3 Telecommuting Myths that Scare the Pants off Your Boss (and 3 Ways to Set 'Em Straight)
By Margaret Leaf, Next Generation Consulting
Some people hear "telecommuting" and think of this:
In other words, when bosses think about employees working from home, they imagine you in your pajamas, sitting in front of the TV, "pretending" to work. (Or, they think of other possible downsides, like loss of regimen or degradation of social skills, as this hilarious comic from The Oatmeal illustrates.)
If you're wondering why you're not telecommuting, it's because these and other misplaced fears about telecommuting are frankly scaring the pants off your boss. (Rebecca Ryan, of NGC, calls it "flexophobia.")
In fact, according to the most recent report on the Status of Telework in the Federal Government (2009), "management resistance" was one of the top two barriers to implementation of telework programs (the other barrier was office coverage). For the record, "management resistance" is just a fancy word for "scared bosses."
While it's true that some folks -- myself included -- sometimes work in their pajamas at home, the rest is all a myth.
Want the real scoop? Let's tackle teleworking Mythbusters style, so that you can be on your way to a brighter teleworking future.
MYTH #1: If I let my employees telecommute, they will slack off, take advantage of the company, and nothing will get done.
REALITY: Telecommuters are more productive and engaged.
Studies have shown that telecommuting actually increases employee productivity and job satisfaction. A Cisco study of nearly 2,000 employees found that the company achieved "new levels of efficiency and effectiveness" after allowing people to work remotely. Specifically, the study found that 60% of the time saved by telecommuting is spent working.
In other words, instead of spending time in the car trying not to explode from road rage, your employees are actually spending their time working. Happily.
And speaking of happiness, let's move on to the next myth...
MYTH #2: Telecommuting will kill our office culture, and everyone will be sad and lonely. How are we supposed to meet? What will happen to our watercooler conversations?
REALITY: Telecommuters are happier -- by avoiding the daily task that is MOST injurious to happiness (read: commuting). Also, haven't you heard of Skype or iChat?
You heard it right. According to this guy and this guy-- and based on the report, Stress that Doesn't Pay: The Commuting Paradox (Frey and Stutzer, 2004) -- the daily task most injurious to happiness is commuting. In fact, people who commute 23 minutes (one-way) would have to earn 19 percent more in order to be fully compensated for the costs to their well-being. Telecommuting is an easy way to avoid this giant dent in our daily happiness.
But if we all telecommute, won't we feel isolated and lonely? There's an easy solution for that as well. First off, you don't have to telecommute every day. (In fact, it's the infrequent telecommuters that are really increasing these days: the number of once-a-month telecommuters in the US has risen by 39 percent in the last few years, according WorldatWork's Telework Study.) Telecommuting part-time still allows you to connect face-to-face with your team at least one day a week.
Second, telecommuting does not hamper employees' ability to work together. The Cisco study found that 83 percent of employees said their ability to communicate and collaborate was the same, if not better than, it was when working on-site.
Third, if you're willing to embrace new technology like Skype or iChat, it's easy to connect with your coworkers even when you're not in the same physical space. (Check out more of the best telecommuting tools at FastCompany.)
MYTH #3: Telecommuting is expensive. I'd have to invest way too much money into new technology to make it work.
REALITY: Telecommuting saves money -- a lot of money -- in the long run, PLUS it helps save our little, warming planet.
Telecommuting might take some investment and training in new technology up front, but these costs are miniscule compared to what you'll save. Consider these stats from Stanford University's Commuting Calculator:
For each gallon of gas that you don't use, you can keep approximately 19 pounds of harmful CO2 emissions out of the atmosphere
It costs an average of 54.1 cents per mile to operate the average vehicle
An average worker -- commuting 30 miles roundtrip -- could save $16 for every day she/he works from home instead (e.g. if you worked from home just one day per week, that's a savings of over $60 per month)
If that doesn't perk your ears up, then how about this: The Telework Research Network estimates that a company could save an average of about $10,000 per employee by allowing him/her to work half-time from home. Companies save money on real estate, electricity, absenteeism, and turnover, in addition to seeing increases in productivity.
Ready to start telecommuting?
Used with permission from Margaret Leaf of Next Generation Consulting, www.nextgenerationconsulting.com