Plannedscape Postings

Image

Telecommuting
Everybody Wins

Posted by Charlie Recksieck on 2019-08-29
How many of you work at home, or have the option to? According to U.S. Census data, the percentage of people working from home is up to a new high of 5.2%. Unsurprisingly, the number is even higher for college-educated, white-collar and tech workers. Is it a good idea?

We're doing our part here at Plannedscape. Granted, it's a very small company. But all of us work at home. It makes a lot of sense for us to save on overhead - and also unavoidable in Brad's case since he lives in Oregon while the rest of us are in California. According to Global Workplace Analytics, companies can save $11,000 per year per each half-time telecommuter. We absolutely pass these savings on to customers - it allows us to charge $150/hr for electric utility consulting work while our larger competitors charge $250-300, even when the work is performed by much more junior employees with less experience than our team. If you reduce the need for providing physical space to employees, companies can drastically reduce the often additional cost of 50-100% times employee salaries.

There are other benefits for companies. In our case here, I was able to get the two people I wanted on staff who live 500 and 1000 miles away. Once you go virtual, you dramatically widen the pool of available resources. Studies have also documented how work-at-home employees are more satisfied in their work, leading to longer retention and less absenteeism. And if you hire somebody in a different time zone, you have now expanded your businesses open/reachable hours without requiring anybody to work overtime. Lastly, it greatly reduces useless or near-useless all-hands-on-deck meetings in the conference room (which should be the goal of every company and employee in the world).

As for workers themselves, there is a significant financial benefit in working from home. This article does a great job of outlining the saved costs (food, gas, clothes, etc.) working at home as $2100 by their conservative estimates where I think you could make the case that stay-at-home employees save something more like $4000 a year. That's just a small part of it, though. The increased flexibility to be able to take care of errands, trouble-call visits from the cable company, raising a family is invaluable.

To me, the most dramatic gain is the efficiency. When a company I worked for was bought by a larger outfit, I began working at home 3-4 days a week. What I soon noticed that I was finishing the same amount of work by 11am or Noon at home that it would take me until 5pm at the office. Some of this may sound anti-social, but once you removed the need to dress professionally, removed the commute, took shorter lunches, and stopped socializing with office mates, that really did start to add up to about 3-4 hours. Granted, your pool of work acquaintances or people with whom you interact goes away, often meaning that you can get to noon without speaking to anybody - that may seem anti-social. But in a telecommuting environment, you still do interact with the other members of your team. If you want to be friends with those people, you still can.

Yes there are times when it's good to be in the same room. When it's time to collaborate that way or you need to be in front of a whiteboard, then go into the office; or if you've eliminated an office entirely, then go to each other's house, a Starbucks, rent a room, or get creative. Robert and I have had project meetings while playing tennis, yelling work-related things across the net. Brad and I on a project last year went on a company work camp (aka "nerdcation") on a cruise ship. It worked great!

Now here's the rub: This only works for companies and employers if the work being completed is measurable. Think about that sentence again. A job like public relations may be harder to measure, or other jobs without specific "deliverables". But if I need an app written and we all have planned, discussed how long we are budgeting for - if we said 6 weeks and it took 6 weeks and performed well, as a manager I really don't care if it took them 4 easy weeks to do it. I really don't. Salespeople usually have similar work standards, if they meet their quotas, great! There are stories of employees who have outsourced their own jobs to China - if you are performing your job beyond expectations, then who should have a problem with it, whether they work at home, in the office, or send their job overseas.

Right?