The last decade has seen a huge shift in the business landscape, rivalling the effects of the dawn of the industrial revolution. The virtual workforce started as a primarily “tech-business” related trend, but has begun to go mainstream, with almost every type of company today experiencing an increase in telecommuters, or remote workers. That said, some organizations are so deeply rooted in the traditional business paradigm that they have yet to embrace telecommuting’s many benefits. Many fear a loss of control over employees, or decreased accountability or performance. While working remotely isn’t for everyone, there are huge advantages telecommuting can offer for both businesses and employees.
Reduced travel costs. Many people, especially those living in large cities, can spend a large part of their salary—and their day—commuting. By working from home, employees save the time and money that is wasted on trains, buses, or gas and parking for their automobiles. Plus, without the stress associated with commuting, people are more productive and focused on work. For businesses, various technologies like unified communications, VoIP, and videoconferencing, allow them to conduct vital meetings or training sessions without the costs associated with flying employees to different locations. It also broadens their pool of workers because location is no longer a barrier or restriction. Teleconferencing can also quicken and streamline training and recruitment processes, leading to higher productivity and employee retention rates.
Ability to work unconventional hours. Businesses are experiencing a change in the traditional 9-to-5 work day. Companies with international clients often have to conduct meetings or other transactions at different times due to time zone issues. Telecommuting allows for business as usual regardless of the clock. Many organizations can also greatly expand their customer service hours using remote staff, which ultimately improves customer satisfaction.
Telecommuting helps the planet. Telecommuting takes more cars off the road, reducing vehicle CO2 pollution. A Consumer Electronics Association study found working from home saves enough energy to power a million homes in the U.S. for a whole year. Working remotely also saves businesses in energy consumption and promotes their interest in being green by reducing their carbon footprint.
Increased Employee Satisfaction. Unfortunately for businesses, millennial employees are showing a very low job retention rate. Most people consider working from a home a perk when considering a position and tend to leave jobs because of long commutes. A Workplace Analytics study found that 36 percent of people would prefer telecommuting over a pay raise. Employees working from home are happier, less stressed, more productive, and tend to stick around longer, which saves organizations money in the long run.
Telecommuting and Technology
Now that we have explored some of the many benefits associated with telecommuting, there are certain technologies needed for companies with a remote staff. Using some or all, depending on the organizations’ needs and budgets, will make telecommuting effortless and seamless.
Internet and email access. While this is obvious, it still needs to be a priority. Employees must have a reliable Internet connection at home to collaborate and share files quickly. A separate work email or another dependable email client is advised to streamline communications or share calendars. Organizations may also want to consider remote access to your networks and resources via a virtual private network (VPN).
HD videoconferencing. Businesses may be tempted to use freeware such as Skype and Google Hangouts to conduct group meetings, but it is best to invest in a paid videoconferencing service. There are various price points for telepresence solutions and security is always a top priority with each. Organizations will need to make sure each employee is outfitted with the correct equipment for videoconferencing to ensure meetings are productive and seamless.
Cloud-based collaboration software. There are dozens of cloud-based tools that allow employees to communicate and collaborate on documents in real time. Many of these are becoming more commonplace as people tend to use them for their personal tasks as well. Because of that, the software and interfaces are familiar and many people are not hesitant to use them for work. With so many options and price points, there are no real downsides to using the cloud.
Telecommuting is expected to continue to grow in the next decade, with some predicting that more than 40 percent of tech-based workers will be working from home in the next few years. As businesses grow and innovate, technology makes it easier for employees to collaborate and stay connected. People have voiced their preference for telecommuting and it has been proven to increase productivity and employee retention, as well as being more cost-effective and eco-friendly. With advantages for both businesses and employees alike, telecommuting is not a fad for the future, but the way to do business today.