Alleviate Economic Woes Through Telecommuting

Alleviate Economic Woes Through Telecommuting

man working in home office
Bill Fenson

Telecommuting has become increasingly more important for both employers and employees, in the midst of the current global economic crisis. Telework can save money for everyone, reduce the need for additional real estate or rental space, and expand the job search of candidates beyond their own local area. And while it might seem that this is an employer's market right now, there are still positions that go unfilled because the skills are specific enough to demand an expansive search.

For the teleworkers, there are countless benefits that include savings on transportation costs and the elimination of a stressful and lengthy commute. Telecommuters also applaud the flexibility of their work at home schedules, the reduction in the cost of their auto insurance, increased job satisfaction, more work accomplished in less time, and the ability to work during temporary or permanent disabilities.

Laurie Hosken of Phoenix Arizona has been working from home one day a week for several years. Vendor Manager for DHL, Hosken will soon be looking for other telework when her company discontinues its U.S. operations. "We have very limited parking space at the DHL office, so the company started offering us telework one day of every other week a few years ago," Hosken said. "Then, as gas prices soared it was increased to once a week. I work from home each Wednesday. I get more done at home. The DHL office is very open, with no walls. My home space is quiet in contrast. Telework has been a huge benefit – one of the best."

Between 2006 and 2008 the number of telecommuters in the United States rose 39 percent, to 17.2 million.  According to Teleworking Trendlines 2009, the February report compiled by Dieringer Research Group for WorldAtWork, telecommuters not only work from their home offices but also commonly from their cars, a customer's place of business, libraries, coffeehouses and restaurants. A WorldatWork report in August 2008 determined that 40 percent more organizations are now offering a telecommute option than had done so two years prior.

In fact, many firms are starting out completely virtual. Jim Townsend, Editorial Director of The AIM Group, is a longtime teleworker and manages a global teleworking staff for this media consultancy.

"When I was directing the editorial content for New Media at the Houston Chronicle it occurred to me that we would get a lot more productivity done if I allowed people to telecommute," said Townsend. "They had a passion for what they were doing, the passion didn't end at 5 or 6pm in the evening and we made it possible to take those passions home and continue working online. We were already connected through IM to each other so it really didn't matter that they were sitting in cubicles that I could see and touch. It's not true for every position and it's not true for every person. Some people require a lot more human contact for this. But for those that don't it's a good alternative and it makes them more involved with what they're doing, more willing to work. They like what they're doing. And we took the drudgery of a two hour commute out of their day."

As an overview, let's look at some of the many employer benefits noted in "Implementing and Managing Telework: a Guide for Those who Make it Happen" which I co-authored with Sharon Hill. (Employees who wish to convince their managers to allow them to work remotely should note these benefits as part of their persuasive presentation.)

Employer benefits include:

  • Ecological advantages, such as reduction of air pollution and gas consumption
  • Alleviation of traffic congestion
  • Competitive advantage in attraction of employees
  • Increases in employee satisfaction, resulting in increased employee retention
  • Reduction in costs for facility expansion and new real estate
  • Reduced parking requirements
  • Expansion of the labor pool
  • Expansion of service hours
  • Improved productivity
  • Reduction of absenteeism and tardiness
  • Assistance in compliance with ADA and other statutes
  • Reduced business disruptions due to natural disaster, bad weather, power outages, transit strikes and other unforeseen events

In the coming weeks I'll be discussing these and additional benefits in detail, and offering guidance to teleworkers and telework-hopefuls in overcoming managerial and other obstacles to telecommuting.

bill fenson

Bill Fenson, author, speaker and career consultant, is former president of the National Employment Counseling Association. Fenson was recently recognized by NECA with its highest honor, the Judy Gohegan Doi award for his service, advancement and research in the employment counseling field. He speaks and conducts breakout sessions on workforce and workplace topics that reengage employees in their own career and future, specializing in Career Development issues across any industry.

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