Working at Home Has Its BenefitsBy Pedro Pereira | Posted 2008-10-09 Email Print
Re-Thinking HR: What Every CIO Needs to Know About Tomorrow's Workforce
Telecommuting boosts productivity and cuts costs, and it may even offer an alternative to staff reductions.
A recent study by the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) confirms what I have known for years--working at home makes you more productive.
I know because I accomplish more in my home office during the average workday than I was able to when I worked in a corporate environment.
The study concludes that people who work at home are more productive and help their companies save money. And that's just for starters. The study also found the work-at-home option gives companies a better shot at recruiting and retaining qualified employees and that those employees are generally healthier than office workers.
Considering the current economic situation and the rising costs of doing business, the CompTIA study comes as a reminder that employers need not resort to firing people every time they need to tighten their budgets.
Granted, staff reductions may prove unavoidable in some cases, but employers could save some jobs by cutting overhead through telecommuting.
For some managers, agreeing to let employees work at home requires a greater leap of faith than they are ready to make. For them, an employee who stays home is an employee who is more susceptible to the distractions of the home environment.
Those distractions are real, but I would argue they aren't necessarily worse than distractions in the office, with colleagues stopping by your cube to chat about what they did last night and extra time spent at meetings because it's harder to end a meeting in person than if you conference people in over the phone.
Mind you, I am not advocating a robot-like atmosphere in the office. You should have a rapport with your colleagues. The point is that distractions exist in both environments.
And as it happens, the distractions in the office may actually be worse. Sixty-seven percent of respondents in the CompTIA survey said their organization's productivity increased as a result of allowing employees to telecommute either full-time or part-time. Improved productivity, the study found, owes primarily to workers spending less time getting to and from work.
Fifty-nine percent of respondents telecommuting produces other benefits, such as reduced expenses in office-related materials and in activities that require using a vehicle.
In addition, 39 percent of respondents said telecommuting gives their companies access to more qualified staff, especially people who would otherwise not be hired because of distance. Thirty-seven percent said telecommuting helps retain employees.
In another interesting finding, 25 percent said telecommuting improves employee health, primarily as a result of cutting the stress of commuting.
Though it ranked low with participants in the CompTIA study--17 percent--telecommuting also produces environmental benefits. I suspect this will become a bigger priority as the business world becomes more attuned to the benefits of going green. Buyers of IT services and products are getting pickier about the green credentials of their suppliers, and solution providers and vendors will have to oblige them.
With all these benefits in mind, it's no wonder enlightened managers are allowing more and more of their workers to stay home.
As I mentioned previously, doing so may save some jobs in hard times. IT and channel companies that face the prospect of staff reductions should consider telecommuting and some other alternatives.
Executives at software giant SAP, for instance, are donating 10 vacation days back to the company to help contain costs. The company also is cutting travel and instituting a hiring freeze. During an analyst conference call on Oct. 6, SAP co-CEO Henning Kagermann said the company is not cutting staff because "we do not wish to sacrifice potential growth opportunities when the market recovers."
If only more CEOs had that attitude.
Pedro Pereira is editor of eWEEK Strategic Partner and a contributing editor for Channel Insider. He is at firstname.lastname@example.org.