September 20, 2011
Proponents of telecommuting have long claimed that allowing employees to work from home cuts business expenses, improves worker productivity, and allows for more flexible work hours. But results of a new survey from CareerBuilder may cause some business leaders to question such an arrangement.
In a national survey of nearly 5,300 employees, CareerBuilder found that 17 percent of Americans who telecommute at least part of the time spend one hour or less per day working. The majority of telecommuters--40 percent--said they worked between four and seven hours per day, while 35 percent said they worked eight or more hours. The 35 percent figure was a significant increase from a 2007 CareerBuilder study in which only 18 percent of telecommuters said they worked eight or more hours.
"With mass adoption of smart phones and advanced network technologies, telecommuters are connected to their offices like never before. As a result, we're seeing more companies embrace the work-from-home option and more workers putting in full-time hours while at home," noted Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder, in a news release. "However, to avoid situations where telecommuters aren't putting in the necessary time, managers need to be clear about expectations and establish daily objectives. The autonomy of working from home can be very rewarding so long as it doesn't diminish productivity."
In the survey, telecommuters listed the distractions they face working at home, with household chores, television, and pets ranking as the top three. Other distractions included errands, Internet, and children.
Respondents were also almost equally split about whether they were most productive at home or at the office: Twenty-nine percent said they were more productive at home, 37 percent said they were more productive at the office, and 34 percent said they were equally productive in both places.
Regardless of the mixed results, many businesses are likely to continue to offer telecommuting as an option to employees, particularly small businesses with small budgets. As Small Business Trends reported, telecommuting can significantly cut costs for businesses by reducing overhead. In addition, telecommuting employees tend to take fewer sick and personal days, and companies that allow telecommuting often experience less turnover.
Moreover, past surveys have shown that telecommuting can be beneficial for both businesses and employees. In a 2009 Cisco survey of close to 2,000 telecommuters, for example, about 69 percent said they were more productive working from home, while 75 percent said the timeliness of their work improved. Sixty-seven percent of survey respondents said their overall work quality improved when telecommuting, and 80 percent said their quality of life improved.
"Cisco has long recognized that telecommuting and collaborative technologies are effective in breaking down separation barriers and enabling the transition to the borderless enterprise," noted Rami Mazid, vice president of Cisco's global client services and operations, in a Cisco press release. "In addition, as demonstrated by our recent study, a properly executed program for telecommuting can be extremely effective at unlocking employee potential by increasing work-life balance, productivity and overall satisfaction."
Compiled by Yaffa Klugerman
"Cisco Study Finds Telecommuting Significantly Increases Employee Productivity, Work-Life Flexibility and Job Satisfaction," newsroom.cisco.com, June 25, 2009
"Nearly One-in-Five Americans Who Work From Home Spend One Hour a Day or Less Working, CareerBuilder Survey Finds," prnewswire.com, September 15, 2011
"Should Your Company Allow Telecommuting?" smallbiztrends.com, June 9, 2011, Susan Payton