Telecommuting: Good idea or bad idea?

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Last week’s WFH Day in Austin got us thinking. Though there are many employers that have embraced telecommuting and encourage their staff to work from home, there are still many others who aren’t sure whether it is the best idea for their company. In order to better understand the flip side of the argument, we wanted to discuss the topic from both angles in today’s blog post.

Telecommuting – or working remotely without commuting to a central office – is on the rise in the US.  According to a recent article in CNN Money, the number of Americans working from home full-time has soared by 41 percent the last decade alone, up to 13.4 million people – and nearly one in ten employees works from home at least one day a week.  As more and more people get access to affordable high-speed internet access, it is a likely probability that numbers will continue to rise.

Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia

But as with any change to the system, there’s plenty of debate about whether or not working from home is a good thing in the first place.  An article published on Slate.com, with the telling title “Snack Laundry Lunch Clean Snack,” discussed the findings of a survey conducted by Wakefield Research into how telecommuting workers spent their time.  According to the results of the study, a significant percentage of employees cited that they’d participate in other household activites while “working” at home, such as watching television or making dinner. These numbers certainly give credence to the study’s parallel findings that half of all respondents believed their bosses disapproved of remote working.

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But the inherent problem with focusing on corporate fears of working from home is that in doing so, we overlook the real, tangible benefits employers get out of this arrangement. Without the need to provide and supply a central office, companies could save big – to the tune of $200 billion a year, according to a study cited by a recent article in Business Insider. Not only that, but a study conducted by The University of Texas at Austin found that telecommuters surveyed are more likely to put in extra hours,  which could mean increased worker loyalty, decreased turnover, and more profits.

Still not swayed?  A second article on Slate.com provided a concrete example of how companies can benefit from letting employees work from home. The chairman of a Chinese online travel agency wanted to find out if it made sense to allow customer service agents work from home, so he ran an experiment at the company’s airfare and ticketing office in Shanghai.  Test and control groups were set up, with some workers allowed to work from home while others were required to continue their daily commute.  It didn’t take long for the benefits of telecommuting to become clear.

Over the course of the experiment, home workers answered 15 percent more calls than their cubicle-dwelling coworkers, in part because each work hour was 4 percent more efficient for those at home.  And perhaps best of all, they converted the same percentage of calls to sales as did employees at the office, suggesting that the distractions inherent in working from home had little effect on their productivity.

Because telecommuting presents a significant change to the office paradigm, it’s understandable that some employers are afraid to embrace it.  But if you’re interested in saving money while getting more work out of your employees, maybe it’s time to consider how telecommuting can work for you.

- Dan Lothringer
Dan is a contributing writer for VideoConferencingSpot.com

One Response to “Telecommuting: Good idea or bad idea?”

  1. Glanna

    We see a lot of great benefits not only for the company but also on the telecommuters side. Aside from saving time and money just from telecommuting alone, employees get to be more productive, sleep for 8 hours, have more time for their friends and family, experience less stress, more flexibility and other countless benefits that a hardworking employee deserves. Companies often worry if they are overpaying their employees and if they are really working on the allotted time. Our team never gets to worry about that because we use a software called . It tracks the time and specific task that an employee is working on. Therefor ensuring trust on both sites. Very recommended.

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