Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Boost Your Bottom Line with Telecommuting

It has been estimated that by the year 2016, 43% of American workers will be telecommuting. This astronomical rise is indicative of the multiple benefits for employers who institute such a practice. At first blush, many managers may imagine their employee sitting watching TV while cleaning their house and occasionally checking their work email. They would be wrong. Telecommuters are consistently proving themselves to be productive and dependable, if not for the mere fact that many feel they have to prove their worth.

So what are the benefits to instituting a telecommuting policy? A meta-study by Pennsylvania State University examined the results of multiple studies and found that telecommuting benefits both the employer and the employee. It also found there to be five main benefits for companies.
  • First, employees who work from home have more of a sense of freedom and hence more control over their work. These employees are free of the many office distractions, as there is no “water cooler” to visit.
  • Second, telecommuting, when properly handled by the employee, can actually reduce work/life conflict, making for a happier employee.
  • Third, working from home a couple days a week does not harm co-worker relationships. The study did, however, point out that working from home more than three days a week could harm those relationships. The solution to this problem is increasingly clear in today’s plugged in world. Teleconference, IM, and Skype are all ways to bring employees from all over the country together where they can put a face with a name.
  • Fourth, the study examined productivity, both as perceived by the employee and the manager. And while the employees themselves did not see themselves as more productive, their managers did.  
  • Finally, the study found that employees who work from home are all around happier leading to lower turnover.

Other benefits, as revealed by the Sloan Work and Family Research Network include:
  • Expanded workforce participation to include, for example, workers with disabilities
  • Overhead cost reductions for things like office space and office supplies
  • Reduced absenteeism costs
  • Heighten loyalty and commitment
  • Earned tax credits for reducing pollution and traffic congestion
An interesting statistic from Sloan also points out that 75% of employees who work from home say they could continue to work in the event of a disaster compared with just 28% of traditional office-based employees.

Managers may worry about allowing their employees to telecommute at first. After all, how will they assess their daily work product if they’ve lost visibility? Micromanagers may need to try to adapt a more effective management style to make this arrangement work. Evaluate performance by measuring the quantity and quality of the work against the stated goals and objectives. Schedule deadlines. And don’t let small problems turn into big ones.

Telecommuting is an increasingly popular perk that can also be used as a recruitment and retainment tool. A study by The Telework Research Network revealed that 36% would choose working from home over a pay raise and that 80% of employees consider telework a job perk. Additionally, the study found that 78% of employees who call in sick really aren’t. Unscheduled absences, which cost employers $1,800/employee per year, went down by 63% when telecommuting was implemented.

The bottom line? Not all employees or positions are ideal for telecommuting, but it would behoove the bottom line to consider adding the ability to work from home in some form for your best employees.

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