What’s the big deal about “telecommuting,” “remote work,” or “working from home”? What benefit does it really have for employers and employees? You may have heard these terms a lot lately, as more and more businesses adopt these options for their employees. Flexible work that allows employees to skip commutes and connect through technology to get projects done away from the office is taking off — becoming not just a trend but a must at many companies.

GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com has updated statistics as of 2016 that allow us a closer look into who uses telework and how — as well as what savings and benefits you might be missing out on if you don’t take advantage of it! Of course the best way to do this is having top-notch conference calling software for remote employees.

Let’s take a look at some of these eye-opening statistics about telecommuting. We think some may surprise you!

What is telework or telecommuting?

Both the term “telework” and “telecommuting” were coined by Jack Nilles in the 1970s. While telework refers generally to using technology in place of travel, telecommuting refers more specifically to technology replacing commuter travel (as in an individual who does not go into an office and works from home instead).

Lately, however, many businesses are favoring the terms “remote work,” “mobile work,” “distributed work,” and “workshifting” in Canada or “smart working” in the UK. These terms seem to capture the flexibility that mobile devices provide to free the typical work day from being tied to an office.

The common sense benefits of this type of practice — usually available part time to employees who can and want to do some of their work at home — are the savings on costs and time associated with a daily commute. It’s also desirable for many people to work on solo projects in the comfort of their own homes, free from office distractions.

But does this really work? We’ll see the proof in the numbers below.

Who telecommutes?

Global Workplace Analytics’ research finds that 50% of all U.S. workforce jobs would be compatible with at least part-time telework. 20–25% of that workforce already telecommutes with some regularity, and the average employee who does so is college educated, middle aged (50+), and salaried at a non-union company of 100+ employees. 75% of those employees that work from home earn more than $65,000 a year, which is in the upper 80th percentile of all U.S. employee salaries.

Those are very high and impressive numbers for those who do and those who could do remote work from home. Many more employees wish they could: 80 to 90% of the U.S. workforce said they would want to telework at least part time, stating an average of two days of telecommuting per week would be a good balance.

As far as the work industries that already offer the option for mobile or at-home work, there are some that have a disproportionately high number of telecommuting employees, relative to the total population. The largest of this disproportion are:

  • Military
  • Computer and Mathematical
  • Arts, Design, Entertainment, Sports, and Media
  • Farming, Fishing, and Forestry
  • Life, Physical, and Social Science

There are many more industries, individual companies, and specific employee roles that are compatible for telework, at least part time.

Why is this trend growing?

It’s easy to see that telecommuting on a regular basis is growing in popularity. 3.7 million employees — 2.8% of the total U.S. workforce — now work from home at least half of their time. Among non-self-employed people, regular telecommuting has grown by 103% since 2005.

It’s important to distinguish this growth as occurring within the population of employees rather than self-employed individuals. This is because the number of self-employed individuals who work primarily from home (22%) has actually declined by 3.4% from 2005 to 2014.

While we can’t know the decisions each person makes when choosing telework, there are clearly some common motivations that have led to this increase in telecommuting employees. For one, employees seem to crave the lack of workplace distractions when focusing on a work project at home — and they get more work done because of it. Companies like Sun Microsystems and American Express have found that teleworkers use more than half the time they would spend commuting to do work for the company, and that they’re 43% more productive than employees who only work in the office.

Employers obviously like this increase in productivity too, but they also turn to telecommuting options because of the cost savings. Companies like Nortel report that they save $100,000 per employee they don’t have to relocate — which is huge for companies when they consider the added benefit of a wider talent pool of remote employees to hire from. Not to mention that when fewer employees are in the office, they save on day-to-day office materials and costs such as those associated with:

  • Utilities, security, janitorial, maintenance
  • Paper products, coffee and water, office supplies, equipment, furniture
  • Leased parking spaces, transit subsidies
  • ADA compliance, environmental penalties

Let’s take a closer look at some more of the benefits that teleworkers and employers who offer teleworking enjoy.

