Companies that give their workers the option of telecommuting are seeing greater productivity, lower costs, improved employee health and greater employee retention, according to a survey released today by the Computing Technology Industry Association.
Case in point: I'm typing this from this from my own home office setup - a desk out in a corner of the garage where there's a printer, a phone, some speakers (for my background tunes) and even a small TV with CNN on in the background. I'm still wearing the shorts and T-shirt I threw on this morning when I started the grind of getting the kids off to school. Since then, I've gone through my RSS-feed reader, answered a handful of e-mails and started writing this blog entry.
The upside for the boss: I started working as soon as I poured that first cup of coffee and haven't really stopped since. The upside for me: I didn't have to fill my tank, scrounge up some lunch money or even iron a shirt. And when the kids get home from school, I'll be here. There's no sitter to pay just to watch them do their homework.
Among the findings of the survey:
- 67 percent of the companies polled said employees were more productive, largely because they spent less time getting to and from work.
- 59 percent reported seeing cost savings from reduced use of office-related materials and resources.
- 39 percent said they have access to a more qualified staff, expanding their options to people who are located in - and not willing to relocate from - other regions. Likewise, 37 percent said telecommuting improved employee retention.
- 25 percent said employee health was improved, largely by reducing stress levels associated with the commute.
- Other benefits included promotion of safety through reduced highway use (18 percent) and environmental benefits (17 percent).
Today's tech tools - things like VPNs, WiFi hotspots, faster broadband connections and online and video conferencing services - have made telecommuting easier. My favorite tool: a virtual phone number from Google's Grand Central service allows me to give my business contacts one phone number that simultaneously rings my home phone, office phone and cell phone so I never miss a call.
There are some downsides, though. Companies said that their challenges include: securing corporate information systems (53%), limiting use of unauthorized and unsupported devices (38%), and controlling personal use of corporate mobile assets (33%). To meet the challenges, companies have had to upgrade their networks and VPN equipment and expand security, training, and implementation of new virtualization technologies and applications.
For the employees, the biggest downside of being a telecommuter is that idea that you're never really "off." More often than not, I'll give the boss another hour or two of work after dinner or just before bed - which can easily turn a 40-hour week into a 50-hour week. But I don't mind. For me, giving the company some extra work time is my way of saying thanks for the opportunity to stay off the freeway and be around to watch my kids grow up.