14 Benefits of Telecommuting for Employers in 2023
The COVID-19 pandemic abruptly shuttered many office doors, leaving employers with no other option than to let their employees work from home. News anchors began reporting from bedrooms, CEOs shared kitchen tables with preschoolers and everyone discovered video calls. More people than ever before began to telecommute—and many of them realized they liked it.
What is telecommuting?
Telecommuting, also called remote work, allows professionals to carry out their jobs from a location outside of the traditional office setting. Home offices, coffee shops or coworking spaces—anywhere with an internet connection can become a place to work.
How does telecommuting work?
Telecommuting isn’t new. Remote-first companies like Upwork have successfully conducted business for years with workers located around the globe. These businesses use apps including Zoom, Skype, Slack, and Google Workspace to communicate and collaborate remotely. While the tools do not completely replace the experience of working face-to-face, they help with both productivity and team building.
Companies that are new to telecommuting can look to existing remote-first organizations for inspiration (and even expand their distributed workforce through Upwork!). While the tech stack every company chooses will vary, a messaging app and a video conferencing service are essential for working together remotely.
Why businesses are moving to telecommuting
Once teams began settling into their routines at home, it became apparent there were unrealized benefits of telecommuting for companies, too. Telecommuting workers could settle into periods of deep work without anyone popping by their office for a chat. Without a long commute, flexible work hours became more feasible. Productivity increased, and hiring pools expanded dramatically now that new workers could come from anywhere in the world.
Building a successful remote work culture can require an initial investment of time and money, but the dividends may easily outweigh the costs. Businesses considering making a permanent switch to telecommuting should consider the need for added security measures, virtual private networks (VPNs), VoIP phone lines and new software licenses. IT teams must rethink their approach to support when working with a remote workforce, and managers need to learn new best practices for telecommuting. These practices include building and communicating policies around cybersecurity, onboarding, sick days, absenteeism and flexible scheduling.
There are, of course, advantages and disadvantages of telecommuting. Some challenges of telecommuting include a loss of the everyday office interactions that teams may take for granted, like "water cooler" chats and face time with leadership. With the help of video conferencing software and virtual events, though, employees can recapture some of these experiences. In the Prudential survey, 68% of respondents said they still found it easy to communicate with colleagues while telecommuting.
An increasing number of employers have found that the benefits outweigh any potential negative effects of telecommuting and are building distributed workforces. Some businesses have implemented a permanent telecommuting program. Others plan to pursue flexible work arrangements that blend in-office time with remote work.
14 benefits of telecommuting
Some of the top benefits experienced by companies that switch to telecommuting include:
- More dedicated workers
- Increased productivity
- Higher quality of work
- Fewer distractions
- Less travel fatigue
- More eco-conscious operations
- General money savings
- Lower operational costs
- Higher rates of worker job satisfaction
- Better environment for employees
- Reduced stress levels
- Better work-life balance
- Lower worker turnover
- A larger hiring pool of top talent
If your organization has yet to switch to remote work, consider these reported benefits and how they may positively benefit operations.
More dedicated workers
According to the American Psychological Association, remote work enhances job satisfaction. For one thing, telecommuters don't have to bear the costs—including time, effort, and actual money—of getting to and from a job site.
The ability to work at different hours is also an important part of boosting team morale and output. Many professionals who telecommute are experiencing better work-life balance, with more time to spend with their families. When a company demonstrates that they care about this by allowing teams to work remotely, it can build loyalty. In Adobe's 2021 State of Work report, 81% of digital workers said they are more invested than ever in their jobs.
Telecommuters aren't just feeling happier and more loyal; they're also more productive. The Society for Human Resource Management reports that productivity goes up when teams are remote, with workers logging an average of three more working hours per day from home than when in-office.
When a team member isn't experiencing a firm transition from office to home, such as going through a commute, it can seem more natural to start work earlier and answer emails throughout the evening. However, it’s important for companies to encourage their teams to set appropriate telecommuting boundaries that help to prevent burnout.
Higher quality of work
It isn't just the quantity of work that increases due to telecommuting, either—it's quality. Adobe reports that digital creativity is rising, with more professionals utilizing technology to foster innovation in the workplace.
In 2020, Microsoft noticed that a switch to remote work actually expanded employees' professional networks, as they began interacting virtually with more colleagues than ever before. This kind of increased networking can help strengthen cross-functional collaboration and the production of high-quality work that benefits an entire company and its clients.
Work quality also improves among remote teams thanks to a reduction in distractions. Workers are able to enter into periods of deep work as needed, without the potential distractions that come with working in an open office. Asynchronous chat apps like Slack make it easy to dip in and out conversations as needed, and can help to replicate some of the casual “water cooler chats” that remote workers may miss.
Less travel fatigue
Workers took over 500 million business trips in the U.S. during 2016—and this travel ground to a halt just four years later. Suddenly, with all meetings held online, communicating with far-flung colleagues, clients, and vendors became a lot easier.
