Study: Telecommuting can lower office costs, attract better talent

 Photo Credit: Yuvipanda ( CC BY 3.0 ), from Wikimedia Commons

Photo Credit: Yuvipanda (CC BY 3.0), from Wikimedia Commons

Telecommuting isn’t the trend of the future – it’s a reality for an increasing number of organizations and employees.

In late May, CNBC reported on a study by IWG, or International Workplace Group, a Luxembourg-based serviced office provider. The study found that 70% of people globally work remotely at least once a week, and that 53% telecommute for at least half of the week.

Employees also report they are more productive when they have the flexibility to work from home. According to Global Workplace Analytics, 80% to 90% of the U.S. workforce would like to telework at least part-time, with two to three days a week the “sweet spot,” allowing for a balance of “concentrative work (at home) and collaborative work (at the office).”

“The ability to work from home and the emergence of digital office rental services has led to changing attitudes around where people should work and whether they should stick to the traditional nine-to-five working hours,” CNBC reported.

In an April 2 article that looked at a real-life experiment exploring the benefits of telecommuting, Inc.com recounted how Stanford professor Nicholas Bloom found “definitive data” that debunks myths and “indicates it's time once and for all to embrace and enable the benefits of working from home.”

Bloom undertook a “ground-breaking experiment in his graduate economics class at Stanford,” with the help of James Liang, co-founder, and CEO of Ctrip, China's largest travel agency, and its 16,000 employees. “The CEO was interested in giving employees the work-from-home option because office space in the company's Shanghai HQ is supremely expensive and because employees had to endure long commutes to work (not being able to afford city living). The result was horrendous attrition. So Liang wanted to make the work-from-home move but needed proof it wouldn't tank productivity. Enter Bloom, who helped design a test whereby 500 employees were divided into two groups – a control group (who continued working at HQ) and volunteer work-from-homers (who had to have a private room at home, at least six-month tenure with Ctrip, and decent broadband access as conditions).”

According to Inc.com, “the robust, nearly two-year study showed an astounding productivity boost among the telecommuters equivalent to a full day's work. Turns out work-from-home employees work a true full-shift (or more) versus being late to the office or leaving early multiple times a week and found it less distracting and easier to concentrate at home. Additionally (and incredibly), employee attrition decreased by 50 percent among the telecommuters, they took shorter breaks, had fewer sick days, and took less time off.”

The company also saved almost $2,000 per employee on rent by reducing its office space needs.

If your business or nonprofit is considering the potential benefits of telecommuting, you may want to consider the following questions:

How can your employees benefit from telecommuting?

Can your organization tap into more qualified people outside a commuting distance?

How can you find the balance of concentrative and collaborative work for your employees to maximize productivity and benefit from telecommuting?

Is your infrastructure, such as your IT, set up to allow for mobility while keeping your data safe?  

Understanding the implications of remote employees provides an opportunity to reevaluate your operations, including your IT infrastructure. If your managed IT support services do not have a clear mobile path, you may want to consider other options that allow you to take advantage of the benefits of remote access to applications and data.

Other tech tips to support your telecommuting employees:

• Ensure software-to-device compatibility: This will save you money while also providing employees with the tools they need to efficiently and securely perform their tasks remotely. For more information, check out our blog, “IT and the surge of remote workers.”

• Mobile twinning: If you’re off to meetings or out of the office, it may be worth setting up a “mobile twinning” system for employees who need it. The system will ring both your work desk and an assigned cell phone at the same time (hence the “twin”), allowing you to choose which phone you wish to answer.

• Mobile encryption and back-up: If mobile devices are storing sensitive information in cloud-based enterprise programs, local encryption may not be needed as the program will provide encryption. However, if contacts, photos, and sensitive data are stored locally on the device, it becomes important to secure and back up that data, especially on laptops, which often get overlooked. (See our blog on laptop backup for more information.)

• Video chat and conferencing: As demand grows for video conferencing, the competition is heating up. This means that your business can take advantage of more effective, user-friendly video conferencing features at significantly lower costs than what has been available in the past.

These are just a few of the considerations for ensuring your organization has the technology to reap the benefits of telecommuting. If you are considering this option for your employees, contact us, we would love to support you! At Sinu, we believe that people matter, objects don’t. We look forward to helping your business best utilize technology to unleash the real power – the power of your people.