March 29, 2013
Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer’s decision to prohibit Yahoo employees from working from home has caused outrage from work-life balance advocates to environmentalists concerned about further CO2 emissions, not to mention the thousands of employees impacted by her decision. Now, the results of a new survey from Global Workplace Analytics suggest that Mayer’s policy may hurt Yahoo’s bottom line even more than it’s hurting morale. The GWA survey is based on a review of 500 studies about telecommuting. It reports that businesses actually lose more money from employee inefficiency in the office than from telecommuting. That is, businesses lose $600 billion a year in the form of workplace distractions, while two-thirds of employers report increased productivity among their telecommuters. Among other interesting findings:
- 95% of employers say telework has a high impact on employee retention.
- 92% of employees are concerned with the high cost of fuel and 80% of them specifically cite the cost of commuting to work. 73% feel their employers should take the lead in helping them reduce their commuting costs.
- 47% of people who have the option to telework are “very satisfied” with their jobs, compared to 27% of those who are office-bound.
- Organizations that implemented a telework program realized a 63% reduction in unscheduled absences.
- Teleworkers typically continue to work when they’re sick (without infecting others).
- A typical office worker spends less than half their time at their desk.
- Nearly 60% of employers identify cost savings as a significant benefit to telecommuting.
- Telecommuting ffers inexpensive compliance with ADA for disabled workers.
- Sun Microsystems’ experience suggests that employees spend 60% of the commuting time they save performing work for the company.
- AT&T workers work 5 more hours at home than their office workers.
- JDEdwards teleworkers are 20-25% more productive than their office counterpoints.
- American Express teleworkers produced 43% more than their office based counterpoints.
To be fair, there are legitimate concerns with telecommuting, as revealed in the GWA study. Some employees admit that they don’t telecommute because they fear “out of sight, out of mind” issues with performance measurement. Other concerns include co-worker jealousy; IT infrastructure challenges; collaboration concerns; and inability to monitor overtime.
A telecommuting policy will not work for every position, company or industry. (Read: if you provide elder care services, don’t implement a work-from-home policy). But for those who work in industries that are compatible with telecommuting, consider the following when developing and implementing a telecommuting policy:
- Are there certain jobs at your company that lend themselves to telecommuting because the employee can work independently? That is, does the employee have adequate and suitable work that he or she can perform from home?
- Do you have the proper security safeguards in place, such as VPN (Virtual Private Network)?
- Is the employee in good standing with the company? That is, is the employee dependable? Does he or she have a proven track record of working well with limited supervision?
- Will the company require a minimum number of hours or days in the office so that the telecommuting employee is available to meet face-to-face with her supervisor and attend other office or department-wide meetings?
- Who will oversee and evaluate the success of the telecommuting program?
- Who will be responsible for paying for the necessary home office equipment?
- How will you determine eligibility?
- What criteria will you use to determine whether the telecommuting arrangement is working? How will productivity be measured?