What is Telecommuting?
Telecommuting (also known as teleworking) refers to the act of completing work assignments from a location other than an office via an internet and phone connection. Instead of commuting to work via some form of transportation, the idea is that the telecommuter can work from wherever they are located, generally from home, thanks to the internet.
With the cost of real estate continuing to rise, companies large and small are opting to allow employees to telecommute at least part of the week, thereby reducing the amount of office space required and the number of parking spaces used. Some companies are going so far as to consist entirely of a remote workforce – everyone on staff is a telecommuter.
According to research on telecommuting conducted by Global Workplace Analytics in January 2016, the number of full and part-time employees who work from home has grown by 103% since 2005 and, in total, 2.8% of the workforce now works from home at least half the time. These figures don’t include self-employed people, who make up another large group.
There are a number of savings calculators available that can give you a ballpark estimate of how much your business can save by allowing employees to work from home. WalletHub’s Telework Calculator offers an estimate of how much you’ll save in gas and vehicle wear-and-tear by telecommuting.
One study by Premier Global Services, Inc. reported that allowing employees to work even half the week from home could save businesses up to $11,000 a year per staffer. That takes into account:
- Commuting time and cost
- Real estate costs
- Productivity loss from unscheduled absences
While many companies fear that allowing their employees to work from home will result in them slacking off, quite the opposite has been found to be true. Thanks to fewer interruptions, telecommuters often get more done during the day, perhaps in part because they are more likely work more than the typical 40-hour week. A Harvard Business School case study found employees at one travel company worked 13.5% more each day – the equivalent of an extra day of work each week. Not only are employees more productive when working from home, they’re also less likely to leave, the more you allow them to telecommute.
Summary of Benefits
To the employer, the main benefits of allowing employees to telecommute at least part of the time can include:
- Reduced workspace needs
- Lower parking costs
- Non-existent relocation expenses
- Higher retention of valued employees
From the employees’ perspective, telecommuting offers:
- Less time spent commuting via car, train, or other means
- Lower commuting costs (gas, tolls, subway pass, etc.)
- Lower wardrobe expenses (from purchase and upkeep)
- Greater scheduling flexibility (allowing doctor visits to occur without much disruption)
- Greater work-life balance
- Reduced chance of illness thanks to sick co-workers
While the upsides of telecommuting are numerous, there are still some disadvantages to be weighed:
- More difficulty collaborating
- Reduced opportunities for promotion (since employees are out of sight)
- Greater potential for employees to work less
- More employee isolation
Thanks in great part to the development of technology that allows employees to connect to work from anywhere, telecommuting is a trend that is expected to continue to shape how – and where - we work.