Telecommuting may be a popular item on employee wish lists, but wishes do little to convince employers to implement work-from-home programs.
Widespread telecommuting is still a relatively new phenomenon, and employers are understandably wary of diving headfirst into only-sort-of-charted territory. Employees’ desire to work from home does little to answer questions or assuage fears regarding productivity, accountability and other managerial concerns.
Wishful employees and wary employers are both in luck, however. There are plenty of reasons for employers to open the door to telecommuting opportunities. Here are just nine of the many ways telecommuting can benefit employers and employees alike:
Ease the Way With Tech
Technological innovations have ushered in a golden age of connectivity. Thanks to an ever-improving smorgasbord of apps and gadgets, companies have plenty of options when it comes to remote collaboration.
Popular collaboration tools include:
- Project management software: Basecamp, Pivotal Tracker, Trello
- Team collaboration software: Google Drive, HipChat, Slack, Yammer
- Visual collaboration tools: Google Hangouts, GoToMeeting, Join.me, Skype
The simplest methods can often be the best. Common tools like IM and email are popular communication methods for officemates and telecommuters alike.
Dip Into a Larger Pool
Physical proximity can severely limit your applicant pool, especially for companies based in smaller, more remote cities and towns. Telecommuting allows employers to cast a far wider net when filling open positions.
A wider applicant pool yields additional opportunities. By hiring employees outside the commuting-zone, employers can benefit from diverse perspectives as well as broader networking opportunities for their company.
Drive Interest and Competition
Telecommuting doesn’t just allow you (the employer) to consider more applicants. It also increases the chance that qualified, driven workers will consider you.
Long commutes and the hassle of relocating can prohibit qualified employees from even considering your company during their job search process. Advertising a highly desired opportunity like telecommuting makes you more attractive to applicants and may increase the competition for jobs within your company.
Ease in or Dive In
The transition to telecommuting doesn’t (and shouldn’t) look the same in every workplace. As a result, allowing employees to telecommute doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing policy.
The nature of your work, needs of your clients and other factors will determine whether you dive into the deep end of telecommuting or ease in slowly via incremental changes and trial-and-error experiments.
Not sure if telecommuting will work for your company? Start small. Allow employees to choose one day a week to work from home. Weekly staff meetings an unavoidable necessity? Don’t make the meeting day a telecommuting option.
Giving employees the option to work remotely when ill is another great way to test telecommuting. Employees won’t have to use sick days for minor ailments or rush to make up for lost time. Employers also won’t have to worry about germs spreading through the workforce or losing productivity.
Some employees will have enough motivation and self awareness to telecommute from day one. Others will not. Rather than keeping the opportunity off the table, consider offering it as a perk for employees after a certain amount of time spent at the company or for certain promotion levels.
Cut the Commute
Let’s face it — time spent commuting is usually time lost. Telecommuting allows employees to reclaim that travel time and put it toward personal and professional pursuits instead.
Of course, there are safe ways employees can maximize their commute time. If telecommuting simply isn’t an option (or isn’t an option for all), encourage employees to use this time wisely. They can continue their education by taking advantage of audiobooks, podcasts or language programs. Mood-improving, stress-reducing activities like audio-journaling or singing are also great ways to make a commute a positive experience.
Although it’s possible to improve the commute experience, it’s important for employers to recognize the undeniable cons. Studies have linked long commutes to a number of problems like increased blood pressure, higher divorce rates and lower quality of life. Taking steps to reduce or improve employee commute time isn’t just about providing perks. It’s also about protecting your employees’ health and well-being.
Although many employers fear telecommuting will spell disaster for productivity, working from home can actually improve productivity levels.
The fear is that telecommuting workers will be more susceptible to personal distractions or fall victim to internet-browsing rabbit holes. However, employers often forget to factor in the distractions found in traditional workplaces: constant noise, gossiping coworkers and useless meetings, just to name a few.
Although a study of one company hardly constitutes conclusive evidence, Stanford’s 10-month study of CTrip.com revealed a 13% performance increase thanks to fewer breaks, sick days and distractions.
Make Your Employees Happier and Healthier
A comfortable, personalized environment, greater flexibility, improved work/life balance, no stressful commute — telecommuting has the potential to greatly improve the professional and personal lives of employees.
Of course, making employees happy doesn’t have to be a purely altruistic pursuit. Happy employees tend to be more likely to stay on at a company. Employers ought to factor employee retention and loyalty into the list of telecommuting pros.
Depending on the scope of telecommuting within your company, you could:
- Save on utility bills thanks to lower electricity consumption and water use
- Stay in or move to a smaller (cheaper) workspace even as your company grows
- Save money thanks to a decreased need for food and office supplies
Bottom line: Telecommuting can improve your company’s bottom line.
It can be hard to let go of the status quo, but embracing alternatives for 9 to 5 office jobs can open the door to innovation and improvement. Greater flexibility for employees can in turn yield outside-the-box solutions and new, innovative ideas that will greatly benefit your company.
True, there is plenty of research yet to be done into the pros and cons of telecommuting. That said, one thing is abundantly clear: There are clear pros, and they benefit employees and employers alike.
About the Author
Sarah Landrum is the founder of Punched Clocks, a career and happiness blog. As a freelance writer, Sarah enjoys writing about a variety of topics from career and business to healthy living. Catch her on Twitter @SarahLandrum for more great advice.
Photo Credit: Pixabay