At the beginning of July we asked our readers about telecommuting, and 95% of respondents said they would change jobs to have the ability to telecommute. Why is the desire to work from home so strong?
Benefits of reporting for work at home
When Express Employment Professionals asked what the biggest reason to telecommute was, 66% responded, “to eliminate commute time and costs.” Time spent in a car can seem like time wasted. And with gas prices in the U.S. averaging over $3.50 per gallon since March of 2011, spending your paycheck to get to work can be really frustrating.
Only 10% of respondents cited “fewer interruptions” as their reason for wanting to work from home. This response is lower than other studies that have shown the productivity benefits of employees who telecommute. A study out of University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Northwestern University showed that telecommuters had higher job satisfaction than office-based workers, citing that they were able to focus on work because they weren’t caught up in long meetings, co-worker interruptions, and office politics.
Express also asked employers about telecommuting and 56% of respondents who allow employees to work outside of the office saw “increased employee morale” as the biggest benefit. This may coordinate with the work/life balance that telecommuting can bring. A Brigham Young University study showed that employees who worked from home didn’t experience the strain of work/life balance office workers feel. This is coupled with the added benefit to employers that workers who were telecommuting could clock an extra nine hours a week without feeling a reduction in work/life balance.
Striking a deal
If you want to ask your employer if telecommuting is an option, here are some tips to bring up the topic.
- Ask about the company policy on working from home. Just because you haven’t been allowed to work offsite, doesn’t mean its not allowed. In your next regular meeting with your manager, ask about the company’s view on telecommuting. It may be acceptable in some positions and unacceptable in others, so seek to understand why and learn more.
- Explain the benefits to your employer. Your manager may not care about your commuting during skyrocketing gas prices, but he may want to know how you can meet your deadline for next week’s audit. If you need a break from workplace distractions to get more work done and meet a deadline, you may be able to negotiate time out of the office. Another scenario may be having to meet a home repairman. Instead of asking to use vacation time, offer to work from home on a specific project while you wait for your air conditioner to be fixed. It’s a win-win, your work gets done, and you’ll stay cool.
- Don’t let them down. Of course productivity is important, whether you’re working in or out of the office, but it’s critical you get your work done when being allowed to telecommute. With 45% of leaders saying “decreased productivity” is their biggest concern in allowing employees to work from home, you don’t want to prove them right. When you’re scheduled to work outside of the office, let your manager know what projects you’ll be working on and then follow up with them on your progress. Respond promptly to phone and email messages, reinforcing that you’re focused on work. Some offices may want you to be on the clock during your traditional hours, while others may allow you to flex your work hours when telecommuting. Either way, you’ll need an agreed upon time that you’ll be working. If you have children, make sure you arrange for childcare so you can get your work done without distractions. Don’t forget to take all the supplies you need home with you, and remember to bring all of your work back with you to the office.
Telecommuting needs to be an option that benefits both the employer and employee. While there are pros and cons to working outside of the office, the most important thing is that the work gets done, and gets done well.