The future is quickly headed toward telecommuting. Since 2005, telework has grown almost 80%, and it has continued to show growth even as the overall workforce declined from 2011-2012. Organizations that employ telecommuters see benefits across the board. Naturally, growing companies demand a way to keep productivity and employee retention rates high while keeping overhead costs low. Telecommuting may be the answer. Additionally, employers are able to reach beyond locality and tap into a broader market of experienced talent. By 2016, it is projected that 43% of employees will be teleworkers. Though telecommuting does have some drawbacks, its benefits far outweigh its faults.
It’s Not Just the Employees That Benefit From Telecommuting
People worldwide are living the telecommuting dream: spending less on gas, swearing off stuffy office attire, and working in a comfortable and quiet workplace. Employees wake up for work and commute just steps away to their home offices. In a struggling economy, telecommuting offers a beneficial alternative to traditional work, for both employers and employees.
Telecommuting is particularly useful for tech companies who have an increased demand for hard-to-find skills and unconventional hours. But the benefits aren’t just limited to Silicon Valley. Companies across the world hire teleworkers for HR, customer service, secretarial, and a host of other positions.
Keep Your Employees Happy, and They Will Stick Around
The new generation of workforce employees shows frighteningly low retention rates. Young employees tend to leave jobs due to rising rent and disproportionate salaries in an area, general discontent with the job, and long commutes. 14% of employees report they have left jobs for shorter commutes alone, and almost 50% of employees nationwide feel commutes are only getting worse.
Telecommuting shows a bright future for companies in notoriously expensive or traffic-ridden cities, and the workforce is eager to jump on board. A Workplace Analytics study found that 36% of the population would choose to work from home instead of a pay raise. Employees who work from home report more overall satisfaction with their jobs. Happier employees stay longer, and they save their employers money. With the average cost of losing a valuable employee numbering in the tens of thousands, keeping workers happy is a priority businesses can’t afford to ignore.
Hard-Working Telecommuters Lead to Higher Productivity
In addition to companies saving money by hiring happy teleworkers, they also report an overall increase in productivity rates. Large-scale corporations, like Dow Chemical and Best Buy, have reported that teleworkers are roughly 40% more productive.
When telecommuters are on the clock, they are working. It’s all too familiar in office environments to see employees performing menial tasks in an effort to look busy: shuffling papers, reorganizing a filing cabinet, or designing a new template for office memos. This type of busy work and other office distractions lose money for companies across the country, amounting to a reported $600 billion annually. Experienced teleworkers manage their time efficiently and work in a comfortable, distraction-free environment.
Tap Into a Wider Talent Pool With Remote Positions
Perhaps the most notable benefit for businesses is the wider marketplace for talent unlocked with telecommuting positions. The boomer generation is retiring, and with them goes years of valuable experience difficult to replace. In addition to giving retirees an option to continue working from home, a desire frequently expressed, businesses have access to talent across the globe. If your business is in need of a multi-lingual, experienced secretary who is an expert in PowerPoint, you no longer have to settle with local applicants who may not be fully qualified.
Telecommuting Is Good for the Future of Our Planet, Too
Employers and employees aren’t the only ones thankful for telework – telecommuting greatly affects our planet, as well. Sun Microsystems allows its employers to participate in an Open Work Program, and over 24,000 people participate. They have estimated this has reduced vehicle CO2 pollution by 32,000 metric tons in one year alone. Office energy consumption is down as well, being cut in half with employers that work from home. In a never-ending race where traffic jams burn over 3 billion gallons of gas and release toxic fumes, every car counts. Whether you are heavily invested in protecting the climate or not, the numbers are real: 24% of employees state they would take a pay cut to work from home and help the environment.
But…Telecommuting Isn’t for Everyone
This is not to say that telework comes without flaws. It takes the right kind of employee to telecommute, and businesses have to do their due diligence when looking at candidates. If your company is thinking about making a few positions remote, there are a few things to consider first:
- Some employees may fear that because they’re out of sight, they’re also out of mind. Make an effort to recognize a teleworkers’ job well done. Keep communication lines open between coworkers and management with platforms like Google Hangouts or Skype.
- Research the candidate’s work history. Telecommuters should have expert skills in time management, previous remote work experience, and an ability to be self-directed.
- Understand the reasons for telecommuting. If an employee wants to work from home because he or she is out of state or works unconventional hours, that’s great. If a candidate wants to work from home as a substitute for daycare, it may not be as suitable. Even though telecommuters are working at home, they still need a distraction-free environment.
- Be sure your IT structure is up to par and can handle remote workplace platforms. Some infrastructure changes may need to be implemented.
- Some collaborative projects simply cannot be completed remotely. Some industries, particularly creative ones, benefit from employees feeding off of each other’s energy. Carefully consider the type of work projects with an employee’s position.
- Most managers aren’t concerned with data security and teleworkers, but you can never be too careful. However, security issues are easily remedied if addressed beforehand with appropriate tools and training.
If it sounds like telecommuting might save your business some big bucks, but you’re still worried about how it will all fit together, there is no harm in taking baby steps. Just offering a job that’s partly remote will net your business some perks. As enterprises continue to grow and technology continues to make it easier to bridge gaps and stay connected, the telecommuting trend will surely follow. The working world has voiced its desire for positive changes, and telecommuting shows promise as being part of the answer.