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The reasons why everyone should telework

Yesterday in San Francisco, BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) workers went on strike, resulting in one giant mess. They're complaining that their retirement benefits are unreasonable and their pay is dire while every year the top execs give themselves pay raises and perks. At any rate, with the strike continuing today, commuting must be a miserable experience in San Francisco...

The corporations that will get through this turmoil fine will be the ones that have a well-managed work-from-home program in place. The term for this used to be "telecommute" but about 20 years ago it was changed to "telework" since the process involves working remotely, not commuting remotely. We have yet to witness the once expected revolution in remote work. In fact, a poorly managed program, such as the one supposedly employed at Yahoo (opens in new tab), often results in a discontinuance of the program.

Why go to work at all when you can stay at home and get just as much or more done over a VPN connection to the corporate servers? Add in a phone and you may as well be at work.

It is well-documented that many people will get more done in a telework environment than they will at an office. Let's look at some of the telework stats from TelCoa (opens in new tab), the Telework Coalition in the US:

  • In Finland, 17 per cent of all workers telework.
  • In 2003, Gartner Group documented 137 million teleworkers worldwide.
  • During the early telework era in 1999 the Chicago Sun Times reported that AT&T teleworkers worked an average of five more hours per week than AT&T office workers, and that JD Edwards teleworkers were from 20 to 25 per cent more productive than their office co-workers.
  • The Colorado Telework Coalition reported that American Express teleworkers produce 43 per cent more business than their office workers.

But it is not just in terms of productivity that you see a difference. If you do the maths, a 40 minute commute equals eight weeks a year lost.

Are you looking for another rationale? How about the fact that in the US it costs about $10,000 (£6,600) per year to maintain an employee in an office given the costs of rent, utilities, and furnishings. In fact, a well-designed telework system can cut real estate costs by 25 to 50 per cent.

I've teleworked for decades in one form or another and have watched its popularity come and go. In general, an American company has a hard time dealing with telework despite all the benefits.

Because of the recent strikes in the Bay Area, many San Francisco-based companies are going to have to implement a real telework plan soon. And other firms would do well to sit up and take notice – it's a much better way to manage and a practical way to do business while saving money.

Now email this article to your boss.