|Title:||United States survey percentages of employers regarding tools and technology offered to telecommuters in 2010|
Start of full article - but without data
Tools and Technology Offered to Telecommuters
Organizations that formally offer telecommuting at least one day a
week provide the following resources to at-home workers.
Respondents were allowed multiple choices.
Laptop or desktop personal computer XX% Technical support XX Paid high-speed Internet connection XX Printer XX Fax XX Scanner XX Other XX None X
Source: Workplace Flexibility in the XXst Century: Meeting the Needs of
the Changing Workforce, SHRM survey report, August 2009, XXX
Note: Table made from pie chart.
Three years ago, when gas prices were at $X a gallon, Tech Data Corp. executives were looking for a way to ease employees' financial burdens. They offered XXX employees the opportunity to experiment with telecommuting.
Last year, the telecommuting option was extended to about XXX of the X,XXX employees at the company's Clearwater, Fla., headquarters. The HR team wanted to offer it to even more employees, but there was one major obstacle--an antiquated telephone network that can't route calls to the next available employee working at home. Without that capability, the phone system would significantly hinder at-home sales staff and service representatives who field customers' calls.
An advanced telecommunications system would cost more than $X million, says Kellie Beale, SPHR, a senior HR generalist at Tech Data. In light of the recession, executives decided not to move forward with the purchase.
Many HR professionals and corporate leaders say that telecommuting, usually part of a package of flexible-work options, will help them attract and retain the best and brightest employees. After all, XX employers on Fortune's 2011 list of the "XXX Best Companies to Work For" offer telecommuting opportunities to employees. Who doesn't want to be like them?
However, if telecommuting is to provide the benefits that both employees and employers seek, HR professionals must consider its full impact and costs.
"Think carefully about whether telecommuting actually fits with the strategy of your business and its operational needs," advises Wayne F. Cascio, professor of management at the University of Colorado Denver. Without that strategic fit, "It may cost you a lot more, in the long run, in terms of lost business opportunities."
Tangible Cost Savings
The troubled economy, shortages of skilled professionals in some fields and increased stress on workers are among the forces driving HR leaders' interest in telecommuting. Three of four employed parents say they don't have enough time with their children, according to the Families and Work Institute's (FWI) 2008 report Workplace Flexibility Among Small Employers.
Some employees value time more than money, says Ellen Galinsky, president and co-founder of the institute in New York City.
Avoiding lengthy commutes can relieve some of employees' stress, giving them greater work/life balance and easing the strain on their pocketbooks. Telecommuting also can often save companies money and boost employees' productivity, Galinsky and other advocates say.
About XX percent of HR professionals predict that the demand for workplace flexibility will have a strategic impact on operations in years to come, according to the February 2011 Workplace Forecast by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). The report was based on a May 2010 poll of about XXX HR professionals.
The heightened attention to workplace flexibility prompted FWI and SHRM to partner to provide research, education and resources to employers.
Many useful lessons can be learned by studying the progress of early adopters of telecommuting.
As one of its many flexible-work options, Deloitte LLP offers most of its XX,XXX employees nationwide the option to telecom-mute as many as five days a week, and has done so for XX years. As leases came up for renewal, the consulting firm was able to reduce office space and energy costs by XX percent. In fact, Deloitte saved $XX million in 2008 after redesigning facilities to accommodate mobile workers who don't need permanent desks.
The practice, called "hoteling," requires employees to reserve workstations when they come to the office. Most of Deloitte's major offices also now have "telesuites" where employees use video conferencing technology to meet virtually with clients and fellow employees in other locations, without having to hop on a plane, says Molly Anderson, director of talent. According to Fortune, XX percent of Deloitte's workers telecommute for at least XX percent of the workweek.
In contrast, Delta Air Lines executives say they are just beginning to see savings from their telecommuting program, which began four years ago with XX part-time reservation agents. Today, more than XXX of X,XXX agents work from home full time, and HR professionals plan to have a total of XXX working from home by the end of this year. They are proceeding cautiously.
