Sunday, 10 June 2012

What are the green benefits and the challenges of telecommuting?

Telecommuting is booming all over the world, especially in India, Mexico, and Indonesia, where over 30% of workers are claimed to telecommute (2). For those that are not so familiar with this concept, “Telecommuting is the act of working from a remote location, usually one's home.” (1) Most telecommuters simply rely on e-mail, printers, fax machine, conference calls and a broadband-connected computer.

The growth of telecommuting can be partially explained by the rapid penetration of Internet, easier and cheaper forms of IP telephone solutions and a new generation of high tech laptops that can easily replace enterprises’ desktops. Another major factor pushing companies to implement this initiative is the pressure for cost reduction, which has forced enterprises to think about alternative solutions to improve their way of doing business. In this context, telecommuting is helping organizations to reduce their operational costs by decreasing communications costs and the amount of office space and services provided to their employees. 

Moreover, many researches have shown that from a business perspective, the implementation of telecommuting has tremendous impact in terms of increased productivity.

  • A research of over 11,000 workers worldwide by Ipsos and Reuters showed that 65% of those polled felt that telecommuting allowed them to be more productive because they have more control over their work life. (2) 
  • Telecommuters at American Express are reckoned to generate over 40% more business than their office-bound colleagues. British Telecom’s 9,000 teleworkers are apparently 30% more productive than their office counterparts. (4) 
  • Cisco recently surveyed 1,992 employees who telecommuted an average of two days per week and 69% of them cited productivity increases, and 80% said the quality of their work improved from home. (3)
From the employee perspective, there are also several personal benefits of being a telecommuter, such as: flexible working hours and less time spent on the way to work. Therefore, if you're self-motivated and disciplined, work well independently and do not need constant supervision, you're a good candidate for telecommuting.  

However, it is not all about good news. There are some challengers that need to be addressed. One of them is the feeling of isolation, telecommuting can be rather lonely.  A research made by Ipsos and Reuters showed that 62% of those polled “socially isolating” as a difficulty. (2)
Finally, we wonder if the introduction of telecommuting programs also results in a carbon footprint reduction. In other words, is there a green benefit - a measurable impact on environment? (This subject is so important that in order to address it, the next post will be entirely devoted to this theme.)
In sum, the most important takeaway is that telecommuting is a trend and is going to grow even faster in the next years. However, Companies have to be smart enough to analyze what type of employees ate interested in working like this and for how long. Some people enjoy the possibility of working one or two days from home, but not more than that. Finally, in order to overcome some of the most common problems, Companies should try to manage the amount of time coworkers telecommute and, above all, encourage face-to-face interactions.


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