By now, we are all familiar with the idea of telecommuting, and rightly so. In a 2015 Gallup poll, it was found that telecommuting has seen a 37 percent rise in popularity in the last decade. But let’s stop and think for a second. If remote work is so popular, why are commute times still outrageous? Why are some companies still opposing official telecommuting policies (we’re looking at you Yahoo)?
In PGi’s second annual Global Telework Survey, we surveyed knowledge workers from around the globe to better understand their telecommuting habits and the overall state of remote work. From commute times and technology to perspectives and policies, we wanted to know, has telecommuting hit the mainstream or does it represent only a small slice of the workforce? Our results revealed some interesting trends that may change the way you think about the state of telework.
What’s up with These Beepin’ Commutes?
When we asked respondents about their roundtrip commute times, we received some surprising news. For those who are classified as non-teleworkers, or those who do not telecommute at all in their role, we saw i that the majority of these workers were experiencing roundtrips between 30 and 60 minutes or more on a daily basis. In the Asia Pacific region, 34 percent of non-teleworkers had daily commutes of over an hour.
Those who were classified as teleworkers actually had longer commutes, which begs the chicken-or-egg question. Do people telecommute because they live far from an office or do people move far from an office because they can telecommute? Thirty-two percent of APAC teleworkers reported commutes of over an hour, with 28 percent of North American and 23 percent of the Europe Middle East (EMEA) region teleworkers experiencing the same.
With commutes like these, it’s sort of a no-brainer that anyone who had that option would chose to work from home. But, in more surprising news, we saw that globally majority of teleworkers don’t work from home that often.
Fifty-one percent of EMEA teleworkers work from home just one day or less, with 68 percent in APAC and 58 percent in North America reporting the same. With more cars on the road during peak rush hour times, it’s easy to see why both sets of knowledge workers reported such high commute times.
Are Negative Attitudes Toward Teleworking to Blame?
With teleworkers reporting that they’re actually spending the majority of their time in the office, we wanted to know why—were negative attitudes toward telecommuting to blame?
When we asked respondents about perspectives on telecommuting in the workplace, 68 percent of those in North America, 73 percent in EMEA and 80 percent in APAC said they thought attitudes toward telecommuting were positive and widely accepted.
And while attitudes may remain positive, actions still speak louder than words. A whopping 85 percent of respondents in EMEA and 62 percent in North America said there was no official telecommuting policy in their company. For those in APAC, only 40 percent reported not having an official policy in place.
Is Telecommuting for Everyone?
While majority of respondents reported not having any sort of policy on remote work, we understand that telecommuting isn’t made for everyone. The majority of non-teleworkers reported the reason they cannot work from home is because it is not an option in their role.
And while our survey respondents couldn’t telecommute simply because their position requires them to be in the office, research shows some workers may not have the option to telecommute because of socioeconomic status and education. According to Gallup’s Work and Education poll, “telecommuting is much more common among those who have had more formal education, those who are upper-income and those who have white-collar professions.”
These factors may be a leading cause for the flat trends seen in telecommuting in recent years. The same Gallup research states that, “even though telecommuting has become more common, the growth in the practice appears to have leveled off in recent years.”
You Can’t Always Get What You Want or Can You?
Furthering this idea, in our survey data, we noticed a trend in the amount of respondents who wanted to work from home more. As we stated previously, majority of respondents are only working from home one day or less, which is consistent with data from 2015’s Global Telework Survey.
However, 52 percent of APAC respondents and 50 percent of North American teleworker respondents reported that they wanted to work from home more, an increase from last year’s survey data. This same group of teleworkers reported this year that their ideal amount of telecommuting time was between 2 and 3 days per week—also in line with a trend we saw in last year’s data.
Further, we asked if teleworkers would consider leaving their job for a similar position with the same pay if they could telework more. This year, we saw an increase in the amount of people in EMEA willing to leave their job, while North America remained exactly the same, and APAC dipped only slightly.
So if more people are willing to quit their jobs just to telecommute a few days per week, why aren’t companies meeting these demands? Is it because they don’t understand the true benefits of utilizing telecommuting policies?
Telecommuting Benefits Business
After seeing the astounding amount of teleworkers who are willing to leave their positions for a job that allows telecommuting, we figured businesses need to fully understand the benefits of allowing employees to work remotely.
According to a Global Workplace Analytics survey, Cost and Benefits: Advantages of Telecommuting for Companies, nearly six out of ten employers identify cost savings as a significant benefit to having telecommuting programs. Real estate costs alone can make up the majority of a business’s annual overhead costs. The average real estate savings if a business employed full-time teleworkers? $10,000 per employee per year; add in reduction of utility costs and that number increases to $11,000, or $700 billion per year in the U.S. if employees worked from home just part-time.
Another plus? Utilizing telecommuting programs can help companies reduce their carbon footprint. By reducing energy used to power an office building and cutting down on paper products, businesses can save on those utility and daily costs while helping lower the number of cars on the road. Telecommuting reduces U.S. total vehicle miles traveled by 35 billion annually. Fewer cars on the road makes everyone happier!
Finally, the best part about having telecommuting programs for businesses is the ability to promote better work/life balance for their employees. According to a study done by Staples, 73 percent of employees surveyed said they eat healthier when working from home. It’s much easier to maintain a healthier lifestyle with flexible work hours.
And because workers will have the ability to create a healthier lifestyle, they’re actually less stressed. The same study found that employees who worked from home experienced 25 percent less stress, making them not only happier, but more productive.
Latest Telecommuting Statistics, by Global Workplace Analytics, found that 86 percent of telecommuters say they are more productive in their home office. Remote workers also produce 43 percent more business volume than their in-office counterparts, according to the survey conducted by Staples.
Making it Happen: It Starts with IT
It’s clearly no secret that people want to work from home more, and it’s been proven by research that having even part-time teleworking employees can actually save a business time and money, while most importantly, keeping their employees happy.
Many businesses may still be hesitant to employ telecommuting policies because they’re unsure of where to start. Making a telecommuting policy successful in a company is a matter of equipping employees with the right tools (and skills) to get the job done.
Start with the IT team, as they are the nexus to making these policies happen. Find out what types of tools are available to ensure your teleworkers can remain connected with their counterparts, and understand the implementation process to get those tools into their hands.
The tools teleworkers need to be successful will vary between company and country. When we surveyed teleworkers to see which tools they were using the most we found that laptops, VPN, internet and smartphones were among some of the most-used technologies globally.
By understanding the needs of telecommuters, companies can easily implement the right sets of applications or tools to ensure that these workers can be at peak performance when away from the office.
So what are you waiting for? You’ve seen the stats, you understand that employees want to work from home more, it’s time to make it happen. As technology continues to evolve, implementing telecommuting policies will become easier—leading your business to save money on overheads, while keeping employee retention high thanks to a better work/life balance.
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