What are the benefits for employers?

To some it may seem like telecommuting is clearly more attractive to employees, but much more of a gamble for employers. Will workers really be as productive when no one is supervising them? Doesn’t a business need face-to-face time to communicate productively?

The numbers show that on the whole, employers have nothing to worry about — and in fact seem to have everything to gain! Global Workplace Analytics estimates that if all the U.S. employees with telecommuting-compatible jobs (50%) and who desired to work at home (79%) did work at home half the time (the average for those who do), the economic benefit would total over $700 billion a year!

This means increasing overall national productivity by 5 million man-years or $270 billion worth of work. It also means saving $11,000 per employee per year, or over $500 billion a year, on costs for turnover and productivity, absenteeism, real estate, and electricity.

Some states like Georgia, Oregon, and Virginia even offer financial incentives to businesses for adopting telecommuting. Others like Arizona, Connecticut, Vermont, and Washington will also provide free training to encourage companies to start using it.

What are the benefits for employees?

For most employees who already express a desire to work from home (80–90% as we saw earlier) the benefits of part-time telecommuting work are obvious and multiple. But if you need any extra convincing, the numbers don’t lie. Using the same scenario as above, where those that could telecommute and wanted to telecommute did so half the time, collectively they would:

  • Save $20 billion at gas pumps
  • Gain 2–3 weeks worth of free time per year that they would have spent commuting
  • Save $2,000–7,000 on transportation and other work-related costs
  • Have the possibility of saving on childcare, after-school programs, and elder care costs, as well as potentially qualify for home office tax breaks

Working remotely helps empower employees to be more self-directed and independent, and many find that virtual collaboration is actually easier when logistical constraints are not an issue. This option also provides the support and flexibility for disabled individuals to find work without leaving home, and they may actually face less discrimination when hiring is conducted virtually.

These benefits are so attractive to most employees that 80% say they consider telecommuting a job perk, and 36% would actually choose it over a pay raise. In fact, in a poll of 1,500 technology professionals, 37% said they would actually take a 10% pay cut if they could work from home!

What are the benefits for the environment?

There are clear reasons why reducing travel is essential and significant for cutting back on CO2 emissions in the U.S. Transportation is one of the biggest industries producing greenhouse gases today, and shows no signs of getting better — unless we make a big shift, and that shift could very well be to telecommuting.

Given the same scenario presented above, where those able to telecommute and who wanted to telecommute did so half the time, the entire nation would reduce greenhouse gases by 54 million tons, which is the equivalent of taking almost 10 million cars off the road for a year! It would also save over 640 million barrels of oil, a value of over $64 billion.

This would also have a huge safety and material effect on the nation’s roads, potentially saving almost 90,000 people from traffic injuries and death, with accident-related costs reduced by over $10 billion a year. It would also reduce wear on highways by over 119 billion miles a year, saving significant cost and labor for roadway maintenance.

If these cumulative numbers seem too far-fetched, consider how companies have personally seen their environmental impact reduced with telecommuting: Sun Microsystems found that having 24,000 U.S. telecommuting employees amounted to reducing yearly CO2 emissions by 32,000 metric tons, just from employees driving less for work.

But do employees really care about this? The answer is overwhelmingly yes: 70% of employees reported that they would see their company in a more favorable light if they worked to reduce carbon emissions. In fact, 24% say they’d even take a pay cut of up to 10% to help make workplace changes to benefit the environment!

Conclusion

What you need for providing telework opportunities to your employees is access to a quality online conferencing service, as well as audio options for those who want to dial in and plenty of features to promote collaboration. Many find that a conference call or virtual meeting is actually better-planned and stays on track more than in-person meetings, as they typically require a little more preparation than simply gathering everyone into a room. Feeling like their time is used efficiently and productively is essential to employee satisfaction.

With the right technology and a little preparation, you can start reaping the benefits of this working lifestyle for your own business, large or small. Feel free to contact us here at Conference Calls Unlimited to learn more about our conferencing services and how we take advantage of telecommuting too!

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