Could telecommuting get more out of your staff?

By: John Sollars

Date: 3 February 2011

Research conducted at Brigham Young University has delved into data from over 20,000 IBM employees across 75 countries, with surprising results.

Employees who telecommute (or work from home) not only balance work and personal life better than ‘standard’ office workers, but they manage to work more hours too.

The researchers identified the point where 25% of employees report their work to be interfering with personal or family life.

In some cases, workers who utilised a mix of flexitime and telecommuting were able to work 50% more hours per week before hitting that point. That amounts to a whopping 19 extra hours work over the same seven-day period. Aggregate this over a year and you’ll run out of work for your staff!

So what is telecommuting?

Telecommuting is an arrangement which gives your employees the freedom to work where and when they please. This gives them big flexibility in their working lives, can remove the daily commute and ditches the idea of having a centralised place of work. It's all reliant on a technology network which allows an employee to work anywhere, at any time.

As a business owner, not only can you get more out of each of your employees, but you can also enjoy significant cost savings. Here are just a few benefits of telecommuting:

  • Diminished office costs
  • Lower travel costs
  • A larger talent pool to pick from (telecommuting enable carers, parents and disabled people to be employed more easily)
  • Reduced absenteeism.

Couple these benefits with higher employee satisfaction and it is hard to see any downsides to telecommuting. However, they do exist.

Telecommuting caveats

If your employees are to really benefit from telecommuting, they need flexi-time too. Because without some flexibility in working hours, most of the benefits of telecommuting are removed. You simply replace the effort of getting to work at a set hour with the effort of getting to a place of your choosing on time.

You also need to think through how to handle management and performance reviews. To assuage fears that employees would simply abuse the power to work remotely, a results-based system needs to be in place. Instead of individually monitoring employees, their work and goals must be measured solely by results.

You have to trust your staff. Any mistakes in implementing this kind of management style could have an adverse effect on employee productivity. After all, what is the point of getting 19 hours more work a week if they get half as much done?

Have you tried telecommuting?

Implemented correctly, telecommuting can be positive both for you and your team. As someone once summed up: 'work is something you do, not something you travel to'.

So how about it? Do you know of any companies or people that enjoy a telecommuting system? Or do you know someone who struggles and would prosper more in a structured office environment?

John Sollars is MD of Stinkyink.com

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