telework.

Telecommuting A Common Workplace Solution

Telecommuting...

Provides Work / Life Balance

Contributes to a Greener Society

Increases Productivity

Increases Employee Satisfaction

Expands the Talent Pool

Telecommuting provides benefits to both companies and employees. In fact, it seems like the list of advantages far outweighs the disadvantages and just continues to grow. With the ease at which telecommuting can be implemented in the workplace, what is holding your organization back from at least considering telecommuting as a means to attract and retain your greatest asset - your employees?

Many employers are starting to realize they can actually benefit from allowing their employees to telecommute, whether it is at a full-time or part-time level! "In Going Virtual, Going Green: A Manifesto" by Jared Seeger, Mr. Seeger shares some interesting facts that demonstrate what employers are facing with their workforce:

  • Two thirds of people want to work from home
  • 36% would choose working from home over a pay raise
  • A poll of 1,500 technology professionals revealed that 37% would take a pay cut of 10% if they could work from home.
  • Gen Y'ers are particularly attracted to flexible work arrangements
  • 80% of employees consider telecommuting a job perk
Faced with these facts, an employer has to consider the option of telecommuting to retain an engaged and talented workforce in order to remain competitive. By offering telecommuting, an employer can reduce absenteeism, tardiness, and even attract or retain older workers, disabled workers, and female workers. There are many other benefits to consider as well. For one, a company can reduce the size of their office which is a cost savings in real estate (office space). According to statements by Ann Bamesberger in Sun Microsystem's Executive Boardroom, they save $70 million a year in real estate costs and another $24 million a year in IT costs through their telecommuting program. Companies can also increase productivity through telecommuting. Best Buy and others have reported an increase of 35 - 40% in productivity of workers that telecommute.

Employees love it! Gen Xers have always pushed the work / life balance issue and telecommuting provides this option. By telecommuting, Gen Xers can be there when their kids get on and off the bus and have their office at their fingertips when they want to continue working at night when the kids go to bed. Technology provides many ways to work 24/7 so why not have an office at home? But, Gen Xers aren't the only ones that like it, so do the older generations looking for phased retirement or anyone just trying to avoid the nightmare that commuting to work can create. Telecommuting can also save employees money because they don't have to spend money on gas, food, parking, and even "office" clothes. The time savings from not commuting to work and back in itself is a huge benefit to employees providing them more time to spend with family, friends, and just "found time" to spend however they want.

The list of benefits can go on and on to the employer, employee, and even the community. But, there are always drawbacks to a good thing. For example:

  • Management has to trust the employee when they are "out of sight" by learning to focus on the results the employee delivers rather than the process and time it takes for the employee to get to the output.
  • Not everyone is self motivated to work alone and has the ability to stay on task and motivated without others around.
  • Some employees fear that their careers may be stifled because they are not physically present at the office.
With the growth of technology and increased demand for labor skills in the workplace, employers can't afford to ignore telecommuting as a retention tool. At the very least they need to consider telecommuting as a viable cost savings solution. When evaluating telecommuting as a workplace option, there are a number of things to consider:

  1. Telecommuting can be part-time or full-time

    - An employee could telecommute as little as one day a week, to a few days or all five days of the week. Employers need to learn to be flexible depending on the job, the employee, and the situation.
  2. Gauge interest

    - Talk to employees and managers to determine the interest level of employees. You may find not all employees are interested. However, for those that are, telecommuting may provide a way to actually retain a star performer that is about to leave the organization.

    - By talking to managers, you can determine what positions could have the flexibility to work remotely, even just part-time.

    - Even if a position is appropriate for telecommuting, the individual may not be. The ideal worker should be self motivated, a good problem solver, and a good communicator (both written and verbal). Plus, their home environment should be conducive to serving as an office.
  3. Policy and procedure

    - You need to develop a policy that clearly outlines how telecommuting will work in your organization including setting clear goals, communication requirements, reporting guidelines, hours to work, availability, what resources will be provided, etc.

    - Keep in mind, telecommuting may not work for ALL positions and your policy should be written to reflect this fact.
  4. Pilot

    - With any new program, it is always best to pilot it first to learn what works and what needs improvement Test the telecommuting program and learn from any hiccups what needs fixed before rolling it out company wide.
  5. Evaluate

    - Set some milestone to continuously re-evaluate your telecommuting program. Get input from both the employees and the mangers. Find out what is working well and what could be improved. Technology is improving at warp speed; solutions for making telecommuting become even more effective for the company will always be popping up. Be on the alert for how to improve the program for the good of the company and employees.
Once you begin evaluating your options, you may be surprised that your organization too will reap the benefits of telecommuting flexibility. It may be a huge paradigm shift but one that will be worth it in the long-run.

Author:.

Robin Throckmorton, MA, SPHR is the President and Executive HR Strategist with strategic HR, inc., a human resources management consulting firm located in Cincinnati, OH. Strategic HR, inc. was a winner in 2008 and 2009 of the Regional Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce Small Business Excellence 10 under 10 Award and a finalist in 2010 for the Small Business Excellence award. Robin has been a generalist and consultant for nearly 20 years with healthcare, manufacturing, service, and non-profit org...

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