Teleworking simply means doing your job primarily from home. If you’re a retailer or a company that repairs building HVAC systems, teleworking obviously isn’t possible because your employees must be physically at the site of their work.
However, there are hundreds of thousands of small and mid-sized companies whose employees drive into an office every day to spend their entire time tapping into a computer or on the phone. Consider the activities of call centers, advertising agencies, engineering design shops, real estate agencies, recruiting firms, even accounting and law firms: why do people working for this type of company need to be in a central office location to do their work given the possibilities afforded by current software for electronic communication and collaboration? The answer is that often they don’t!
Prior to its acquisition by Oracle, 60% of the people employed at Sun Microsystems’ complex in Interlocken, CO, worked from home the majority of the time. Why would a major corporation like Sun think this made sense. Or McKesson Corporation, or countless other large corporations that have migrated to a teleworking model in recent years?
The answers are simple – yet not obvious to many business leaders. Not only is a well-crafted teleworking program a green initiative, it can reduce operating costs significantly as well as boost employee satisfaction. Loyalty and productivity.
Reduced Operating Costs
1. Occupancy Costs
Most importantly, if employees are working largely out of their own homes, a company needs far less office space. Sun Micro was able to free up entire buildings and unload their leases as it moved to a teleworking model. Not only are lease costs reduced, there are enormous savings in associated expenses like energy, water, maintenance, and perhaps employee transportation and parking costs.
2. Reduced Staff Turnover
Numerous studies have shown that the vast majority of people prefer to work at home because of the additional flexibility it allows them to deal with day to day personal matters like getting children to and from school, medical appointments and other necessary daily chores. Other things being equal (like compensation and competent supervision) they will regard teleworking as a valued privilege that may well offset otherwise enticing offers to move to another company. This can dramatically reduce hiring and training costs.
Employee Appreciation & Improved Productivity
Employees who are allowed to telework frequently deliver higher productivity than those working in a central office environment. This is partly due to the loyalty factors mentioned above: loyal workers tend to go “above and beyond” to meet the company’s requirements. However, there are fewer opportunities to waste time gabbing with other workers around the coffee machine. Studies have also shown that teleworking can reduce the kind of demoralizing inter-employee feuding that sometimes afflicts poorly managed central office environments.
A switch to teleworking actually delivers up to a 10% compensation increase to employees because they save money on transportation to and from work and spend less on work clothes. Employees may sometimes be allowed to use company-provided teleworking services for personal use (e.g. broadband internet service), an added perk. A well-run teleworking program can contribute greatly to a company’s reputation as an “employer of choice” which allows them to select the best and brightest when it comes to hiring.
As a green initiative, the benefits of teleworking are clear. They include:
- Fewer cars on the road, which means reduced gasoline consumption and emissions of carbon and air pollutants.
- Reduced energy, water consumption and carbon emissions from office buildings.
Developing and implementing a good teleworking strategy is not straightforward. First and foremost it involves a shift in management thinking about how to motivate employees through a combination of carefully thought out work goals and trust as opposed to the more traditional idea that employees must be closely supervised at all times.
Another important requirement is defining the equipment an employee will need to work at home, who pays for it, how it gets maintained and whether it can be used by the employees for personal purposes.
Setting these things up and making them work can be challenging. However, there are many consultants out there who can provide expert help. Free teleworking advisory services are often available from experts employed by cities and counties as part of their efforts to reduce traffic congestion and air pollution.
For a case study in how the creation of a teleworking program actually saved a small company from extinction, click here.
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