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Is Telecommuting Good Or Bad For Businesses?

By Lynnette Nolan | Small Business

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer caused uproar when she announced in February that the giant Internet firm would ban telecommuting. Working from home, according to Mayer, hurts “speed and quality.”

With telecommuting on the rise, especially in high-tech industries, her announcement upset some people in the technology sector and raised questions in the national media. An infographic on the Inc. Magazine website offers some surprising facts and figures about who’s working remotely, what types of tasks are best suited to be completed at home and the cost benefits of telecommuting.

In many situations, working from home or working remotely is going to be advantageous for both companies and for employees. That’s not likely to change. From 2005 to 2011, the number of employees who telecommute several days per week has risen by 60 percent, from 1.5 million to 2.4 million. And most workers like it, according to the Inc. Magazine article, which reports that 79 percent employees say they want to work from home, at least part of the time.

In general, companies and workers both benefit from telecommuting, according to the article. If an employee telecommutes from home half of the time, their company saves on average $11,000 annually on rent and other costs. And a remote worker saves on transportation and other expenses; typically about $2,000 to 7,000 annually.

In some situations, however, it’s advantageous for a business to have employees in their physical office. Not all work is well suited to telecommuting. With repetitive tasks, remote workers are 6 to 10 percent less productive than on-site employees, according to the article. It’s great for creative work, however, in which remote workers are 11 to 20 percent more productive.

It’s important to remember that there will be times when working remotely and working on-site both are appropriate for a company. At times, on-premises employees can benefit both personally and professionally from working from home. At other times, a remote worker can benefit from spending time in the office, in closer collaboration with his or her coworkers.

What are your thoughts on this debate? Do you have any advice for businesses who want to balance remote and on-site work environments?

Source: Inc. Magazine, February 2013

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