All the participants are volunteers. To promote the program, Delta managers wear pajamas at information sessions to play up the comforts of working from home.
"It takes a certain sort of person to work from home. They must be very self-disciplined. So we want to make sure we do a really nice job to make it clear," says Allison Ausband, Delta's vice president for reservation sales and customer care, based in Atlanta.
The company spends an initial $X,XXX for each reservation agent who works at home. That buys a computer and software licenses. But employees pay for their own phones. The $X,XXX expense is offset by lower hourly wages paid to at-home workers. They receive $X.XX an hour less than their counterparts in the call centers, but they save on gasoline by not driving to work, Ausband reports.
The airline officials plan to transition soon to a web-based solution that will allow employees to access Delta's secure networks from the workers' personal computers, reducing the company's hardware costs by XX percent. In addition, officials expect to reduce facility expenses by $X million this year and more in future years by shrinking office space when current leases run out in cities where enough employees volunteer to work at home.
To strengthen ties to the company, each agent works in a call center for six months before working from home. When at home, they can contact a team leader online whenever they have questions. Monthly meetings keep them connected, too. Leaders send birthday cards and honor other special occasions in employees' lives to maintain connections.
"The biggest priority going in was making sure that this team stayed tied to the culture and they felt in on things as part of Delta, and we've been able to do that," Ausband says. "The performance flows as a result."
Teleworkers also help ensure business continuity. For example, during last winter's snowstorms, when Delta managers needed more agents on duty to handle the flood of passenger calls, a higher percentage of at-home workers volunteered for overtime than did in-office employees.
Return on Investment
Not every employer can save on telecommuting. When workers telecommute just one or two days a week and keep their office desks, companies can't reduce the costs of leases or utility bills, explains Jack Phillips, chairman of ROI Institute, a consulting and publishing business in Birmingham, Ala.
Fifty-five percent of employers offer telecommuting, but only XX percent offer it on a full-time basis, according to SHRM's 2010 Employee Benefits survey report. Forty-four percent offer telecommuting on an ad hoc basis, while XX percent offer it on a part-time basis.
And, XX percent of employers have XX percent or fewer employees participate, according to XXX HR professionals responding to a 2009 SHRM poll on transitioning to a virtual workplace.
"You can really save tons of money, but you've got to have the real estate savings," Phillips says. He's determined to take his own staff virtual by the end of this year. He plans to eliminate the office building and hold occasional face-to-face meetings in the company warehouse. But three of his XX employees still aren't comfortable with the idea. On the other hand, he says, he recently hired an editor who accepted a salary that is half of what she previously earned--just to work at home.
Before launching a telecommuting program, Phillips urges HR professionals to:
* Research what jobs are suitable. Can the jobs be done without face-to-face contact with customers? Can the quantity and quality of the work be easily measured?
* Develop detailed job descriptions and performance requirements.
* Figure cost estimates with finance and information technology departments.
* Talk to employees to identify necessary technical and managerial support.
* Determine whether managers are willing to let their employees work out of sight.
Implementing a telecommuting program can be expensive, particularly if the employer doesn't already have mobile technology. Eighty-four percent of HR professionals reported that their organizations provide telecommuters with laptops or desktop computers, according to SHRM's 2009 Workplace Flexibility in the XXst Century: Meeting the Needs of the Changing Workforce survey report.
Last year, companies spent on average $X,XXX per remote worker, according to a study released in March by Runzheimer International, a provider of travel, relocation and other mobility services. While that's a decrease of XX percent from $X,XXX in 2009, the cost still can be substantial for struggling companies. That amount includes the initial expense of providing home office equipment such as computers, printers and office supplies.
Employers Offering Telecommuting Options
2006 2007 2010 Ad hoc basis XX% XX% XX% Part-time basis XX% XX% XX% ...