Ways to Win with Telecommuting

January 4th, 2019 by ifi-admin

Photo of a man working from home
In recent articles, we’ve discussed the benefits of offering perks to attract highly talented technical professionals, as well as the importance placed by candidates on the availability of flex-time and telecommuting. Now we’ll delve into ways telecommuting might work for your company in 2019.

Part 1. Why Offer Telecommuting

Offering remote work opportunities is more than just an attractive way to gain productive workers. According to recent research, telecommuting can also increase employee retention by 50% and increase productivity by as much as 24%. That’s because despite employers’ best efforts to create the kind of work spaces that will keep employees engaged, research by the Harvard Business Review (among others) suggests that the number of people who say they cannot concentrate at their desk has increased by 16 percent over the last decade, with 13 percent more saying they do not have access to quiet places to do focused work.

In a FlexJob survey of 5,500 professionals, 66% agreed that their productivity improves when they are NOT in the office. Even more importantly, 76% think that there are fewer distractions outside of office.

Telecommuting can help fight the rise of distracted work environments, though it is not without pitfalls. Problems with telecommuting include: diminished knowledge transfer, decreased engagement, cultural disconnect, a potential slew of new distractions and increased difficulty collaborating. Success lies in setting clear expectations, developing reliable technology to support remote work, and creating the processes to use the tools and maintain communication, which we will address in the next segment.

By the Numbers – Half of All Jobs Suited to Telecommuting

According to Global Workplace Analytics’ landmark 10-year study, 80% to 90% of the US workforce says they would like to telework at least part-time.

In addition, the organization estimates that:

  • 50% of the US workforce holds a job that is compatible with at least partial telework and approximately 20-25% of the workforce teleworks at some frequency
  • Two to three days a week seems to be the sweet spot that allows for a balance of concentrative work (at home) and collaborative work (at the office).
  • Fortune 1000 companies around the globe are entirely revamping their space around the fact that employees are already mobile. Studies repeatedly show they are not at their desk 50-60% of the time.

Stanford Test Case – Ctrip China Increases Productivity & Retention

In a 2-year Stanford University study, researcher Nicholas Bloom, with co-researchers James Liang, John Roberts, and Zhichun Jenny Ying, studied China’s largest travel agency, Ctrip. Headquartered in Shanghai, the company has 20,000 employees and a market capitalization of about $20 billion.

They solicited worker volunteers for a study in which half worked from home for nine months, coming into the office one day a week, and half worked only from the office. Bloom tracked these two groups of 500 employees across several dimensions of performance. The results?
“We found massive, massive improvement in performance — a 13% improvement in performance from people working at home,” Bloom said in a TedX talk and subsequent article. (https://youtu.be/oiUyyZPIHyY)

That equates to a full day’s work. As it turns out, work-from-home employees work a true full-shift (or more) versus being late to the office or leaving early multiple times a week and found it less distracting and easier to concentrate at home.

When Ctrip, pleased with the success of the study, rolled out optional telecommuting for ALL of its employees, the productivity increased among telecommuters by 24%. At the same time, at least half of the test group asked to return to the office, citing lack of social stimulation, and highlighting the importance of having telecommuting being an optional, worker-selected phenom.

Additionally (and incredibly), employee attrition decreased by 50 percent among the telecommuters; they also took shorter breaks, had fewer sick days, and took less time off.

Bloom’s ultimate recommendation is to allow working from home a few days a week and balance that with the need for collaboration time. In our next installment, we’ll look more closely at ways to help telecommuters stay connected, to increase team collaboration, and examine some of the reasons telecommuters outperform office workers.

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