If your employer offered you the opportunity to work from home one or two days per week, would you jump at the chance? According to a compensation survey of 1,400 CFOs conducted by Robert Half International, 46% said telecommuting is second only to salary as the best way to attract top talent.
Telecommuting, i.e., working from a remote location, is growing in acceptance: IDC predicts there will be 9.9 million telecommuters by 2009. A wide variety of organizations are offering telecommuter support; healthcare is the industry in which telecommuting is most common, followed by the science and technical services arena. The US Government provides support for its teleworkers at www.telework.gov.
Just days after the levees in New Orleans burst, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management sent out a government-wide memo urging telecommuting as a way to alleviate a post-Katrina gas shortage. Teleworking advocates hope that widespread concern over rising fuel prices will prove to be the tipping point needed to bring about a telecommuting revolution.
With broadband access to the internet nearing 70% for active web users, remote connection speed is no longer a roadblock. Security issues remain a concern, with IT managers working to ensure that each remote PC accessing the corporate LAN keeps pace with the company’s security guidelines.
Companies understandably worry about the expense of setting an employee up to work at home or at another remote site. While there are expenses to be considered, organizations that utilize teleworkers are also likely to see a reduction in costs for office space, parking, utilities, etc. It’s worth noting that analysis has shown that it can cost as much as $2,500 just to move an employee from one cube to another.
Those experienced in managing teleworkers agree that establishing a clear policy is an essential first step. Monster.com offers advice on Creating a Telecommuting Strategy:
With the right strategy in place, implementing a telecommuting program for your company can be a step in the right direction for all parties. Taking the time to carefully craft a telecommuting strategy that meets the needs of both employee and employer will lay a strong foundation for shared telecommuting success.
Monster advises developing a telecommuting agreement for eligible employees to review and sign, including:
- A definition of the telecommuter’s work schedule
- An outline of the probationary period, if applicable
- A list of all work-related items provided by the company
- Acknowledgement that the employee will take precautions to protect company items from damage or theft
- Acknowledgement that the employee will return all company property upon termination or resignation of employment
- Acknowledgement that the employee is responsible for addressing legal or tax-related issues that arise from his or her use of the home as a place of business
In Make Telecommuting Work For Your Business, Monte Enbysk, a lead editor for the Microsoft.com Network advises "Trust your workers by focusing on the results, not the process." Remote work days are often used for projects that require a high level of concentration and few interruptions.
Although some positions lend themselves well to full time telecommuting, most employees prefer to work remotely no more than one or two days a week. Commuting to the main office on a regular basis gives employees "face time" with their co-workers and supervisors, and allows the interaction that most people need in order to feel like part of a team.
Obviously, not all jobs and not all employees are suitable for telecommuting, but when the right elements are brought together both teleworkers and supervisors report increased productivity and improved job satisfaction. The benefits of telecommuting may be especially attractive to employers seeking non-monetary ways to reward their top performers.
The movement toward electronic storage for healthcare records of all sorts opens increased opportunities for telework in healthcare. In the world of medical staff services, the possibility of working remotely creates significant interest in developing paperless processes.
The benefits of telecommuting in the face of disaster are discussed in Telework is critical for a successful business continuity plan in case of disaster by The International Telework Association & Council (ITAC).
ITAC lists among the advantages of using telework as part of a business continuity plan strategy in case of crisis: increased agility, minimized disruption, speedier rebound, less revenue loss, and distributed human capital. Some business analysts feel that a telework force is key to organizational flexibility and disaster recovery.
With advances in technology and connectivity, telecommuting will continue to increase in popularity and effectiveness. After all, there’s something to be said for working at home in your bunny slippers…
Make Telecommuting Work For Your Business – Microsoft
Network World – Telecommuting Security Concerns Grow
Telecommuting Interest Soars – Washington Post
The Telework Coalition
US Government General Services Administration Interagency Telework Site