Telecommuting’s been touted as a huge money saver for employers and an attractive benefit for employees. But it has the potential to break the bank.
Rising real estate and energy costs have prompted many businesses to allow employees to telecommute. Employers who are saving big are the ones who have a solid written policy on telecommuting and flexible schedules. But only about 27% of companies have such a blanket policy.
The rest offer telecommuting only as a perk on a case-by-case basis. And that can be costly: they’re paying for both a desk on site and the home office so they aren’t saving in the areas that can be cut the most: real estate and energy.
In effect it bumps up the cost of having that employee 150 percent, which is a big difference from the 40% savings companies can get for each telecommuter.
If enough employees telecommute, the pay off can be huge. One San Francisco based company saved $67.8 million in 2006 by allowing around 18,000 employees to work from home.
So how do you steer your telecommuting program out of the black?
- Develop a written plan that stipulates which employees are eligible for telecommuting. Usually companies have a policy that employees must be there for at least six months to a year before they’re eligible. And certain jobs are a better fit than others.
- Your plan should also include communication guidelines. Do you want employees to check in a few times a day or just once a week? Are they strictly home-based or do they report to the office a few times a week?
- Having employees go through a trial period of telecommuting could be a good idea. You’ll know if they can handle working on their own before you get rid of their desk and they get too comfortable.
- Have them sign something that shows they know – and agree to – the rules.
- Make sure you have the technology to support the program. Inadequate computers or software and poor IT support can frustrate off-site employees and slow productivity.
Companies that save the most from a telecommuting program have employees who are strictly telecommuters. That way they can either fill the space with another employee or get rid of it all together.