Telecommuting is on the rise, and it hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down. With a generation of workers more than comfortable communicating digitally rather than in person, companies are increasingly offering alternative options for working. Group Skype calls, online hangouts, and other means of collaboration are changing what it means to “go to work.”
Global Workplace Analytics, a research and consulting firm that helps quantify how workplace changes impact productivity, offers statistics on telecommuting trends on their website, www.globalworkplaceanalytics.com. The most recent data from the 2015-2016 fiscal year shows that among non-self-employed workers, the number of employees who regularly work at home has grown 140% since the year 2005—that’s nearly 10 times faster than the rest of the workforce, including the self-employed. Between 2015 and 2016, the telecommuter population increased by 11.7%, the largest year of increase since 2008.
Increases in telecommuting seem likely to continue over the next several years. Data collected by Global Workplace Analytics shows that nearly 50% of the workforce has the capability to work from home at least some of the time, around 80-90% of employees would like to telecommute part-time, and about 20-25% of employees are already working from home at least some of the time. The average telecommuter usually looks like a college-educated individual, aged 45 or older, earning around $58,000 annually at a company employing over 100 people.
But what makes telecommuting so appealing to businesses and employees? Let’s look at three of the top reasons telecommuting is becoming more common in the workplace.
1. Financial and Other Benefits
If there’s one thing really driving the increase in telecommuting and remote work options, it’s the financial benefits businesses are seeing as a result. With at least some staff working remotely, the immediate benefits include a decrease in rent for a building, maintenance costs, utility costs, and equipment. Employees benefit because they save money on gas or public transportation—and they don’t have to waste precious time in transit. No less insignificant is the potential benefit to the environment with a reduction in commuting workers.
According to the most recent available date from March 2016 from Global Workplace Analytics, the estimated savings and impact on the bottom line for businesses would be over $700 billion annually, if workers who had the desire and ability to work from home actually did telecommute half of the time. That number is equivalent to the annual budget of the United States military for the year 2018. Businesses offering to telecommute would save roughly $11,000 per person, while the employees themselves would save between $2,000 and $7,000 each year. Additionally, the reduction in greenhouse gases would be substantial: equivalent to removing the entire workforce of New York State from the road permanently.
The option to telework could also help offset the loss of profit and productivity-related to closures for the weather. For example, just one day of snow closures at federal offices in Washington, D.C. costs roughly $100 million in lost productivity. An estimated five-year cost for implementing telework across the federal government comes to only $30 million, less than one-third of that lost productivity on one snow day.
2. Worker Satisfaction and Productivity
Increased worker satisfaction is another obvious benefit for businesses because it has a direct impact on the productivity of employees and the organization as a whole. Happy employees stay with their company longer, perform better at work, and are less likely to take unscheduled absences. Most workers view the option to telecommute as a major job perk, and about 36% would choose the option to work from home over a pay raise. Work-life balance is a major focus for most people, and a lengthy commute has driven about 14% of Americans to change jobs.
Losing an experienced employee can cost a company a lot of money, sometimes as much as $30,000, and training someone new can costs thousands as well. When asked, about 95% of employers reported that telework has had a major impact on retaining employees, and 46% of companies that use telework noted a decrease in attrition.
Unscheduled absences from work can cost companies significantly as well: up to $300 billion per year. Around 78% of employees who call in sick are really skipping work due to stress, family issues, or other personal problems. In contrast, employees who telecommute are typically able to get some tasks done while sick, without bringing illness into the office. Telecommuters are also able to take care of errands or other family obligations without losing an entire day. According to an American Management Association study, companies that began allowing telework saw a remarkable decrease of 63% in unscheduled absences.
3. Increased Talent Pool
Another obvious benefit for companies allowing telework is the associated increase in the available talent for hire. When the option for remote work and telecommuting is available, employers benefit because they can hire the most talented workers, regardless of where they are located. Geographical boundaries aren’t so limiting. In addition, companies with remote staff can see an increase in diversity and a decrease in discrimination because they typically hire workers without seeing them or knowing what they look like.
Telecommuting also increases the opportunities for work for those Americans who are unemployed or underemployed. When telecommuting is a possibility, the workforce expands to include those who might not be able to work in a conventional job, such as parents, caregivers, or persons with disabilities. There are nearly 18 million college-educated Americans who are not currently participating in the workforce, and about 24 million Americans are only working part-time jobs. More than 12% of the working-age population has a disability of some kind, and a significant number of those individuals report discrimination or transportation issues as reasons they are unable to work.
Offering to telecommute as an option opens up the workforce significantly, and as a result, businesses can increase productivity by hiring the most talented employees possible. Satisfied employees, increased talent, and significant cost savings are just a few of the reasons telecommuting is increasingly commonplace. Take the time to do a little research on telecommuting to see if it could be right for your company; you might be surprised!