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Telecommuting benefits both employers and employees

March 4th, 2013

A home office.

On the heels of Yahoo’s CEO telling company employees working at home they have to come back to the office, a new study says telecommuinprograms make for happier employers and employees, reducing absenteeism and stress.

That’s according to the second annual telecommuting survey issued by Staples Advantage, the business-to-business division of Staples Inc.

Nearly all (93 percent) surveyed employees agree that telecommuting programs are mutually beneficial, and more than half (53 percent) of business decision makers state telecommuting leads to more productive employees.

By 2016, the number of regular telecommuters in the U.S. is expected to reach 4.9 million, which represents a 69 percent increase from the current level, according to a June 2011 report, “The State of Telework in the U.S.” from

Employees and employers agree that telecommuting is mutually beneficial:

  • 75 percent of business decision makers notice happier employees
  • 37 percent report less absenteeism
  • 48 percent of remote workers say they are less stressed, compared to a 25 percent drop in stress when working from home as reported in last year’s survey

As telecommuting continues to rise, it is important for companies to think strategically about all aspects of their telecommuting programs to ensure cost savings and productivity, as well as work/life balance.

dual-monitor-full-screen-flash“Telecommuting can help achieve balance between workplace demands and life obligations, but being successful isn’t as simple as just sending employees home with their laptops,” said Tom Heisroth, senior vice president for Staples Advantage.

Opportunity for Improvement

While it’s clear that telecommuting programs benefit all parties involved, the survey pointed out areas for improvement for companies seeking to maintain high satisfaction and productivity rates with a growing at-home workforce.

Most important, the survey shows that businesses should evaluate their technology and furniture offerings to improve telecommuting programs.

Pesonally, we think many companies need to evaluate their tech and furniture even in their office environments.

Tips for independent contractors

As an independent contractor who has worked from a home office for decades, I’d recommend that if your employer does not take care of your technology and furniture needs, you should pay careful attention to them.

I recommend dual monitors for increasing productivity. Once you’ve worked using dual monitors, you’ll miss them when working on a laptop or other mobile devices.

You’ll also want a good chair with adjustable back, height, and arm rests (an important point often overlooked but necessary for proper ergonomics), and a desk with plenty of room, especially on your keyboard tray. I’ve also found it’s helpful in a home office to have a desk on rollers.

If your office is carpeted, you’ll want one of those plastic under-chair mats so you can roll around freely.

EvernoteOn the technology side, do install some form of cloud or drive-based automatic backup, make sure you have a recovery disc for your computer, and do make use of the new cloud-based services such as Dropbox for collaboration and Evernote for research and notes accessible to you on all of your devices. – Allan Maurer, TechJournal editor.

When it comes to support for at-home workers, the Staples survey highlights specific areas of concern:

  • 59 percent of telecommuters do not use their company’s data backup system, putting critical and sensitive information at risk.
  • 33 percent of employees say dealing with IT issues is one of the most difficult aspects of working from home.
  • 17 percent of business decision makers offer furniture, but only 50 percent of those respondents offer furniture installation services that can save workers time and improve productivity.
  • 48 percent of telecommuters use furniture or technology that is not ergonomically adjusted for them, which can lead to discomfort, loss of productivity or injury.

Simple enhancements in these areas, such as implementing data backup and improving connectivity for IT, as well as providing cost-effective furniture solutions with easy procurement and set-up options, ensures consistent products and services for all employees.

These improvements will transform the at-home work experience, making environments safe, healthy and productive.

Staples Recommends These Easy Steps for Productive Telecommuting Programs

  • Connectivity – With IT connectivity issues being a main concern for both parties, telecommuting programs should ensure easy access to email, document sharing, instant messaging and video conferencing.
  • Network Access – Provide remote VPN capabilities so telecommuters can easily access the network.
  • Data Backup and Security – Employees need to be educated about data backup and security best practices to avoid risky practices such as emailing sensitive information.
  • Ergonomics –Incorporate ergonomic furniture options into telecommuting offerings—59 percent of survey respondents would accept company-purchased, ergonomic furniture, which would create a healthier work environment.
  • Storage – Desk and drawer organizers, file cabinets and additional storage options help telecommuters minimize clutter and maximize space, making home office environments more productive.
  • Sustainability – Environmentally preferable furniture options not only help support individual employee and company green initiatives, but also help promote healthier work and living spaces.

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