Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Can you afford not to let your employees work from home?

The question of what kind of policy to adopt regarding working from home is always a tough one for HR Managers. In a CSR-enabled organization, which values the overall well-being of a key stakeholder group, employees, flexible working is an attractive option (as part of an overall work-life management approach) when it can reasonably be integrated with job requirements, agreed boundaries are defined and a communications infrastructure is in place. A handy, fun decision-tree which was posted on Facebook today made me think about this a little more. Here is the link to decision-tree. It might not be entirely relevant for everyone (one of the questions in the decision tree is: Does the employee work with deadly viruses or flesh-eating bacteria?!) but the basic approach is worth considering.

For years, home working was not seen as an attractive option, but that was mainly based on myths that in most cases can be managed to ensure employee productivity and effectiveness. Issues cited to prove that home working is not effective include:
  • Managers can never quite know what employees are doing and whether they are working all the required hours.
  • Employees are distracted by children, laundry, TV repairmen, personal phonecalls, afternoon naps, mother popping in, ice-cream breaks and more.
  • It's too easy for employees not to be available just when you want them.
  • Employees can disappear and go to job interviews on your time.
  • Employees' home internet connection always seems to go into downtime just before a project deadline.
  • Information security issues - maybe employees are storing company secrets on their home computers and sharing them with all their friends, or even worse, your competitors.
  • Some managers just can't manage remote employees effectively. Or don't want to.
In a CSR-enabled workplace, the Corporate Social Human Resources (CSHR) Manager sees working from home as an opportunity, rather than a problem, and one which ultimately has many benefits including a positive ROI. Telecommuting, as it called, has many benefits for employees, employers and the community.

The following is a great list which I did not invent, you can find it on a fabulous site which contains just about anything you might want to know about telecommuting: Telecommute Connecticut! - the commuter service of the Connecticut Department of Transportation which offers a comprehensive resource that helps employers design, implement and maintain a telecommuting program that enhances the bottom line and makes them the employer of choice.

This is the list as it appears on the Telecommute website:
Employer Benefits

Employee Retention
Many companies use telecommuting as a perk to attract and retain top talent.

Expand Recruiting Options
Home-based work gives organizations the ability to attract a wider range of workers, including the physically challenged, parents with young children, people with elder care responsibilities and members of dual-career families.

Reduced Overhead
Telecommuting enables employers to share work space and reduce the need for parking spaces and alleviates the need for office expansion as their workforce expands.

Increased Productivity
Telecommuters and their managers report that workers get more done when out of the office.

Reduced Absences
According to the National Center for Health Statistics, colds force American workers to miss 20 million workdays a year. The flu accounts for another 70 million missed workdays. Telecommuters continue to work at home with a cold or other minor ailments that may have kept them out of the office. Also, fewer sick employees at work reduces the spread of germs and illnesses around the office.

Employee Benefits

Improved Work/Life Balance
The average American spends about 1.5 hours daily commuting to and from work. Telecommuters spend more time with family and less time on the road.

Stress Reduction
Those who telecommute experience less stress caused by commuting, including physical discomfort, air pollution and noise.

Savings
Telecommuters save an estimated $1,200/year on fuel costs alone, and even more when considering wear and tear on their cars.

Increased Productivity
Telecommuters are more productive and produce better quality work because they work in a quiet environment with minimal interruptions and have an increased ability to focus on specific work tasks.

Business Continuity
Companies with telecommuters keep going in spite of the environment, weather or other disasters that may keep employees out of the office.

Community Benefits

Reduced Traffic Congestion
Traffic congestion has become worse in practically every large metropolitan area. Delays are growing by a 41 percent average since 1990 and commuters are wasting three times as long dealing with delays than they did 20 years ago. Economists say it costs tens of billions of dollars in lost productivity and employee turnover annually as workers, goods and materials are delayed.

Reduced Auto Emissions That Contribute to Air Pollution
Reducing auto emissions isn't the main reason for most employers to offer telecommuting. One exception: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which permits up to 30 percent of its 18,000-strong workforce to telecommute one or two days each week, partly because it helps reduce auto emissions.

Less Gas Consumption
Telecommuting twice weekly can conserve resources through reduced gas consumption


Any organization who wants to assess its readiness for telecommuting can do so using the Telecommute Connecticut readiness checklist.

Telecommuting options, then, should be one of the radar-topics of the sustainability-minded HR Manager. One of the most challenging aspects of implementing such a policy may well be persuading the managers in the organization that it's worth their while. But with such a strong list of benefits, with a tangible and measurable ROI, the HR Manager has a good basis for making a strong case and delivering a strong HR contribution. In this regard, as so many others, it is time for HR to wake up to CSR!

Oh and by the way, one more cost of non-CSHR management just popped into my inbox via the Ethisphere newsletter: "3M will pay $3 million to settle age-bias suit" for laying off hundreds of employees over the age of 45.


elaine cohen, CSR consultant, Sustainabilty Reporter, HR Professional, Author of CSR for HR: A necessary partnership for advancing responsible business practices. http://www.greenleaf-publishing.com/productdetail.kmod?productid=3282 Contact me via www.twitter.com/elainecohen  on Twitter or via my website www.b-yond.biz/en

2 comments:

Gabe Chesman said...

Excellent post. I telecommute and this post is an excellent resource to alleviate current and future bosses that it's ok.

Alethea said...

From a retention and recruitment standpoint, portable/ virtual/ telecommuting options give companies access to a pool of talent in dual-career households where one spouse may be moving to follow another's career. As the "following" professional in my marriage right now, this has become a particularly relevant issue. Recognizing this can become a competitive advantage for companies that get on this bandwagon sooner rather than later, as professionals in my position may be willing to negotiate to secure the right opportunity more than others.

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