What are the Benefits of Telecommuting?
Last time around we examined the required Tech to setup your Perfect Home Office and now it is time to have a look at how Home Office working can be a win/win for both employers and employees alike. The Perfect Home Office. Before going any further, I would just like to point out that the topic of Telecommuting is a fiercely debated issue with everyone from Marissa Mayer, Yahoo CEO, to Richard Branson, Virgin Group Founder and Chairman, having their say. Both are on opposite sides of the fence and argue compelling reasons for and against Telecommuting. What is important to understand, is that a Telecommuting has its place and a balance needs to be found for it to be successful.
What is Telecommuting?
A quick google search will direct you to a wikipedia page where Telecommuting is defined as “a work arrangement in which employees do not commute to a central place of work”. So essentially HomeOffice working. There are numerous reasons why HomeOffice working can be a mutually beneficial for both businesses and their employees which is why we decided to have a look at the TOP 5 benefits of Telecommuting for businesses. Click here for the Benefits of Telecommuting – the Infographic.
Out of Sight Out of Mind – one of the most common myths about Telecommuting or HomeOffice working is that your employees will not be as productive once they are out of the office. In fact this could not be further from the truth. A recent Standford study of Chinese Travel Company Ctrip conducted over a period of 9 months found that employees actually increased their productivity by an average of 13% when allowed to work from home. On top of that, in 2012 a University of Texas study found that Telecommuters are likely to work between 5-7 hours per week longer than their in Office counterparts. Moreover, this is not just an American phenomena, studies conducted by LSE – London School of Economics and Political Science have also reached similar conclusions which they have linked to the growing trend towards “Flexible Working Practices” in the UK. To back this up, I spoke to my colleagues who regularly work from home, and discovered that they too work longer and as they can work when it suits them, are also more productive, which in the case of my colleague in Peru, can be evidenced by through our sprint planning software activity log.
Reduced Staff Turnover
Studies have shown that employees who have the option to telecommute are generally happier (73%) compared to their colleagues in the office (64%). Why is this so and why is it important? Firstly, Telecommuters are better equipped to find a good work life balance, which is especially important to employees with families. As I have recently become a father, I can relate to this as I am sure can any parent – being at home and still being able to work was a blessing for both me and my wife. But there is more to it than that. The daily commute to work will eventually grind you and your employees down. There is another side to the commute as well, which is often overlooked. Employees who commute to work often need a “recovery period” once they get to the office, taking time out of their work day.
So why is this important? To give you an example: I can still remember my first week of commuting to London – it had everything – train delays caused by snow, torrential rain, track side fires and my personal favourite “Leaves on the line”. Leaving at 6am and getting home at 9pm at the earliest – suffice to say, I was not the happiest of people. But I loved my Job and I loved where I lived so it had to be done. But did it? In my case, the answer is probably 50/50 as my job was not 100% suited to HomeOffice. Quite simply, happy staff are staff who are more likely to stay in their current roles and less likely to move on. Now I would like to add here, that I didn’t leave my job because I was unhappy, I left because a severe knee injury, which kept me on crutches for 6 months, meant I was no longer able to commute. So having invested a lot of time and money in an employee, retaining them within the company is essential in order to avoid long term recruitment costs.
Workforce flexibility is quite a broad ranging and wide reaching benefit for both Employers and Employees and influences all aspects of employer employee relationships, from morale to general well being. Depending on Job role and industry, telecommuting can allow Employers to enable Employees to work around their natural rhythm, i.e. some people are morning people and others not. A non morning person having to come into the office for 9am after any sort of commute, will obviously be less productive than if they are allowed to work from home on their own natural time table. Flexibility in the work place will help reduce stress, enable better scheduling as well as increasing productivity as employees become more motivated and develop greater gratitude towards their employers. As an extension of better or more flexible timetables, Telecommuting enables staff to be more flexible with their non work related commitments, such as balancing work and life commitments without the need to take time off, leaving early or coming in late, or even worse taking a sick day. According to PwC – PricewaterhouseCoopers, employee sick days Cost the UK Economy £29 Billion per year as workers are taking more than their fair share of sick days when compared to other global economies. So anything that can be done to curb this trend, must surely be a good thing for the economy, businesses and employees.
Time to dispel another myth of HomeOffice working. If you thought that only your employees would benefit financially through the implementation of Telecommuting, then you would be wrong. Of course, employees are able to save on their daily commute, appropriate business dress or having to buy or prepare their meals everyday, but employers can also save money – quite a lot in fact. If we take the example from Ctrip, they estimate to have made savings of roughly $2,000 per employee per year. Where do these savings come from? Well mostly from being able to reduce energy costs as well as on the required office space and office supplies. A word of caution here though, if you think you will start making massive savings straight away, you could, but you need a well thought out Telecommuting plan and agreements with your employees.
Telecommuting is Greener
If you work in an office, you have a daily commute. A large number of commuters drive to work as most of us do not live right next door to our Company Offices. We all know that cars emit greenhouse gases and we all know how damaging to the environment these gases can be. In 2007, a report commissioned by the Consumer Electronics Associated stated that the energy saved by telecommuting, even after taking into account the increased HomeOffice energy usage, could power between 0.8 to 1.2 Million US households for a year. So it is easy to see how Telecommuting can help both companies and individuals reduce their carbon footprints and make savings. Moreover, if your Telecommuting system has been setup using technologies like VoIP, these energy savings can also be extended to other business related travel.
In summary, it is clear that remote working has numerous advantages as evidenced by the fact that more and more companies are adopting Telecommuting policies. The reasons are simple: in order to help them implement Environmentally Friendly Business Practices, reduce corporate expenditure while improving employee motivation and job satisfaction. Seems too good to be true really – there are of course some downsides, such as a reduction in workplace social interaction, which could lead to reduced inspiration. That is why, to make the most of the benefits provided by telecommuting, a well thought out strategy is required that benefits both you and your employees and is probably based on a mixture of Home Office and Work Office working.