Telecommuting is on the rise. Some 3.9 million U.S. employees, or 2.9% of the total U.S. workforce, work from home at least half of the time—a 115% increase since 2005—according to the 2017 State of Telecommuting in the U.S. Employee Workforce report from FlexJobs. And for every employee who currently telecommutes, there are many more who wish they could do so: just 7% of U.S. employers offer flexible workplace options for the majority of their employees.
Benefits of telecommuting for small businesses
Telecommuting has many benefits for telecommuters, such as better health, more job satisfaction and improved quality of life. But employees aren’t the only ones who stand to gain from telecommuting. Here are a few ways telecommuting can boost your business.
- Helps you attract and retain workers: Some 62% of employees have left or considered leaving a job because it didn’t have work flexibility, and 79% say flexible options make them more likely to stay with an employer. With larger businesses more than twice as likely as small ones to offer telecommuting options to employees, FlexJobs reports, offering this perk can give your small business a real edge in attracting and retaining skilled employees.
- Saves you money: When employees telecommute, it reduces your business’s expenses for utilities, office space, parking space, storage space and more. It’s estimated that each employee who telecommutes just half their time saves their employer $11,000 a year. Plus, employees themselves save an average of $4,000 a year—the equivalent of getting a raise without you having to increase their wages.
- Increases business productivity: Time saved commuting can be spent working, making telecommuters more productive than in-office employees. A two-year Stanford University study found telecommuters were more focused and productive, were less likely to stop work early or start late, took less paid time off and took shorter breaks. All told, the average telecommuter gains back the equivalent of 11 workdays per year that would otherwise be spent on the road, according to FlexJobs.
Is your business ready to make the switch to telecommuting? Smallbiz expert @Rieva explains why you should and how to get started
Things to know about telecommuting
There isn’t a whole lot of downside to telecommuting, but there are a few things to be aware of before you launch a telecommuting program.
- Get onto the cloud: If telecommuters are emailing files to themselves or using USB drives to take work home from the office, you could face mass confusion. With different versions of the same file stored on multiple peoples’ computers, how will you know which is the correct version?
Digitizing your business data and storing it in the cloud ensures everyone who needs access to files can get it, wherever and whenever they need it. Xerox multifunction printers (MFPs) with ConnectKey technology can help. You can program MFPs with ConnectKey to scan documents, convert them into searchable PDFs, and save them in the proper location all in one step. Or use Xerox Web Capture to save even more time: it scans documents and imports the data directly into the appropriate apps in a usable format. (Plus, it works with all brands of scanners.)
- Keep telecommuters in the loop: Almost 50% of employees in the Stanford study say telecommuting 100% of the time is too isolating. Whether employees telecommute all the time or just one day a week, putting the right communication tools and strategies in place will keep them connected to the rest of the team.
First, decide what communication channels you’ll use—Slack, Asana, Trello, and Zoho are popular collaboration and communication apps for small businesses. And when you use Xerox® ConnectKey ® Technology, multiple users can access the same document simultaneously so you can collaborate in real-time.
Then, set up best practices for communicating so everyone is on the same page. For instance, you might decide that important employee communications (like news about benefits or paychecks) will always be sent by email, while discussions about a particular project should always happen within that project’s collaboration. Last but not least, be sure to include telecommuters in informal communications (like that joke that’s making the office rounds) to keep them feeling part of the family.
- Take steps for cybersecurity: Employees who use personal computers and other devices for work could put your business network at risk of cyber attacks if they don’t follow proper security precautions. It costs a bit more upfront, but in the long run, the best strategy is to provide telecommuters with company-issued devices. That way, you can install the proper software to protect and monitor the tools your employees are using.
While you’re at it, take care to protect your networked office printers. They can be an unexpected entry point for hackers. Xerox® ConnectKey® Technology-enabled printers can give you peace of mind: they come with built-in security features to protect your data and documents.
If you’re ready to give telecommuting a whirl at your business, taking the steps above will help smooth the transition, while still keeping your business secure and productive.
Stay abreast of the latest news and trends to affect small business by subscribing to the Small Business Solutions blog today.