Not too long ago, telecommuting —  the opportunity to work remotely, usually from one’s home — was considered a one-sided “perk.” Employers could only see it as a benefit to the employee, a last ditch effort to retain valuable staff.  However, with the advent of affordable and ubiquitous technology, a mobile and flexible workforce, and increased competition for finite resources, telecommuting provides more global positive effects.

Ilyse Shapiro, founder of the job search Web site, recently dispelled the notion that employees are the sole winners when it comes to telecommuting.  Employers and the environment are the bigger winners.

“Employers who offer their employees the opportunity to telecommute either on a full- or part-time basis are finding that it provides a variety of incentives.  Telecommuting is a viable and attractive recruitment and retention tool, affords the employee the opportunity to have a better work/life balance,  reduces stress while increasing productivity, and enables the employee to focus on providing higher-quality work.  In addition, telecommuting allows employers to cut costs while positively impacting the environment,” says Shapiro.

Shapiro provides the following analysis to confirm her findings:

Telecommuting’s Benefits on the Environment:

The impact of telecommuting includes reduction in highway congestion, reduced emission of pollutants, as well as savings in energy and petroleum consumption.

In “The Green Book,” authors Elizabeth Rogers and Thomas Kostigen found that workers commute an average of 10,000 miles per year and consume 67 billion gallons of gas.  Telecommuting reduces vehicle miles traveled per year by more than 35 billion and saves almost 2 billion gallons of gas.

Telecommuting’s Benefits to the Employer:

Telecommuting enables employers to reduce their office space and real estate costs, as well as lower their  administrative expenses such as the need for desktop computers, office furniture and land lines.  In addition, telecommuting helps reduce employee stress, fatigue and absenteeism which in turn makes employees more fully engaged and able to accomplish the organization’s goals.

Futurestep, a subsidiary of Korn/Ferry International, found that 78% of executives said that telecommuters were as or more productive than workers in traditional settings.
Both AT+T and Kenexa Research Institute found that telecommuters are more likely to stay with their organization, thus saving recruitment and training costs while building company loyalty.  Turnover can cost between 150-200% of a non-exempt employee’s annual salary.

Telecommuting’s Benefits to the Employee:

Telecommuting provides greater flexibility, job satisfaction and control over one’s time
without the aggravation and money spent on commuting. In addition, telecommuters feel they are able to get more done because they now have uninterrupted periods of time that would not have been possible at the office.

Kenexa Research Institute found that remote and home-based employees feel more favorably that their company has open and honest two-way communication, are more satisfied, and are more confident in their firm’s future than traditional “bricks and mortar” office workers.

Shapiro found that technology turned telecommuting from a possibility to a reality.  Telecommuting is perfect for employees who don’t require constant face-to-face contact with clients.  “Obviously, neither a bank teller nor a retail worker can telecommute.  But, those in sales, technology, accounting, financial services, insurance, real estate, architecture and engineering are the best prospects for positive telecommuting experiences,” adds Shapiro.