By Dennis Hung
These days, thanks to broadband internet, mobile smart devices, and cloud-based data management, the phrase “phoning it in” is taking on an entirely different meaning. New advances are making it not only possible, but also highly effective for employees across many industries to work from home. In fact, according to Global Workplace Analytics, approximately one fourth of the American workforce currently telecommutes regularly, and as much as half of the total workforce could potentially adopt at least a partial telework system.
It seems clear that telecommunication is on the rise, so let’s take a moment and ask “why?” What are the advantages — to the business, the economy, and the workforce — of telecommunication, and what benefits should you be aware of before moving your organization to a more remote-friendly business mode?
Here are five advantages that are driving the world-wide switch to telecommuting:
It allows for more employee freedom (and better results)
It may be the norm, and it may help ensure that every member of your team is present and available when you need them, but the clock-in, clock-out 9 – 5 workday is stifling. Different people have different scheduling needs, and balancing things like family and other commitments when you’re expected to always be at your desk at the same time five days of the week can be very difficult. Yes, many will put up with it, occasionally taking “sick” days to be able to address personal issues, but they won’t be happy, particularly when they know that the reasoning behind the schedule amounts to little more than “that’s just the way things are done.”
It’s very telling that 80% – 90% of workers in the U.S. would prefer the option to telecommute at least part time. What is equally interesting is that despite the fact that remote-work options mean less direct, in-office contact between team members, they actually create a more productive work environment. Home workers are generally more satisfied with their jobs, are 50% less likely to quit, and are on average 13% more productive than their in-office counterparts. When it comes to employees, it seems that a little freedom can go a long way.
It reduces commuting time.
According to the Washington Post and the U.S. Census Bureau, the average American employee spends 52 minutes per day commuting to and from work. At approximately five workdays days per week, 50 weeks a year (give or take a few holidays and personal days), and spread across the entirety of the U.S. commuter workforce, that amounts to roughly 29.6 billion hours wasted behind the wheel per year. There’s no denying that that time could be put to better, not to mention more environmentally friendly, use.
By opening up remote working options to employees, businesses actually create more usable work hours in the day. Employees become available during times when they would otherwise not be, which also contributes to the aforementioned increase in employee productivity. Finally, by eliminating the need to commute, employers effectively remove a major source of employee stress. These factors combine to create a very attractive argument in favor of working from home.
It’s supported by improving technologies.
There’s a reason why the businesses of the 20th century (and early 21st century) stuck so tenaciously to predetermined work-hour schedules: having everyone in the office at the same time was the only way to ensure effective team collaboration. But things have changed over the past decade. New technologies are making in-person interaction obsolete.
Specifically, internet-based HD teleconferencing options are giving businesses the tools they need to bring everyone together, even when they’re spread across the country (or even the world). Built-in scheduling and alert options help ensure that every participant is on when they need to be, and mobile compatibility means that no one needs to be tied to a desktop just to be a part of the discussion. The best teleconferencing platforms even allow users to host webinars for potentially thousands of participants, entirely remotely. When technology makes it possible to experience all the benefits of in-person interaction without needing to actually meet in person, then it makes sense that more businesses are embracing telecommunication.
It’s cutting down on toxic office politics.
According to the American Management Association, the estimated productivity loss associated with stress-related factors in the office accounts for more than $100 billion in the U.S. alone. At the heart of these these costly stresses are ever-present office politics.
When you have a range of individuals all working in close proximity to one another, it’s only natural that there will be friction, and that friction becomes more intense as the stakes become higher. Gossip, manipulation, backstabbing, and status building all tend to increase as more employees are added to the mix. And while there are treatments for toxic office politics, one effective solution is to allow employees to work remotely. A little bit of breathing room, where your workforce isn’t constantly in each other’s space, can help inspire valuable goodwill among your team members.
It saves employers money
Most of these points come back to a single issue that is worth mentioning on its own: telecommuting saves businesses money. Six out of ten employers recognize cost savings as a key benefit of telecommuting. To put it in more concrete terms, it’s estimated that employers save approximately $11,000 per telecommuting employee per year. The math checks out, and that, probably more than any other factor, is inspiring more businesses to open up to the reality of a remote workforce.
In the last few years, telecommuting has gone from being almost unheard of across most industries, to being nearly as commonplace as working exclusively in office. And as technology improves, outdated restrictions fade, and more employees and organization continue to see the benefits of a remote workforce, it’s only going to continue to climb. Does that mean we’ll be seeing the end of toxic office politics, arbitrary work schedules, or rush hour traffic? That’s difficult to say, but whatever the case, it seems clear that more and more employees are “phoning it in,” and employees and employers couldn’t be happier.
Dennis Hung is a writer of all things business. He’s an expert in sales planning, strategy, pricing, and product Marketing. He has extensive knowledge in organic-only SEO, social media marketing, lead generation, and management consulting. As well he has administrative experience training in call centers and personal sales teams.