In the 13 years from 1997 to 2010, the amount of people who work from home (also known as telecommuting) at least one day a week has risen from 9.2 Million to 13.4 Million[1]. These numbers have continued to rise over the past five years and are expected to surge in the near future. Many companies have been able to manage this trend through the proper technologies; however, not everyone has been able to capitalize on the benefits. Businesses now more than ever have to weigh the pros and cons of telecommuting to maximize their human capital.

Is telecommuting right for your business?

Many companies have tried implementing a work from home program, and not all of them succeed. It has been shown that productivity can decrease for tasks that are repetitive or tedious. You may want to require these tasks to be performed in the office, but every company is different. One well known company that tested a telecommuting policy is Cisco. They are known for being trailblazers in the networking equipment industry and have many highly skilled employees. After a successful trial run, they have implemented a full blown telecommuting policy. Cisco has provided a reduction in fuel costs to their employees of roughly $10 Million. This policy has also led to an estimated annual savings of $277 million in productivity according to Cisco[2]. In order to determine if your company could benefit from a telecommuting policy, you must evaluate the pros and cons. The ones listed below are representative of most companies.

Pros

  • Increased Productivity and Employee Satisfaction
    • A publically traded travel company listed on NASDAQ was the subject of Stanford University’s 2014 experiment. In this experiment, a group of employees was instructed to work strictly from home, and another group to work strictly from the office. After nine months, the researchers saw a 13% increase in productivity (measured as 9% increase in minutes per shift, and a 4% increase in call volume). Not only were the workers more productive, the employees reported higher satisfaction, and the company’s attrition rate was decreased by 50%[3]
  • Cost savings
    • For the employee, the cost of commuting to work decreases significantly. Employers also often experience cost savings due to a reduction of turnover. It has also been seen that those who have flexible work schedules take fewer sick days which can be of great cost.
  • Decreased overhead
    • This one is simple. When your employees aren’t in the office, there are less materials that you need to pay for. One less person in the office usually means one less light you have to turn on, one less chair you have to buy, and (at least) one less cup of coffee you have to make.

Cons

  • Culture can suffer
    • A major tool that companies use to recruit is the company/office culture that they exhibit. However, once fewer employees are coming into the office, it may be hard to maintain the culture and it may shift drastically. If this happens within a company, employees can become disgruntled which may lead to increased turnover.
  • Security issues
    • When not in the office, the use of company computers connected to an unsecured network can be a cause for concern. If there is not established server for the employee to connect to, the computer may be hacked causing your company/client/customer data to be at risk.
  • Decreased collaboration
    • The move from the office to the home triggers a large decrease in daily conversations between coworkers. This lack of communication can soon become a lack of collaboration and can hinder creative problem solving.

How can you manage telecommuting properly?

It is inevitable that there will be jobs that can be done remotely from home, and the benefits can be substantial. Ensuring that you have the proper technologies in place is the most important step to applying a suitable telecommuting policy. In fact, technology can lessen the severity even negate most of the drawbacks. The way you track your employees’ performance is crucial. A proper performance management system may be a vital part of ensuring that your employees are at just as productive, if not more so. Collaborative software such as Sharepoint and Lync provided by Microsoft can facilitate communication between employees to boost teamwork while at home. Cisco built their own system known as Cisco OfficeExtend and CiscoWebEx to allow for improved remote connectivity and virtual collaboration. Lastly, the security issues can be negated by ensuring that all of your devices are properly encrypted and can be connected to secure servers through a VPN.

Contact us if we can assist in making telecommuting work for your business.

[1] http://www.census.gov/hhes/commuting/files/2012/Home-based%20Workers%20in%20the%20United%20States%20Infographic.pdf

[2] http://newsroom.cisco.com/dlls/2009/prod_062609.html

[3] https://web.stanford.edu/~nbloom/WFH.pdf