Telework Works

Teleworkers, defined as people who work from home at least one day a week, are finding their niche as technology and corporate attitudes continue to enable this growing trend.

According to a recent survey from Staples Advantage, the business-to-business division of Staples, telecommuters say they feel and work better when working from home. In fact, 86 percent of telecommuters say they are more productive in their home office.

As companies become more comfortable with virtural teams and advancements in technology like cloud, broadband availability, VPNs, smartphones, etc. make it easier and easier to be everywhere and no where at once, they are allowing a younger generation of employees to move out of the office and into more flexible work/life arraignments, said Ed Ludwigson, vice president and general manager for Staples Technology Solutions.

It’s also a good way for companies to expand capabilities and human capital without expanding (and paying for) more office space. This expands their ability to access talent; people who increasingly see no benefit in relocating to do a job and retaining existing staff who need more flexibility in their lives.

According to the report telecommuters say they are:

  • Happier and healthier – When asked to draw comparisons, telecommuters said their stress levels dropped 25 percent on average since working from home. Almost one in four, said they eat healthier when working from home.

  • More loyal – Without the trek to the office (a 75-mile round-trip for many respondents) 76 percent of telecommuters are more willing to put in extra time on work and say they are more loyal to their company since telecommuting.

  • Better balanced – More than 80 percent say they now maintain a better work-life balance.

According to Forrester, telecommuting is on the rise; expected to reach 63 million employees in the U.S. by 2016, according to a March 2009 report, U.S. Telecommuting Forecast, 2009 to 2016 .

Technology Needs

In addition to Internet connectivity and access to company networks, key considerations for telecommuters include:

  • Communication tools – Telecommuters said they rely on email (96 percent), instant messaging (68 percent), videoconferencing (44 percent) and unified communications technologies (25 percent) to stay connected.

  • Security – A proactive security strategy can help telecommuters prevent data loss, breaches and viruses, which can be spread to company networks. More than two-thirds of telecommuters said they didn’t receive IT security training in preparation for home office work. Fortunately, many are applying good judgment and security best practices: 95 percent say they install operating system updates right away and 84 percent don’t store personal data on their machines.

  • Data backup – Nearly one in three telecommuters say they never back up their data; leaving themselves and their companies vulnerable to data loss. It’s important to educate telecommuters on how and when to back up their data. Data backups should be automated and tested to ensure functionality.