges are not the same as those facing Yahoo!, and telecommuting can be a good way to improve employee morale, increase productivity, and reduce costs in the process.

Here are just a few reasons business owners should consider setting up a work-from-home program for at least some of their workers some of the time:

Boosts Worker Productivity

Stress and interpersonal conflicts in the workplace tend to reduce the productivity of individual workers. Employees working from home are removed from the swirl of office politics and face far fewer distractions than those working in an office with multiple co-workers.

Several studies and reports claim widely varying productivity gains ranging from 15 to 45 percent. But all show that telecommuting increases worker output. In-house studies at British Telecom showed that among its telecommuters -- roughly 11 percent of BT’s total workforce -- productivity increased 31 percent. Dow Chemical reported a productivity increase of about 32 percent among its telecommuting employees.

Improves Employee Satisfaction

Because working from home has multiple benefits for workers as well as the companies they work for, many employees have indicated that, given the choice between a salary increase or the opportunity to work from home, they would opt for the latter.

According to the Telework Research Network, 37 percent of 1,500 IT professionals surveyed said they would take a pay cut of 10 percent in exchange for the chance to work from home. And, as the productivity statistics indicate, a happy worker is a more productive worker.

Cuts Office Space Needs

For every employee working from home, the company can reduce its office space requirements. This translates into an annual cost savings for the employer of about $10,000 for every teleworking employee, according to the Telework Coalition.

Even if some telecommuting employees work in the office part of the time, a desk-sharing scheme and creative scheduling can allow employers to continue to realize that savings. In addition to the real estate savings, companies will be able to cut their outlays for utilities and office supplies for each of their employees working from home.

Reduces Absenteeism

Absenteeism costs companies billions of dollars every year.

Combating absenteeism with a strict policy against it may tempt some employees who are sick to come to work anyway to avoid the consequences of missing work. In the process, communicable illnesses may be passed to their coworkers, further exacerbating the absenteeism problem. Telecommuting workers are less likely to miss a full day of work. According to data from the American Management Association, companies that set up a telecommuting program experienced a reduction in absenteeism of more than 60 percent.

Helps the Environment

For most companies, the biggest chunk of their carbon footprint can be traced to the energy used and pollutants emitted by their commuting employees.

In an article written for the Worcester Business Journal, Joseph Sarkis said that telecommuting is one way to significantly reduce a company’s negative environmental impact. Sarkis, a professor of management at Clark University’s Graduate School of Management, notes that even partial telecommuting helps to relieve traffic congestion.

Reduced congestion on the nation’s highways brings less wasted fuel, fewer accidents, less damage to the highway infrastructure, and a reduction in lost productivity time.

About the author

Jay Fremont is a freelance author who has written extensively about personal finance, corporate strategy, social media, and personal reputation.


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