With both employers and employees looking to cut expenses, now might be the right time to ask your boss if you can work from home. Besides cutting down on costs like fuel and energy expenditures, if handled properly teleworking can lead to a fuller life and more productive company.
First make sure you have the right kind of job for teleworking. If you spend most of your time dealing with people, you probably need to be in the office. But not everyone needs to be in on site. The United States government has already implemented a teleworking program (telework.gov) and a study by Telework Exchange and the Tanberg Foundation in February of this year found that while 20% of federal employees telecommuted, 96% were actually eligible to do so.
Here’s why you, and your employer, should consider the switch.
No matter how far your home office is from your bedroom, it's got to be shorter than your current commute to the office. According to a study by Payscale.com, New York City has the highest commute time in the country with residents commuting an average of 43.23 minutes per day. That adds up to over 172 hours a year, or more than seven full days spent just getting to and from the office.
The Telework Exchange study found that if each federal employee telecommuted just three days a week, they would save an average of $6,000 a year in gas bills. And to offset the carbon emissions created by commuting federal employees, the government would have to plant 32 million trees. That's a lot of gas and lot of green.
Quality of Life
When you're at home, you have the ability to adapt your schedule to different personal needs. Instead of getting coffee in the break room at work, you can take the dog for a short walk. Or if you're planning on playing tennis at 3pm with a friend, form your day’s schedule around that event, without having to deal with odd looks as you grab your tennis racket and bolt out the office door. This can also improve family relations by having a parent around when the kids come home from school.
However, it’s essential to keep the line between your work and personal life separate. A Stockholm University study found that "telework may reduce stress from some sources; however, it may also undermine restorative functions of the home." So, even though you're at home, it's important to keep a working mentality while working and a relaxing mentality while not.
While it might seem intuitive that people in an office environment with the boss looming over their shoulder would be more productive, the opposite can actually be true. According to another study by the The Telework Exchange, with the National Science Foundation, an independent federal agency, 87% of managers at the NSF reported that their employees' productivity increased or remained the same while teleworking.
This productivity can be attributed to a few factors: reduced commuting time, reduction of inter-office distractions and motivation to complete tasks in order to free up personal time
Sun Microsystems (STOCK QUOTE: JAVA), which has had an Open Work program for a decade, conducted a study and found that employees who work from home for 2.1 days per week saved the company 5400 Kilowatt hours per year. And while these energy savings make a difference in power bills (and the company's overall carbon footprint) the real savings come when you add in the cost of reducing real estate bills. In 2007, with 56% of employees working outside of the office, Sun saved nearly $68 million in real estate costs.
The reduction in commuting time and expansion of personal control can lower stress levels in employees. This, in turn, leads to employees being happy with their jobs and not wanting to leave. According to a recent survey conducted by Salary.com, after compensation, the ability to work from home is second only to professional development as a reason people stay with their current jobs.
Also, with the baby boom generation beginning their retirement (the first baby boomers reached 62 this year), employers worried about the dissolving work force might want to offer telecommuting as an incentive for retention. In a study by the Employee Benefit Research Institute and a group of defense industry companies, 28% of employees say the option to telecommute would make them want to put off retirement.
In 2009, Georgia will become the first state to offer tax credits to companies that allow employee's to telecommute. The Georgia Telework Tax Credit offers a company $20,000 for planning, training and/or labor costs in setting up a telework program. It also offers an additional $1200 per new teleworker created in 2009 to help offset the cost of equipment like computers, software and maintenance.
Even if you're not a Georgia Peach, ask your local accountant or tax office if there are any state benefits available to your employer if they let you telecommute.