Americans like telecommuting. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a government agency that reports labor-related data, 38% of workers in financial operations, business and management fields telecommuted full or part time in 2015. Plus, 35% of people in professional or related occupations did the same. With the growing popularity of the cloud and other technologies promoting remote work, an increase in these figures wouldn't be surprising.
However, telecommuting isn't for everyone. When asked how many days, out of a 20-work-day month, they would telecommute, 74% of U.S. workers said none, according to a survey by Gallup, a management consulting company. Respondents to the survey weighed the remote work pros and cons, and you should take some of the following pros and cons into consideration when determining whether to let your workers telecommute and how often.
Here are some of the costs and benefits of telecommuting:
Pro: Productivity Stays Up
Worker motivation arises as the key concern among employers. However, telecommuting can give staff more time to handle their work because they don't have to spend time on a commute. Also, they can avoid office distractions. Plus, Gallup finds 55% of Americans believe telecommuters are as productive as their in-office counterparts. And only 15% of respondents who have telecommuted felt they were less productive.
Con: Remote Workers May Feel Isolated
From office happy hours to team lunches, social events boost morale and collaboration. Telecommuters miss out on these activities and could feel less connected to their teams.
Pro: Businesses Can Save Money
Workers aren't the only ones who see cost reductions as a result of telecommuting. PGi, a collaboration software and services provider, notes U.S. businesses save $700 billion annually with just part-time telecommuting. For full-time remote workers, they pocket $10,000 per employee annually.
These savings include operational expenses like utilities and equipment. Also, your organization may take on fewer retention and hiring costs as telecommuters have an easier time with work-life balance.
Con: Morale May Decline
Joyce. E. A. Russell, vice dean and director of the University of Maryland Robert H. Smith School of Business' executive coaching and leadership development program, writes in The Washington Postthat morale concerns also apply to in-office workers. You must consider whether some staff will become less engaged if they can't work remotely but their peers can. Clear policies and guidelines around roles and tasks suited for telecommuting can help workers understand how an organization manages remote work.
Leaders must determine how the pros and cons work – or don’t – with their organizations, and then make decisions around telecommuting policies. Given the benefit's popularity, offering remote work opportunities can be a competitive edge for acquiring and retaining top talent.