Working from home, not to be confused with home-based “business opportunities,” is a growing trend.
According to a new report from The Conference Board, the proportion of employees who work predominately from home or another remote location has, over the last decade, more than tripled in many industries, while nearly doubling nationwide among all full-time, non–self-employed U.S. workers.
"A confluence of factors, led by the rapid expanse of sophisticated, secure, and relatively inexpensive communication technologies, has sparked a quiet revolution in where and how many Americans do their jobs,” said Amy Lui Abel, director of human capital research at The Conference Board and a co-author of the report. “To take full advantage of the opportunities teleworking provides—while avoiding the many potential pitfalls—employers and employees must engage in an open dialog that establishes the mutual expectations and responsibilities that come with this new workplace culture. Our report should serve as a catalyst for beginning that conversation."
For the employee, the benefits are obvious. With no commute, employees enjoy time with loved ones during precious morning and evening hours. Based from home, they gain the flexibility to adjust their schedules as job and personal demands arise.
How do you convince your boss to let you telecommute? The Conference Board report offers some bullet points that you can use to shape your argument.
It saves money
Steady technical refinement has made teleworking an increasingly attractive business proposition. As a case study,the report cites IBM's long-term holistic strategy, which grew out of the 1970s and the idea of installing access "terminals" in employees' homes.
By 1995, 10,000 IBM employees were mobile, allowing the company to move from a traditional 1:1 workspace-to-worker ratio to 1:4. In just that first year, a $41.5 million investment in worker training returned $74 million in savings.
Teleworkers are often more productive
The Conference Board report notes that companies and organizations that have telecommuting employees have found those working from home are often more productive. They have the ability to focus on work priorities free of the stress of distractions and office politics. In addition, they arrive at their desks each day without having had to endure the stresses of a commute.
Employees who commute to the office often have a “time clock” mentality. Once the workday is over they punch out and head home, often not thinking about work until the next day. In some respects, telecommuters are “always on,” often returning to work in the evening or odd parts of the day.
Working for home can be used as incentive
Whether opportunities for telework are reserved for the best-performing employees, promoted across an organization, or used to attract standout applicants from a wider talent pool - such as disabled veterans, semi-retired experts, and parents with young children – offering a virtual office can help shape a happier, more motivated workforce. But leaders must establish formal, transparent guidelines if the concept is to be a real success.
"Research concurs that the dual lynchpins of effective teleworking are strong management and robust IT," said co-author Gad Levanon, director of macroeconomic research at The Conference Board. "With support from HR, managers at all levels must make the 'mental shift' to trusting that employees are getting the job done without seeing them every day—and to have the strength to act decisively when they're not. On the technology side, the right hardware and software choices backed up by abundant support staff can make the difference between a seamless transition and hundreds or thousands of man-hours lost to bugs and faulty connections."