Is Telecommuting the Wave of the Future?

9 Dec

The TMA has long promoted telecommuting as a way to reduce traffic congestion in our region, and we encourage employers to implement some sort of telecommute program. Allowing telecommuting in some form will also get employers some points towards becoming a “Smart Workplace.” Lately we’ve been noticing a number of studies recently have looked at the benefits of telecommuting, both for employees, employers, and traffic jams.

One recent study from the Dutch company PWC investigated the effects of working from home. It concludes that not only would traffic jams be shorter but the number of road fatalities would decrease by 9 and the number of injured people by 1,700. The researchers studied what it would mean for 20% of the population to work from home for either one or two days a week by 2015. They found that based on an average commuting time of 54 minutes, 75 million hours could be saved if 20% of the population was working from home for two days per week. That equals 320,000 commuting hours per working day and, on average, 180,000 cars per working day. Were the same number of people to start one day of flexible working time, these figures would be halved.

Also recently, Stanford University published the preliminary results of a study it conducted on the benefits of a telecommute program. Stanford had partnered with a Chinese travel agency that — while headquartered in Shanghai — used a U.S. management style. The study sought to compare a group of employees allowed to work from home with a control group of people who wanted to telework but were required to stay in the office. The result? The study clearly showed that the telework group outperformed the in-office group by a wide margin — about 15% — and not just in aggregate work performed, but also in the overall quality of the output. Not only were workers more productive per unit time, but they worker longer hours, suffered fewer sick days, and even had less overall attrition.

Finally, one more study by researchers from Bringham Young University analyzed data from almost 25,000 IBM employees, looking for the point at which 25 percent of employees reported that work interfered with personal and family life. That conflict kicks in around 38 hours for office workers, but didn’t bother telecommuters until about 57 hours. Interestingly, employers reap these benefits without full-time telecommuters. According to the BYU press release: “Not all of those 57 hours are telecommuting hours, notes lead study author E. Jeffrey Hill, a professor in BYU’s School of Family Life. The typical high-flexibility work arrangement includes a mix of office time and firing up the laptop from home, the venue depending on the task at hand.”

We’re curious what our readers think of telecommuting. Do you telecommute? If yes, how often? If no, would you like to? And why don’t you? Let us know!

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