In 2005, roughly 1.8 million Americans spent at least half of their time working from home. By 2017, the number of telecommuting employees had more than doubled to 3.9 million. This trend is only expected to increase as more companies discover the many benefits of allowing their employees to work from the comfort of their homes.
What exactly are those benefits? Are telecommuting work arrangements a good idea for your business? Let’s take a look.
The employee-side benefits of remote work
Convincing your teams to work from home is a pretty easy sell. After all, what employee doesn’t want to avoid the hassle of waking up extra early, putting on work clothes and commuting to the office? These benefits alone explain why approximately 36 percent of U.S. workers would forgo a pay raise if they could telecommute. An equal percentage of American employees would take a voluntary pay cut if they could work from home.
However, the benefits of remote work arrangements go much deeper. In addition to better sleep, less traffic and more comfortable clothes, telecommuting has been shown to improve the physical and emotional health of American workers. Moreover, employees also enjoy higher job satisfaction and a better work/life balance. By letting your teams telecommute, you’re helping to reduce unnecessary stress in their lives.
In addition, telecommuting provides employees with much greater agency, allowing them to learn and apply new principles at a pace that works for them. As an employer, you may initially feel uncomfortable granting your teams this much control over their development. However, your employees are far more likely to produce their best work in the absence of direct supervision.
The employer-side benefits of telecommuting
Many bosses are initially resistant to the idea of telecommuting. They envision lazy, distracted employees who “work” in their pajamas. Yet recent studies have shown that the opposite is true. Remote work arrangements increase productivity — by as much as 20-40 percent. Part of this boost stems from the higher job satisfaction that telecommuting employees enjoy.
Better still, remote workers miss fewer days and take less overall sick leave. Again, the numbers aren’t difficult to understand. An estimated 80 percent of employees who normally call in sick aren’t really under the weather at all. They just need a break from the commutes, traffic and office environment.
Telecommuting has also been shown to help companies:
- Attract better talent. Because you’re no longer limited by geography, you can tap into a global pool of employees. Not everyone you hire needs to be a full-time worker. Telecommuting gives you access to entire marketplaces of short-term freelancers and contractors.
- Retain better talent. Remember those voluntary pay cuts and forgone pay raises mentioned before? Telecommuting is another employee perk that you can feature in your “benefits” packages. In fact, remote working arrangements can reduce job turnover by an average of 50 percent.
- Train better talent. Remote working arrangements lend themselves to easier (and cheaper) professional training. Rather than require that all employees remain on-site for the next company workshop, it’s possible to provide that same training entirely online. Employees can then access and review course lessons on demand — moving at their own pace. Once a workshop has been created, future employees can follow the same training module at no additional cost to the company.
Just think about all the time and money you invest recruiting, hiring and training new employees. By allowing your teams to work from home, you can reduce many of these HR costs.
There are other savings on the table as well — since telecommuting means that you don’t need as large an office if people work from home, buy or lease as much office equipment, pay as much for equipment maintenance, and repair or spend as much on utilities, such as water, power and gas. Just imagine what you could do with all those extra savings.
The societal benefits of telecommuting
This is to say nothing of the societal benefits of telecommuting — which help you, your employees, your organization and everyone else. These include less traffic and congestion on the road (which means less overall pollution) and lower taxes since roads, bridges and tunnels receive less wear and tear
In addition, there’d be fewer auto accidents across the board if more people telecommuted. By some estimates, if every person who could work from home was allowed to do so (on a part-time schedule), this would save more than 1,600 lives every year, prevent nearly 100,000 injuries annually, and save $12 billion in cleanup and legal costs.
Companies that try remote working arrangements consistently report productivity boosts, measurable savings, happier employees and lower job turnover. Although there’s no guarantee you can automatically duplicate these benefits in your organization, telecommuting is certainly worth exploring. Maybe try it on a limited basis and allow your employees to work from home at least one day a week. Based on the results of this experiment, you can scale up (or down) as necessary.
Don’t forget that during this trial period, you also get to work from home.
Adam Curry is a Solutions Architect at Unify Square, which provides software and services to help businesses manage meetings, chats and calls. Curry has more than 15 years of experience in various telecommunication and networking systems across multiple verticals including energy, financial and manufacturing.