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Telecommuting to Higher Productivity

Posted on: February 19th, 2015

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telecommuting boosts productivity

Companies that did not offer employees a telecommuting option during the recent snowstorms in the Northeast suffered the worst in terms of loss of business and worker productivity.

Marissa Mayer at Yahoo doesn’t have to worry about snowstorms, but her policy banning home-based work surely would have hurt the company if they were headquartered here in the East. Yahoo policy

A recent Boston Business Journal survey asked “How well does your employer accommodate major weather disruptions such as this week’s snow?” The results?

39%        We do great by having people work from home

26%        people stay home and we suffer a little in productivity

24%        people work from home but productivity suffers

10%        people stay at home and everything grinds to a halt

Most business leaders would agree that some productivity is better than grinding to a complete halt. To be sure, some industries and jobs are perfectly suited for telecommuting and can manage quite well despite the conditions outside.

Aside from working at home during weather emergencies, do companies offer telecommuting as a part of their regular business operations? Again, it depends on the type of industry and jobs, but more and more companies today are offering telecommuting options and this is only going to expand further.

Is there a downside to telecommuting?

Business leaders are reluctant to make telecommuting more widespread for many reasons, citing the following reasons:

  • Harder to manage employees who are out of the office
  • Productivity can’t be monitored all that well
  • Employees “need to be in the office” for meetings
  • Communications between mangers and co-workers will suffer

However, this logic is rather thin, and almost “archaic”. Leaders fail to see the many benefits of telecommuting that can actually boost productivity:

  • Schedule flexibility (important for parents raising families)
  • Ability to hire a PT workforce at lower cost
  • Expanded coverage for non-peak hours (evenings, weekends)
  • Ability to expand company’s geography
  • Ability to attract “A players” without relocation
  • Reduced stress for employee
  • Fewer sick days used
  • Lower commuting costs for employees
  • Green initiative/helps the environment
  • Higher quality work (by eliminating distractions)
  • Safety (in the case of extreme weather)

Telecommuting as a recruiting and retention tool

Telecommuting is an important tool to help companies attract job candidates, particularly with millennials, who don’t want to be tied to a desk and expect such arrangements to be available at least part of the week.

In an increasingly competitive job market, a telecommuting option can also be an excellent way to hold onto your current employees.

These Telecommuting stats from Global Workplace Analytics may convince you!

As a former telecommuter, who worked at a 100% “virtual” company, I can tell business leaders that telecommuting employees tend to work longer days, work at night and on weekends, are more accessible in general and were far more productive than if we were always in an office.

Failure to offer a telecommuting option could seriously undermine your ability to attract and retain technology workers now and in the future.

Additional Telecommuting Benefit

Often overlooked is that telecommuting can be a cost saver for companies. Many businesses are able to downgrade their office footprint, saving significant dollars on rent, office furniture and other items.

What is holding businesses back from Telecommuting?

  • Industry/nature of the work

Some businesses, such as restaurants, retail stores and manufacturing plants, simply cannot take advantage of telecommuting. But for many other industries, including software companies, professional services, insurance, financial and other types of companies, telecommuting can serve your employees and the business needs well.

  •  Trust & control issues

It is more likely that “trust” and “control” are the chief reasons that many CEO’s are hesitant to implement telecommuting on a wider scale. Employers need to develop a greater trust in employees who telecommute and monitor work to guard against potential abuse.

Overwhelming evidence for telecommuting

As to Marissa’s thinking, research says that telecommuting actually drives productivity. One study by the consultancy Workshifting found, on average, a 27% rise in productivity among telecommuting employees. Translate that to your bottom line!

Final Notes

Telecommuting is a tide that can’t be stopped. Forrester Research estimates that 63 million U.S. workers will telecommute at least part-time by 2016. It’s good for both the company and the employee, and will be a key tool in attracting new talent to the company.

Be sure that you have a documented telecommuting policy in your employee handbook that details which jobs have this option, your expectations, such as general work hours, response times and how the employee documents work hours. Also, be sure to define how telecommuters will be managed/monitored, which might include manager check-ins, as well as abuse and its consequences, and you’ll be good to go.

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