November 27, 2014

Should Your Company Allow Telecommuting?

Big or small, more companies are looking at letting their employees telecommute now than ever before. According to Telework, 20 million to 30 million Americans work from home at least one day a week. But many business owners still cling to the notion that you have to be seen in the office to really be productive. What’s your take?

Benefits to Working From Home

The biggest draw to letting employees work from home, especially for small businesses with small budgets, is the cost savings. Without needing quite so much office space and the overhead that comes with it, a company can put more money back into growing the business. But there are even more benefits.

Employees tend to self-regulate when working from home. So rather than taking a coffee/smoke/cupcake break every hour, they’re more likely to sit down in front of their computers and get work done. Telecommuting employees take fewer sick and personal days, USA Today reports, and have increased morale. Turnover tends to be lower for companies that allow telecommuting, so you save time and money that would otherwise be spent looking for new hires.

Offering telecommuting is a great draw for potential employees, and may be the factor that directs them to you over a competitor.

working from home

When It Works

Telecommuting works best for positions that aren’t customer facing, and employees who don’t need to meet in person daily. Of course, with technology being what it is, even meetings don’t really need to be face to face. Tools like Skype and Oovoo let you hold videoconferences that are close enough to the real thing to encourage productivity.

Because you likely have a mix of employees who need to interact with customers, meet with teams or just stay squirreled away in the basement, try offering at least some flex options to everyone. For example, you could say sales reps can be out in the field three days a week and catch up on paperwork from home the other two. Teams may be required to meet in person, either at the office or a coffee shop or quiet location, once a week. There are ways to provide the perk of telecommuting to everyone at some level.

What They’ll Need

While you don’t have to supply a cubicle and good coffee anymore, you as the employer are still responsible for a few items telecommuters need:

  • Laptop
  • Internet service
  • Telephone service
  • Printer
  • Office supplies

Without the proper equipment for their home offices, your employees can’t be efficient. It’s best to get a system in place for when a new hire comes in so you can outfit their home offices properly.

Are You Ready?

Even if you love coming to the office every day, consider giving your employees options. If you’re not 100 percent on board with the telecommute thing, start with a handful of employees working from home one day a week. Measure productivity after three months, then if you’re impressed, roll out a larger telecommuting plan. You’ll be glad you did.

12 Comments ▼

Susan Payton - Awards Communication Mgr.


Susan Payton Susan Payton is the Communications Manager for the Small Business Trends Awards programs. She is the President of Egg Marketing & Communications, an Internet marketing firm specializing in content marketing, social media management and press releases. She is also the Founder of How to Create a Press Release, a free resource for business owners who want to generate their own PR.

12 Reactions

  1. This is a discussion I have often with my clients. The majority of our services can be done (in my opinion) remotely, but I still face this obstacle with the majority of my prospects.

    Good article!

  2. I suggested this to my last company, when I wanted to spend time with my father while he goes through chemo. My boss was too old school and said that I needed to be in the office. I had to make a choice between family and career. I chose family and started a business which I operate in a virtual office environment.

  3. @Jon– Good for you to be pushing it. It’s a hard battle, I know.

    @Sam–Sometimes the things that push us into being entrepreneurs are the very things that inspire us, like in your case!

  4. Homesourcing is a definitely a growing trend and it is not uncommon nowadays to meet people who work from home.

    Although there is some kind of aura around the fact of working from home, people are generally envious of your situation, I think people don’t realize it can get lonely and not everyone can cope with loneliness (or is not disciplined enough to work from home).

    Thanks.

  5. Hi Susan,

    The concept for telecommuting is gaining increasing importance these days, the reason is quiet simple, with the market place becoming so competitive, one of the biggest assets a company can have are the employees. Therefore, companies must do all they can to make their employees feel important, telecommuting gives employees the required space and freedom to do work at their own pace which in turn motivates them to be more productive. Great post. Thanks for sharing!

    Riya Sam
    Training for Entrepreneurs.com

  6. I worked for a Fortune 500 company for 25 years. In the mid-1990s they gave me “dial-in” access so I could work from home occasionally. I had my own PC, printer, etc. That turned out to be the best thing they could have ever done. I worked during business hours as needed but I also worked at nights and on weekends because our daughter had gone off to college and my husband worked some weekends. I “killed time” by working on additional projects from home. Now I’m “retired” and work as a virtual assistant. I think the most important part of working remotely is discipline about your time, especially on social media. The amount of sales, or the projects completed, will show whether you are as productive [or not] as working at the physical office. With the use of virtual events such as webinars and teleconferences, it is not necessary to be present at the office to listen and view the presentations — and it is more economical. I am all for working remotely.

  7. I’m actually surprised that the number of people telecommuting are so low. I think that with more and more companies getting the word out about how allowing their employees to telecommute would actually increase productivity, then there will be an increase in that number. Could you imagine in a city that has horrible traffic jams what would happen if 20-30% of those cars didn’t have to be on the road because they are telecommuting? Productivity would go up, and pollution, stress, and road rage would go down!

    Great article

  8. @Aymeric–
    You’re right; while there are perks, there are drawbacks too.

    @Riya–
    I hope that companies feel they should woo employees, even with the economy being what it is!

    @Jan–
    You were ahead of the curve! It is important to discipline. I could work much more than I do (when I’m bored on a Sunday afternoon), so I try to reel it in.

    @O. Bachmann–
    I think companies are still resistant to change, and that takes time to overcome.

  9. Telecommuting is not all about working at home. If someone telecommutes more than 1 or 2 days a week they might beat the isolation or distractions by becoming a member of a local COWORKING location. In the process they get free coffee, free WiFi, and interact with great people.

    In fact, companies can get smart and recommend coworking locations for telecommuters to save them the expense of setting up home offices…and the telecommuter is in an “office”.

    #Telecommuting = #Coworking = #TeleWork = Get off the roads, be more productive, save money, save gas, save time…

  10. How do you control your employee to make them discipline of their work? what tools do you use?

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