We live in an era of increased telecommuting, and employees love it that way. Global Analytics Workplace estimates that roughly 3.7 million employees (2.8% of the workforce) now work from home at least half the time, 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
There are compelling reasons to support remote work arrangements. Global Analytics Workplace has found that 80% of employees consider telework a job perk, with two-thirds of people wanting to work from home; thirty-six percent of employees would choose working from home over a pay raise; and 37% would take a pay cut of 10% if they could work from home.
Clearly, working from home improves employee satisfaction, and there are other significant benefits as well. Telecommuting creates challenges, too, which I’ll get to in a moment - as well as a great way to address some of those obstacles. First, the positives. Global Analytics Workplace has found that working from home:
• Reduces attrition
• Reduces unscheduled absences
• Increases productivity
• Saves employers and employees money
• Equalizes personalities and reduces potential for discrimination
• Cuts down on wasted meetings
• Increases employee empowerment
• Increases employee leisure time
• Reduces stress, injury and illness for employees
• Increases collaboration
• Provides new employment opportunities for the un- and under-employed
• Expands the talent pool
• Slows the brain-drain due to retiring Boomers
• Reduces staffing redundancies and offers quick scale-up and scale-down options
• Reduces traffic jams
• Prevents traffic accidents
• Takes the pressure off our crumbling transportation infrastructure
• Environmentally friendly policies are good for companies
• Offers access to grants and financial incentives
• Ensures continuity of operations in the event of a disaster
• Improves performance measurement systems
A pretty compelling case. And, according to Global Analytics Workplace, a typical business can save $11,000 per person per year with just half-time telecommuting and those telecommuters would save between $2,000 and $7,000 a year.
On the flip-side, telecommuting does present some difficulties:
• Management mistrust
• It’s not for everyone
• Career fears from ‘out of sight, out of mind’ mentality
• Co-worker jealousy
• Security issues
• IT infrastructure changes may be necessary
• Collaboration concerns
• Employment law and OSHA concerns
• Local zoning issues
The strong benefits of working from home seem to outweigh the challenges, and Millennials are particularly attracted to flexible work arrangements, rating this benefit as an 8 on a 10 scale for impact on overall job satisfaction. Work-life balance is one of the most overarching goals of Gen Ys, so offering the perk of telecommuting can pay off especially handsomely in increased employee recruitment for this sector. Perhaps this is why, again according to Global Analytics Workplace, Fortune 1000 companies around the globe are entirely revamping their space around the fact that employees are already mobile.
The challenge is engagement. How can you help remote employees feel that they’re a part of a team? How do you create a sense of camaraderie and collaboration? It’s a question that we encounter quite a bit at Causecast, and fortunately one which we have an answer for: strong employee volunteering and giving programs.
Sure, a robust program that offers a mobile, social and interactive experience in the real world and online isn’t the sole panacea for the challenges of remote employees. But it’s a big start. So many of the suggestions for engaging remote employees which I hear about from HR experts involve solutions that play right into social impact efforts.
Get to know remote employees as people
Gamify the work
Make remote employees feel that they’re a part of a team
Create informal channels of communication outside of work topics
Build a strong culture steeped in common values
Meet face to face a few times a year
Leverage technology to bridge the distance
All of these steps can be addressed through a robust volunteer and giving program that uses giving back as a channel for what I call the 6 Cs: communication, culture, connection, creativity, collaboration and camaraderie.
When considering how to engage your remote employees, think about leveraging volunteer and giving programs as a unifying thread to make everyone in your company feel enthusiastic, inspired and proud. Create occasional opportunities for remote employees to volunteer side by side with their colleagues, and the rest of the year make sure they feel connected to their peers and management through an online platform like Causecast, where they can share their stories of volunteering and giving back alongside everyone else and participate in company-wide challenges as a part of a team. Build a rockstar culture that defines your organization far more than any physical space.
Working alone offers many benefits but it can also be lonely. Connecting all of your employees to each other and to the company as a whole through the pillar of giving back, especially by engaging them in innovative, employee-directed corporate philanthropy efforts, helps your workers feel that they’re a part of something that is bigger than themselves.
And certainly bigger than the bricks and mortar office building where some of them do and some of them don’t happen to actually do their work.