7 reasons companies should support telework

  • When companies can hire employees in any location, it can lead to a more diverse, creative, and productive staff.

  • Telework can allow businesses to provide 24x7 customer service and other functions by shifting work to new locations as they start their work days.

  • Having workers in different locations with similar skills can help keep projects from getting bogged down.

For centuries, workers of the world have had to locate within commuting distance of their jobs. It was necessary, because while people could travel, most jobs couldn’t.

Not anymore.

Today, progressive companies use telework, or telecommuting, to move work to their people. The most recent U.S. Census shows that telework is on the rise, with 9.5 percent of workers spending part of their week working at home in 2010.

Telework allows remote employees to live where they want and reduce the time and energy they spend commuting. But it also can benefit enterprises in several ways.

1. More diversity. Telework can help facilitate greater diversity in the organization by allowing companies to hire someone regardless of location. This can help businesses create a staff from many cultures and with a greater range of perspective. And because diverse teams tend to generate more ideas faster, they can lead to a more productive, innovative work environment.

2. Cost savings. Telework can provide the opportunity to reduce outlays on office space and other fixed costs, as well as variable expenses like utilities. Fewer workers in the office means buildings or suites can be smaller, less on-site equipment is needed to support staff, and less square footage needs to be cooled and heated, lighted, and cleaned.

3. “Follow the sun” continual support. Having virtual employees can make it easier for enterprises to offer services 24×7. As the workday ends in one location, it begins in another, and tasks can be handed off to employees who are just starting their day, usually without customers noticing the shift. Amazon has been known for using this “follow the sun” workflow technique for customer support.

4. Better access to experts. Pools of expertise—in IT, communications, human resources, or any other field—can be set up to include employees in different locations—countries, regions, cities, or neighborhoods. When workers have a question, they contact the pool, and whomever is on duty at the time responds. This can mean less time spent waiting for answers—and more time being productive.

5. Faster response time. Similarly, when someone is needed to make a quick decision or help resolve a situation, the company can contact a manager or other leader who is on working hours or is close to the location of the issue. Escalation techniques can be defined so that response times are rapid, and evaluation criteria put in place so that replies are consistent from one manager to the next.

6. Reduced travel costs. With telework, attending meetings no longer has to mean driving for hours or dealing with airport crowds. Employees who are set up to work from remote locations can use much of the same equipment they use to telecommute to participate in training, brainstorming sessions, all-hands meetings, and other activities. It won’t matter if the person is in the same building, on the same continent, or working at home. Anyone who needs to be there can attend—even if virtually.

7. Accelerated project delivery. For some situations and projects, you don’t need the same people to make decisions every time; you just need people with similar capabilities. Having workers with equivalent skills in different locations means that when you need to keep a project moving, you can pull together a conference call on the fly, no matter what time it is, with people qualified to make a decision. This can allow departments or companies to reach consensus quickly, helping to improve agility and reduce time-to-solution.

Your company probably already possesses or can easily get most of the equipment needed to support teleworkers, including laptops, tablets, and smartphones. Solutions to connect your employees to the office, applications, and each other—such as the solutions in the AT&T Mobile Connectivity portfolio—can be implemented for businesses of any size.

One additional element of allowing employees to be “virtually there” merits mention: If a sizable number of the staff in a specific location opt for telework, the infrastructure necessary to support workers can be rightsized. For companies, this could mean smaller facilities and less maintenance. For cities and regions, this could mean fewer commuters, new roads, buildings, and parking lots would be needed. This could lead to more green space, less energy use, and so forth. Moving work to people rather than moving people to work has benefits on many levels.

Charles Bess is a retired VP and Fellow from HP. He a communicator, team builder, architect, and pioneer, typically knowing where the explorers have gone and identifying the best path for others to follow.  All of the opinions are his own.  AT&T sponsored this blog post.

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