Nearly all (93 percent) employees surveyed for the second annual telecommuting survey issued by Staples Advantage, the business-to-business division of Staples, agree that telecommuting programs are mutually beneficial, and more than half (53 percent) of business decisionmakers state telecommuting leads to more productive and happier employees, reducing absenteeism and stress.
By 2016, the number of regular telecommuters in the United States is expected to reach 4.9 million, representing a 69 percent increase from the current level, according to a June 2011 report, “The State of Telework in the U.S.” from TeleworkResearchNetwork.com.
Employees and employers agree that telecommuting is mutually beneficial:
As telecommuting continues to rise, it is important for companies to think strategically about all aspects of their telecommuting programs to ensure cost savings and productivity, as well as work/life balance.
- 75 percent of business decision makers notice happier employees.
- 37 percent report less absenteeism.
- 48 percent of remote workers say they are less stressed, compared to a 25 percent drop in stress when working from home as reported in last year's survey.
“Telecommuting can help achieve balance between workplace demands and life obligations, but being successful isn’t as simple as just sending employees home with their laptops,” said Tom Heisroth, senior vice president for Staples Advantage.
While it’s clear that telecommuting programs benefit all parties involved, the survey pointed out areas for improvement for companies seeking to maintain high satisfaction and productivity rates with a growing at-home workforce. Most important, the survey shows that businesses should evaluate their technology and furniture offerings to improve telecommuting programs.
When it comes to support for at-home workers, the survey highlights specific areas of concern:
Simple enhancements in these areas, such as implementing data backup and improving connectivity for IT, as well as providing cost-effective furniture solutions with easy procurement and set-up options, ensures consistent products and services for all employees. These improvements will transform the at-home work experience, making environments safe, healthy and productive.
- 59 percent of telecommuters do not use their company’s data backup system, putting critical and sensitive information at risk.
- 33 percent of employees say dealing with IT issues is one of the most difficult aspects of working from home.
- 17 percent of business decision makers offer furniture, but only 50 percent of those respondents offer furniture installation services that can save workers time and improve productivity.
- 48 percent of telecommuters use furniture or technology that is not ergonomically adjusted for them, which can lead to discomfort, loss of productivity or injury.
Staples recommends these easy steps for conducting productive telecommuting programs:
- Connectivity—With IT connectivity issues being a main concern for both parties, telecommuting programs should ensure easy access to email, document sharing, instant messaging and video conferencing.
- Network access—Provide remote VPN capabilities so telecommuters can easily access the network.
- Data backup and security—Employees need to be educated about data backup and security best practices to avoid risky practices such as emailing sensitive information.
- Ergonomics—Incorporate ergonomic furniture options into telecommuting offerings—59 percent of survey respondents would accept company-purchased, ergonomic furniture, which would create a healthier work environment.
- Storage—Desk and drawer organizers, file cabinets and additional storage options help telecommuters minimize clutter and maximize space, making home office environments more productive.
- Sustainability—Environmentally preferable furniture options not only help support individual employee and company green initiatives, but also help promote healthier work and living spaces.
By providing quality technology and furniture options for telecommuters, businesses will benefit from more productive, healthy and happy employees—regardless of where they choose to work.