The 411 on TeleWorking (Part 1) – Why…

teleworkWhile teleworking may not be an option for many facility professionals, it is a growing trend that has significant impact on the assets they operate & manage.  For example, in 2007 Sun Microsystems reported annual savings of $68 million in real estate costs, $3 million in reduced power consumption, and $25 million in IT expenditures due to flexible work options.(i)  With George Washington University’s virtual think tank, TechCast(ii), predicting that 30% of employees in industrialized nations will telework 2-3 days per week by the year 2019, you should anticipate flexible work options, such as teleworking, hitting your front step like a stack of old phone books in the near future.

What’s Driving TeleWorking?

The key drivers behind teleworking and related workshifting options are varied and somewhat surprising.  First, let’s consider the Federal Government, the largest tenant and building owner in the United States.

In 2010, President Obama signed into law the Telework Enhancement Act, which applies to all Federal Executive agencies and requires them to establish telework policies and support the advancement of such.  In 2013, the federal government implemented “Freeze the Footprint”, dictating that Executive branch departments and agencies “shall not increase the total square footage of their domestic office and warehouse inventory”(iii).  These two policies alone have significantly raised the focus on teleworking in the federal sector, which will inevitably trickle-down to the private sector – assuming the private sector has not already adopted workshifting because of the below drivers.

Second, “70% of Baby Boomers plan to work for pay after retirement by seeking flexible work arrangements and part-time schedules.”(i)  With the exodus of the Baby Boomers creating a strain on the shrinking workforce, employers are more than willing to accommodate such requests in order to retain these valued employees and reduce somewhat the growing skilled worker shortage that is troubling them now. (Read The Forthcoming Millennial Reign for more on the Baby Boomer exodus.)

Third, with the aforementioned workforce gap created by the exiting Baby Boomers, employers are exploring various options for attracting and retaining new employees.  For example, in 2008 CareerBuildier.com reported that “72% of employees say flexible work arrangements would cause them to choose one job over another”.  Additionally, they found that the coveted Gen Y workers “are particularly attracted to flexible work arrangements”, citing a survey that ranked such arrangements as an 8 out of 10 for impact on overall satisfaction.(i)

Lastly, organizations that have implemented such programs have reported significant benefits to the triple bottom line – financial, social, and environmental.  These benefits, some of which are highlighted below, are causing other organizations to wade into the water.

Benefits of TeleWorking

The benefits of teleworking are more varied than the aforementioned drivers, running the gamut from the obvious financial savings to increased productivity, improved employee morale and health, reduced strain on city infrastructures and the environment, higher retention and recruitment, emergency preparedness hardening, access to disabled workers, and rural community development – to name a few…

Below is a sample of the overwhelming statistics available that support the value of teleworking.

Productivity & Increased Revenue

  • Best Buy, British Telecom, Dow Chemical and others show that teleworkers are 35%-40% more productive (iv)
  • Sun Microsystems found that teleworkers spend 60% of their former commute time performing work for the company (i); Cisco reported similar benefits(vii)
  • AT&T teleworkers work 5 more hours at home than their office workers (iv)
  • American Express teleworkers handled 26% more calls and produced 43% more business than their office-based counterparts (i)
  • The U.S. GSA telework cost vs. benefit model identified a 63% reduction in unscheduled absences per teleworker(i)
  • The American Management Association reduced absences by 63% through telework(i)
  • Approximately 69% of Cisco’s employees cited higher productivity when working remotely(vii)

    Cost Savings

  • Unisys reduced its real estate costs by 87% through telecommuting(i)
  • The U.S. Patent & Trademark Office avoided $11 million in new real estate expenses(i)
  • IBM’s 80,000 teleworkers save the company $700 million per year in real estate costs(i)
  • Dow Chemical and Nortel save over 30% on non-real estate costs (iv)
  • Full-time telecommuting can save companies between $20,000 and $37,000 per employee per year(v)
  • Cisco generated an estimated annual savings of $277 million through telecommuting and teleworking(vii)

Employee Satisfaction & Retention

  • Almost 80% of employees say they would like to work from home at least part of the time(i)
  • 68% of Shering-Plough Corporation’s telework program participants say that being able to telework is a decision to stay with the company(i)
  • 46% of companies that allow telecommuting say it has reduced attrition(v)
  • 72% of employers say telework has a high impact on employee retention(v)
  • 91% of Cisco employees say telecommuting is somewhat or very important in their overall satisfaction(vii)

As one that has helped to drive & implement telecommuting with an organization, participated in formal teleworking programs, and worked remotely for many years due to business travel, I can attest to the pros and cons of “workshifting”.  For me, I have found that I am significantly more productive outside the office than in it due to the reduced distractions and co-worker discussions.  However, on the flip-side, working remotely can create an “out-of-sight, out-of-mind” mentality, along with suspicion by management of your performance.  These challenges and a few others will be addressed in Part 2 of this article, “The How”.

All that said, teleworking is coming like a freight train.  Facility professionals need to get on-board by preparing their teams, infrastructure, and processes for this workshift, in partnership with management, HR, and IT.

For other related articles and Part 2 of The 411 on TeleWorking – The How, visit FM360Online.com and sign-up for FM360’s monthly newsletter.

John Rimer is President of FM360, LLC.  John has over 17 years’ facility management experience in a variety of capacities and industries.  He uses his breadth of knowledge and diverse expertise to provide a comprehensive perspective to his clients and students.

John is very active in the facility management community.  He is the founder, Past President, and current Director of the Northern Rockies Chapter of IFMA.  John is a huge proponent for educating the facility management community. He is an IFMA Qualified Instructor and an approved Building Operator Certification (BOC) Instructor.  John has taught more than 50 courses in the last two years across the United States.  John also speaks and presents at numerous conferences throughout the country, including IFMA’s World Workplace.  He has been published in IFMA’s Facility Management Journal (FMJ) and has readers from around the world.

Resources

There are extensive resources available online such as the ones referenced in this article (below listed).

(i)                  Workshifting Benefits: The Bottom Line, TeleWorkResearchNetwork.com

(ii)                TechCast.org

(iii)               Management Procedures Memorandum No. 2013-02, Executive Office of the President

(iv)              Costs and Benefits, Global Workplace Analytics

(v)                Pros and Cons, Global Workplace Analytics

(vi)              US GSA 2006 Cost Recovery ROI Strategies

(vii)             Cisco Study Finds Telecommuting Significantly Increases Employee Productivity, Work-Life Flexibility and Job Satisfaction, newsroom.cisco.com

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