Thanks to the Internet, digital devices, and excellent software, fewer workers than ever are braving the morning commute. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1 in 5 American workers spend some or all of their workday in the comfort of their own home. But even as telecommuters rejoice in having such freedom, many workplaces are still reluctant to adopt telecommuting policies.
In fact, there are valid reasons for workers to come into the office. For example, potentially insecure home devices and networks might create vulnerabilities that cybercriminals could exploit to steal company data. Also, some workers who aren’t closely supervised might slack off, reducing overall business productivity and lowering profits.
However, with effective training and policy-making, businesses can ensure that their telecommuting workers are both secure and productive. HR managers and other business leaders can use this guide to ease their fears about telecommuting and improve their businesses one home-based worker at a time.
The jaw-dropping security breaches of 2015 and 2016 may be behind us, but businesses continue to experience data leaks every week. At least half of all American businesses, big and small, have experienced some type of cyberattack, so many business leaders are locking down operations to keep their data as secure as possible. In many cases, this means prohibiting telecommuting.
However, any security policy that places undue restrictions on worker behavior is not a policy that will last. Over time, workers will grow annoyed at overbearing security and find ways around protocols, especially when those protocols feel intrusive or prohibitive. Also, such intensive security measures are hardly more effective than installing effective Internet security software and enforcing strict password rules.
Instead of prohibiting telecommuting, businesses should work to build secure platforms that keep their data safe regardless of where their workers are located. Businesses can institute network policies (for example, no public connections allowed) and devices (security software must be installed). The key is to be aware of potential insecurities and address them appropriately so that both remote workers and businesses will remain safe.
Often shadowed by security concerns is the suspicion that employees won’t work as hard if no one is watching them. But research has consistently shown that workers don’t match their in-office activity ― they surpass it.
A study by Stanford found that employees who work from home are typically between 13 and 22 percent more efficient, completing tasks faster and with fewer errors than their office-bound colleagues. Additionally, census data shows that telecommuters tend to log between five and seven more hours per week than those lodged in the workplace, and telecommuters rarely stop working when they are sick.
Reasons for this increased productivity are myriad:
- Workers can start work earlier and work later because they don’t need to spend time traveling.
- Workers can avoid interruptions from coworkers, bosses, and colleagues while they work.
- Workers can take more frequent, shorter breaks throughout the day as needed rather than forcing breaks into company-sanctioned times.
- Workers have more control over their daily schedules, which boosts motivation.
The issue of productivity is often closely tied to teamwork and collaboration, as many employers envision teams meeting around a conference table to develop ideas in a shared space. But in reality, most teams that share an office rarely meet face-to-face. Telecommuters can collaborate just as effectively using appropriate tools. There are dozens of digital collaboration tools available online, many of which are free to use, that enable telecommuters to collaborate successfully on virtually any project.
Major benefits of telecommuting
Productivity and security aren’t the only benefits of telecommuting. Other benefits include cost savings, higher retention rates, better talent, and a cleaner environment.
Businesses can save astonishing amounts of cash by enabling telecommuting. Telecommuting can help businesses reduce office size, investments in office supplies (especially expensive technology), and utility bills. In fact, the average business could save more than $11,000 by simply allowing employees to work from home for just half the year.
Employees who have the option to telecommute tend to show greater enthusiasm and motivation, even those who rarely indulge. Higher employee engagement results in less turnover, as employees are loathe to abandon flexible, compassionate employer for unknown prospects. And because telecommuting is a coveted benefit, the business will attract more qualified workers, improving the quality of the overall workforce.
Finally, telecommuting keeps more people off the roads, which reduces noise and air pollution. In fact, environmentalist groups suggest that increased telecommuting could keep tens of thousands of tons of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. With the right technology and the right attitude, telecommuters could save the world.
For more insight on telecommuting, see You’re Already A Telecommuter—But Does Your Company Know It?