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Working-at-home a win-win for employers and employees

Sharon Florentine | April 21, 2014
Marissa Mayer's infamous policy for Yahoo aside, telecommuting remains an important tool for reducing employee stress and increasing operational efficiency. Follow these tips to do it right.

More than a year after prominent businesses like Yahoo and Best Buy rescinded their telecommuting policies, Premiere Global Services, International's survey reveals that those high-profile decisions did little to impact the general trend toward an increasing mobile and remote workforce.

According to PGi's survey, 89 percent of respondents reported telecommuting policy did not change during the past year. For those who did report a change, only six percent stated that their company ended an established program, according to PGi.

The survey findings reinforce what PGi has observed for years, says Sean O'Brien, PGi's executive vice president of strategy and communications.

"The overwhelming majority of respondents said telecommuting was very much a win-win situation for both them and their employers, with 82 percent saying they have less stress associated with their work," O'Brien says.

"That reduction in stress levels leads to higher morale, higher productivity and a reduction in absenteeism - all of which accrues to value for businesses," O'Brien says.

In addition, O'Brien says, businesses see cost savings associated with reduced real estate costs and infrastructure costs, while also contributing to a cleaner environment, since employees aren't commuting via car or transit.

The average savings for a worker who telecommutes two days a week is $3,800 a year; according to research from the Telework Research Network, the average cost savings for businesses who have employees working remotely full-time is $11,000 per year, O'Brien says.

Managing a Remote Workforce

Organizations can be less productive if they're not cognizant of and willing to adopt remote working practices, says Jack Santos, research vice president, Gartner, in a recent webinar, Best Practices for Remote and Mobile Work. But there's also a need to focus on some of the unintended consequences a mobile workforce can introduce and develop strategies to address those obstacles, Santos says.

Security is one of the key issues to address when managing a remote workforce, says Maren Donovan CEO and founder of Zirtual.com, a firm that specializes in staffing of remote virtual assistants for professionals.

"When an employee's on-site, in person, it can be easy to ignore the security aspects, especially if they're using corporate-sanctioned technology," Donovan says. "But remote workers present a different challenge - they have access to corporate data, information and resources and it's hard to keep track of how they're using it and on what devices, not to mention it's tough to make sure their devices are secure," she says.

Making sure to have non-disclosure agreements in place as well as performing background checks can help assuage security concerns, Donovan says. And, of course, communication is key, Donovan says.

Fostering effective communication involves understanding how teams relate to each other both professionally and personally, both Donovan and Gartner's Santos say. Allowing for casual social interaction whenever possible can improve productivity and morale, and nurture the bonds between team members who aren't physically sharing the same office space.

 

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