Telecommuting: How Your Company Can Save Millions

Last Updated Aug 23, 2007 6:21 PM EDT

telecommuting.jpgGartner Dataquest estimates that 12 million US employees currently telecommute more than 8 hours per week, up from 6 million in 2000, and that number's expected to reach 14 million within two years. For employees, teleworking (more apropos since it implies actual work being done) offers a sense of freedom and flexibility -- not to mention a break from filling the tank. Companies can save by downsizing office space.

Sun Microsystems Inc. implemented an "Open Work" program with three levels of workspace assignments: assigned (always in-office), flexible (working out of flexible offices, drop-in centers, or home), and home. The program spawned $387 million in IT and real estate savings and a 28K reduction in CO2 annually. The savings don't have to end there. The Information Technology Association of America found that 36 percent of US employees would take the option to telecommute over a pay raise.

Microsoft Small Business Center offers seven tips to making telecommuting work for your business (more detail on the website):

  1. Establish guidelines for when (and how long) telecommuting is acceptable. Other thoughts to consider: Will telecommuting affect the pay structure? Do employees need to be accessible at specific or all times? Can either party end the telecommuting agreement at any time?
  2. Have ways of making sure expectations are met. Establish some type of system for charting and evaluating progress, perhaps through conference calls.
  3. Trust your workers by focusing on the results, not the process. People are bound to do things at home they wouldn't do in the office (like taking a quick Oprah break). As long productivity is up, there's no need to micromanage which hours are spent working.
  4. Don't cut corners on technology. There's potential for savings here, but employees need to have adequate equipment to be effective.
  5. Don't cut corners on ergonomics. Employers need to keep records of injuries sustained at home because they could be found liable in employee damage claims. To minimize injurires, provide for telecommuters exactly what you'd give them in-office (i.e.: an ergonomically-correct workstation for someone whose always typing).
  6. Provide access to a company intranet or extranet. Employees also need to be well-educated on best practices for mobile security.
  7. Make the most of face-to-face contact. Many people choose to have at least one day in the office because it not only keeps them in the thick of things; it also reminds coworkers they're pulling their weight.
(Working Remotely Image by richard winchell)