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The Benefits to Businesses & Employees
of Working at Home

Many workers revel in the thought of telecommuting, or working from home: no commute, savings on gas money, and, of course, no one looking over your shoulder. But the benefits of working from home are not just for employees, businesses also benefit from at-home workers.

telecommuting work

Many major companies are recognizing the win-win benefits of having employees telecommute. In 2007, one such company, Best Buy, plans to transition all 4,000 of its corporate workers to a "results-only work environment" (ROWE), which will focus on productivity, not hours worked.

Currently, only 11 percent of employees telecommute to work sometimes, and only 2 percent do so full-time, according to the National Technology Readiness survey. However, the number of work-at-home employees is on the rise; since 2005, the number of full-time employees who have the option of working from home at least one day a month rose 30 percent, to reach nearly 10 million Americans.

Telecommuting Benefits to Employees

Among the biggest perks of a work-from-home arrangement is a better work-life balance for employees.

"It helps employees accommodate other things, like child care, a long commute or elder issues," said Rose Stanley of WorldatWork, a nonprofit organization for human resources professionals.

An out-of-whack work-life balance is a drain on many employees. Those who routinely put in long hours or overtime at work increase their risk of illnesses including high blood pressure, heart disease, depression, diabetes, chronic infections and even death. This increased stress can easily lead to burn out and reduced productivity on the job.

According to Human Resources Development Canada (HRDC):

"When employees are "out of balance," they experience more stress and fatigue and tend to be absent from work more often due to these reasons. They have less focus while at work because they are worried about issues at home and they are also more distracted at home because work matters weigh on their minds. The end result is that neither situation is healthy or productive; in short, it's a lose/lose situation for employees, their families and their employer."

However, working from home immediately gives a worker more time by cutting out the commute. Meanwhile, a more flexible schedule means that workers can arrange their work around life activities, like a parent's birthday or a child's soccer game, instead of being forced to miss them.

The end result for the employee is less stress, increased family time and greater productivity at work. Meanwhile, according to the National Technology Readiness survey, telecommuting would save the average worker about $688 a year in gasoline costs. (If everyone who had the option of working from home did so, a full 25 percent of adults would be working from home -- and collectively saving nearly $4 billion a year in fuel costs.)

Benefits of Telecommuting to Employers

Telecommuting is second only to "casual days" when it comes to the fastest-growing shift in workplaces, according to the American Telecommuting Association (ATA). Why? Because allowing employees to work from home is incredibly beneficial for businesses.

It's not surprising, then, that some 85 percent of executives are expecting a significant jump in the number of telecommuting workers in the next five years, according to a Boston Consulting Group study.

" ... The benefits of telecommuting [for employers] include increased productivity, lowering of absenteeism, lower turnover, a higher base of qualified candidates, and it could reduce office space requirements," Stanley said.

Indeed, studies have consistently shown that businesses that shift to telecommuting enjoy a 10 percent to 15 percent increase in productivity, according to ATA. Meanwhile, expenses are cut significantly, as fewer in-office workers means less of a need for offices, desks, copy machines, office supplies, etc.

results only work environment

Working from home offers employees more autonomy, flexibility, and less commute time, but demands self-discipline to stay focused.

Businesses are also able to increase their search area when it comes to hiring new candidates (as people who live across the country could now be considered). And, according to the Canadian Center for Occupational Health and Safety, businesses that add to employees' work-life balance by offering more flexibility enjoy such benefits as:

  • An increased ability to attract new employees

  • A more diverse workforce

  • Improved morale and better relationships between colleagues

  • Less stress and burnout, and greater satisfaction, among employees

  • Increased initiative and teamwork among employees

Major Companies Jumping on the Telecommuting Bandwagon

Already, major businesses across the country are embracing telecommuting environments. Consider:

  • IBM: 40 percent of workforce has no official office.

  • AT&T: One-third of managers telecommute.

  • Sun Microsystems, Inc: Nearly half of employees work from home (and they estimate savings of $400 million in real estate costs over six years as a result).

  • Best Buy: By the end of 2007, all 4,000 corporate workers will be transitioned to a new "results-only work environment" (ROWE), which encourages employees to work any hours they please, where they please, as long as they get their work done. (And, in one of the most experimental moves yet, Best Buy plans to test the ROWE initiative in retail stores in 2007 -- among both managers and workers, though they aren't saying how they intend to do this.)

Challenges of a Work-at-Home Environment

You've heard about the pros, now for the cons (yes, there are some when it comes to working from home). For employees, a high level of self-discipline must exist to keep to project deadlines and not get distracted with family issues at home. There is also the challenge of distancing yourself from the office (when the office is steps away from your bedroom, kitchen and family room).

Meanwhile, employers face their own challenges, such as "ensuring employees are completing their work projects, have appropriate technology in place at home and have acceptance within the organization from supervisors and co- workers," Stanley said.

Harprit Singh, CEO of Intellicomm, an Internet development and communications services firm, voices similar sentiments.

"For a telecommuting program to be effective, it should emphasize the benefits of work-life balance to employees and equip them with the necessary technologies to be productive in a remote environment. Employers not only need to ensure that the teleworking employees do not miss out on the important matters at the office, but also remain conscientious about their productivity," Singh said.

Want to work from home AND own your own business? Check out our past article, "Do You Have What it Takes to Start a Successful Home-Based Business?"

Recommended Reading

Working Long Hours Now Proven to Kill You: How to Work Smarter, Not Longer

What to do if You Suffer from Lack-of-Appreciation-itis at Work or at Home

Sources December 18, 2006 December 11, 2006 December 5, 2006

The American Telecommuting Association

Canadian Center for Occupational Health and Safety

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