HRA Blog

Telecommuting in the Modern World

Written by Kelly McArter on .

In today’s world, the issue of telecommuting is a hot topic.  No matter how you feel about it, the number of organizations allowing their employees to telecommute is growing each year.  According to a study by Global Workplace Analytics and FlexJobs, in 2015, nearly 4 million U.S. employees worked from home at least half the time, representing three percent of the workforce, a 115 percent increase from 2005.  That’s a lot of telecommuters!

Many factors go into an organization’s decision to allow telecommuting.  There are benefits and drawbacks to working remotely, however, the consensus seems to be that in order to attract and retain top talent, telecommuting should a be benefit available to employees to use at least part of the time.

In the past, employers have viewed telecommuting with a skeptical eye.  Without the day to day visibility of their employees being in the office, managers often found it unsettling to not having the constant reassurance that work was getting done.  Worries about decreased productivity and disengagement from colleagues were and continue to be among employers’ highest concerns with regards to telecommuting.  Fortunately, telecommuting has been the focus of many studies that have shown that with proper management and guidance, telework can provide many benefits for both employers and employees.

Diving into the Data

Employers have a lot to gain by implementing telecommuting.  According to SHRM’s Global Workplace Analytics study, 77 percent of teleworkers reported greater productivity while working offsite; 30 percent reported accomplishing more in less time, and 24 percent accomplished more in the same time.

The study also showed that teleworkers also logged five to seven more hours a week than non-teleworkers, and often worked while sick or on vacation.  It revealed that not only does telework boost productivity, but employers also report positive impacts on retention and turnover, faster return-to-work times after a medical issue or surgery, and employees are also more likely to take a pay cut in order to have the option to telecommute.  The aforementioned study also cites that employers save nearly $11,000 a year per telecommuter. Telecommuting often optimizes office space utilization, solves parking availability problems, reduces the cost of technology, and increases employee creativity and innovation.  These are all excellent reasons to get on board with telecommuting!

For the employee, having the flexibility to work when and how they want has become a top priority for good reason.  U.S. News and World Report reports that telecommuting not only boosts productivity and performance, but also overall job satisfaction, and reduces stress and work-family conflict.  By eliminating a commute and morning prep time, telecommuters also get more exercise, more sleep, and eat healthier.  In addition to the benefits of the day to day flexibility, there are times when without telecommuting, the work wouldn’t get done at all.  Bad road conditions, sick children at home, school snow days and waiting for a repair company to show up, are non-issues for employees who work from home.  Employees who work from home also save a lot of money.  SHRM cites that 30 percent of teleworkers report saving $5,230 annually in expenses such as day care, transportation, lunch, and dry cleaning.  Saving money on commuting expenses such as gas, parking, tolls, or public transportation is key, but eliminating the need to drive to and from work every day is also eco-friendly.  No wonder telecommuting is so high in demand!

By allowing employees to work remotely, employers give them increased control over their work and perhaps more importantly their lives.  This translates to better job satisfaction, retention, and overall quality of work and productivity.

To ensure employers and employees are on the same page, set expectations by clearly communicating the boundaries of the telecommuting agreement from the beginning (number of days per week, work availability times, etc.).  To ensure team engagement, designate a recurring day that makes sense for your organization for all teleworkers to come into the office to see each other face to face.

When managed well, telecommuting can be the best asset to your company for everyone involved.