Frequent business travel and its associated challenges—delays, cancellations, illness and jet lag among them—can lead to burnout. The switch to virtual meetings not only results in savings on travel but an increase in productivity. Rather than spending hours in line at the airport or trying to work on a spotty airplane Wi-Fi connection, meetings are conducted efficiently as part of the normal workday.
For many companies, a mandatory move to telecommuting highlighted that not all business travel is as necessary as once thought. The Wall Street Journal reports that while some business travel, such as to trade shows and sales meetings, will resume, overall work trips are expected to remain down by 19% to 36% when compared with pre-pandemic levels.
More eco-conscious operations
While a switch to telecommuting doesn't eliminate the carbon footprint and emissions associated with work, reducing air travel and commuting is good for the environment.
By focusing on sustainability, you may even make your business more attractive to consumers. A global study by IBM and the National Retail Federation found that 70% of consumers across all generations are willing to pay, on average, 35% more for products from eco-friendly companies.
General money savings
The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the United States is over $1300 per month. In large cities like New York and San Francisco, it's closer to $3,000. As a result, many corporate employees could not afford to live in the same cities where they worked. This affordability problem created long commutes, with a nationwide average of 27.6 minutes in 2019.
People who telecommute may have the option to move to smaller cities and towns where the cost of living is cheaper. Plus, the elimination of gas and transit costs helps telecommuting employees save even more money. Reduced commuting is also a potential savings area for companies that offer their employees a reimbursement or stipend for transit and parking costs.
Lower operational costs
Workers aren't the only ones saving money as they ditch the commute in favor of telecommuting. A switch to remote work keeps costs down for employers, too. With a remote workforce, you can save money on:
- Office costs: Commercial office rent is between $100 and $600 per square foot in many major cities. Companies that go remote can save a lot of money on real estate by eliminating office space. Telecommuting also necessitates a transition to an almost all-digital work environment, so there is less need for consumable office supplies.
- Energy: According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the bulk of commercial building energy goes toward heating or cooling air and water. A switch to telecommuting means that companies no longer have to pay to maintain the temperature in corporate buildings, which can lead to great cost savings.
- Salary: Companies located in large cities with a high cost of living must often offer new team members a high pay rate to remain competitive. When teams telecommute, businesses can save money by bringing on team members in areas with a lower cost of living. It's also possible to save money while increasing output by utilizing independent talent to support in-house teams on a per-project basis.
Higher rates of employee job satisfaction
In a survey by Owl Labs, 77% of respondents said they would be happier if they could telecommute on an ongoing basis. When done right, remote work helps teams feel more productive, focused, balanced, and on equal footing.
Companies can keep worker satisfaction levels moving upward by keeping lines of communication open with their remote teams. Communicating policies and expectations can help to bolster engagement and productivity, and in turn, satisfaction.
Better environment for team members
Not everyone feels comfortable working in an office setting. A shift to telecommuting may make collaboration and communication more inclusive and comfortable for many professionals. Plus, professionals may also feel more productive in an environment of their choosing, without the distractions of working in an open office.
Reduced stress levels
Telecommuting can reduce stress levels in more than one way. Not only are professionals free of stress-inducing commutes and public transit delays, but they also can create their ideal work environment. Another great stress-reducing perk of telecommuting is that remote workers can remain geographically closer to their support networks of family and friends.
Better work-life balance
Many professionals who worked from home for the first time during COVID found that they enjoyed the flexibility that remote work provided. Without a long commute, they have more time for family, spouses, children, hobbies, and personal development.
Lower worker turnover
When professionals are satisfied and less stressed, they're not as likely to look for new jobs. In fact, resistance to telecommuting may cause some employers to lose team members. As many as 17% of employees say they'll look for a new job if their employer eliminates all telecommuting.
In a survey conducted by Prudential, 87% of respondents said they wanted the ability to work remotely at least one day a week. If going fully remote isn't an option for a business, the offer of part-time telecommuting options may help boost employee retention.
A larger hiring pool of top talent
One of the greatest benefits of hiring remote workers is that companies can tap into a global talent pool. In addition to expanding the number of qualified professionals for every job, it also opens up the ability to run around-the-clock operations.
When talent lives in multiple time zones, initiatives keep moving—and you can dramatically reduce lags in productivity. This arrangement is particularly useful for projects involving social media moderation and customer support.
Experience the advantages of telecommuting
When you've been used to hiring within a 50-mile radius, the idea of working with talent globally can be daunting—and exciting.
Upwork Enterprise account managers connect companies with independent professionals based on business needs and budget. When working with Upwork Enterprise, you'll have access to a large, talented pool of professionals ready to execute your project.
Small businesses can leverage the benefits of telecommuting and global talent, too. Upwork makes it easy to build a Virtual Talent Bench™ of professionals that you can turn to repeatedly for project help. And, because Upwork lets you see talent portfolios and read feedback from other clients upfront, you can review the person you pick to make sure they are a great fit.
The world's work marketplace can help you transform your business into a telecommuting success. Get started by posting a job on Upwork and connect with independent talent ready to help you work more strategically.