Why Teleworking Should Be an Option for Employees

Advantages, Impediments, and Who Is Allowing Teleworking for Employees?

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Are you interested in the latest information about the state of teleworking? In a world where technology use increases daily and even more significantly with every new generation of workers, teleworking should be pursued as an employee option. It is viable and offers significant advantages for the employer and for employees.

Teleworking and other creative work schedule options are becoming essential to your ability to attract and retain talented employees. Work schedule flexibility is one of your most significant options in attracting millennial employees and retaining the knowledge and mentoring of Baby Boomers.

How important is teleworking to US employees? Of the companies that made "Fortune Magazine’s" 2019 annual “100 Best Companies to Work For” list, 85% of the companies allow their employees to telecommute or work at home. This percentage increases every year.

In the federal government, "Agencies reported through our annual telework data call that the percentage of employees who are eligible to telework remains relatively stable. In 2017, about 43 percent of Federal employees were eligible to telework—one percentage point higher than reported in 2016. OPM recommends that agencies continue to evaluate the optimum use of telework in their organization by regularly reassessing individual employee eligibility determinations and providing updates where applicable."

Is your organization competitive?

State of Teleworking Report

According to the Global Workforce Analytics, "Forty percent more U.S. employers offered flexible workplace options than they did five years ago. Regular telecommuting grew 140% in the past decade, more than 10 times faster than the rest of the workforce.

"We know that because every year, the U.S. Census Bureau conducts the America Community Survey (ACS) which asks members of 3.5 million households questions about where they work. Unfortunately, Census only releases a few basic findings in a media-friendly format, but the rest of the details are buried in databases that we download and analyze using our Telework Savings Calculator.

You will want to read the full report about telework trends. The report offers some key findings of the who, what, when, where, why, and why not of teleworking. Especially interesting are the factors that currently impede the progress of teleworking in a national employment picture that includes these factors.

Specific Facts About Teleworking Employees and Prospects

  • 5 million employees (3.6% of the workforce) currently work-at-home half-time or more [Global Workplace Analytics’ analysis of 2018 American Community Service (ACS) data]
  • Regular work-at-home has grown 173% since 2005, 11% faster than the rest of the workforce (which grew 15%) and nearly 47x faster than the self-employed population (which grew by 4%) [Global Workplace Analytics’ analysis of 2018 ACS data]
  • 56% of employees have a job where at least some of what they do could be done remotely [Global Workplace Analytics analysis of BLS data, 2017]
  • 62% of employees say they could work remotely [Citrix 2019 poll]

How Many Employees Want to Work From Home?

  • 80% of employees want to work from home at least some of the time [State of Remote Work 2019, Owl Labs]
  • Only 12% of federal employees say they would not want to work from home at least some of the time [Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey 2018]
  •  35% of employees would change jobs for the opportunity to work remotely full time (47% of Millennials and 31% of boomers); 37% would do so to work remotely some of the time (50% of Millennials and 33% of Boomers) [State of the American Workforce, Gallup, 2016]
  • More than a third of employees would take a pay cut of up to 5% for the option to work remotely; a quarter would take a 10% pay cut; 20% would take an even greater cut. [State of Remote Work 2019, Owl Labs]

Business Benefits of Teleworking

The advantages of teleworking to the employer and employees are compelling. The advantages and disadvantages of a flexible schedule, including teleworking, were explored at length.

According to the Telework Research Network’s proprietary Telework Savings Calculator™," if those employees who held telework-compatible jobs (50% of the workforce) and wanted to work at home (79% of the workforce) did so just half of the time (roughly the national average for those who do), the economic benefit would total over $700 billion a year:

  • "Save over $500 billion a year in real estate, electricity, absenteeism, and turnover and productivity, that’s more than $11,000 per employee per year.
  • "Increase national productivity by 5 million man-years or $270 billion worth of work.
  • "Additionally save on utilities, janitorial services, security, maintenance, paper goods, coffee and water service, leased parking spaces, transit subsidies, ADA compliance, environmental penalties, equipment, furniture, and office supplies.
  • "Gain back the equivalent of 2-3 weeks worth of free time per year – time they’d have otherwise spent commuting.
  • "Save between $2,000 and $7,000 in transportation and work-related costs. In addition, some would also be able to cut after-school and eldercare costs. Many would also qualify for home office tax breaks.
  • "Save $20 billion at the pumps."

Impediments to Teleworking

In an interview, Kate Lister, an internationally respected and quoted expert on teleworking (work shifting), said, "My projections for the wide-spread adoption of teleworking are more conservative than the projections of other organizations studying the opportunity." She was not as optimistic about the proportion of organizations that are ready and willing to make the profound cultural shift that teleworking requires.

She finds the biggest obstacle to teleworking is middle management. Lister said, "The issue of mistrust—how do I know they’re working—is huge and not easily overcome. Management attitudes that were born in the days of sweatshops and typing pools still dominate. And even in those rare organizations where senior management unambiguously supports the concept, lack of middle management buy-in is the stumbling block. Additionally, in some organizations, senior management is unsupportive of teleworking.

"The second biggest obstacle is job compatibility with teleworking. Some jobs have to be performed on-site. But, proportions of many jobs, in an environment supportive of teleworking, could be performed at home or another work location."

Current State of Telecommuting

Finally, in a  2020 report, the Gallup organization found that from 2012 to 2016, the number of employees working remotely rose by four percentage points, from 39 percent to 43 percent, and employees working remotely spent more time doing so.

"As decades of Gallup research shows, when employees are engaged their performance soars: Highly engaged workplaces can claim 41% lower absenteeism, 40% fewer quality defects, and 21% higher profitability.

"And job flexibility increases engagement.

"Gallup discovered that engagement climbs when employees spend some time working remotely and some time working in a location with their coworkers. Weekly face time with coworkers and managers seems to affect engagement: the optimal engagement boost occurs when employees spend 60% to 80% of their time working off-site -- or three to four days in a five-day workweek. It's worth noting that five years earlier, in 2012, the optimal engagement boost was experienced by workers who spent less than 20% of their time working remotely.

"Gallup finds that this group -- those who work remotely 60% to 80% of the time -- is also the most likely of all employees to strongly agree that their engagement needs related to development and relationships are being met."

Telecommuting in the Era of Remote Work

In the midst of an ongoing public health crisis, millions of employees have been allowed to work from home, and to telecommute with their teams. Prediction? The workplace will never be the same again. Employees are discovering the rewards working from home can bring. They are discovering that they can get the job done with the current state of the art technology. They have creatively found ways to stay in touch with their teams.

Millions of other employees have found that the type of job they work in has made them more vulnerable to illness. Think grocery store workers, delivery people, healthcare professionals, and front line employees of all types. But, whether these required onsite jobs see an exodus in favor of office jobs remains to be seen. The only factor that is for sure is that how people work will be transformed.

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