One of the greatest conveniences I have at my firm is the ability to telecommute to meetings. As a real estate investor, I spend a lot of time driving to see and show properties. Commuting to the office would be an unnecessary inconvenience for me, as it can be for people in many industries.
While I’ve found telecommuting to be convenient, many brokers – and employers in other industries – are still skeptical of letting employees out of their sight during the workday.
However, studies show that teleworkers are often more productive than in-office employees. I recommend employers consider the benefits telecommuting provides to them and to their employees before needlessly limiting the practice.
According to a recent Fundera article, two-thirds of managers who offer employees the opportunity to telecommute report that employees who work from home are overall more productive. Why is this the case?
One factor might be that when workers are around one another in the office, illnesses may spread more easily. Illnesses have a negative impact on employee health, which in turn lowers productivity. For example, a recent study by Challenger, Gray and Christmas, Inc. estimates that this most recent flu season has cost businesses $15.4 billion in lost productivity.
It may be wise to ask employees to telecommute during the entire flu season, even when they’re not sick. The flu is physically taxing, and ill employees often fall behind on their work as a result. It’s easy for the flu to spread from employee to employee in the office. However, when employees work from home, they come in contact with fewer people and have a smaller chance of catching the virus.
Aside from cutting down on the spread of illness, telecommuting also eliminates distractions. Researchers at Stanford conducted a study of call center workers at the Chinese company Ctrip that showed a 13 percent productivity increase among workers who telecommuted. Nine percent of this increase resulted from employees working more minutes per shift and taking fewer breaks. Four percent of the increase was attributed to employees spending more time on calls, thanks to their quieter, less distracting environments. Ctrip estimated it saved $2,000 per year per employee who worked from home, thanks to increased productivity, lower turnover, and a reduction in office space.
Studies of workplaces in the United States have produced similar results. According to Global Workplace Analytics, teleworkers at American Express are 43 percent more productive than their in-office counterparts. The firm also notes that teleworkers at JD Edwards are 20-25 percent more productive, whereas Best Buy’s telecommuters are 35-40 percent more productive.
It is also worth noting the flexibility of telecommuting is attractive to both young people who are new to the workforce and experienced employees alike. The prospect of a commute-free workday is enticing for many employees across industries and age groups.
My point is not that everyone should work from home. In fact, many jobs still require employees to be physically present. However, for jobs that require only the occasional meeting, offering employees the option to telecommute can significantly increase company profits and workforce productivity.
Martin Orefice is a real estate investor from Orlando, FL.