Last month, we learned that 5% of U.S. workers would give up their spouse for the chance to telecommute. Umm, I worked remotely for a few months after my husband and I moved from Boston to Southern California. I didn’t think it was that great.
Seriously, though, an Ipsos/Reuters poll released in January shows that roughly 20% of workers worldwide telecommute “frequently,” with the workforce in emerging markets such as India and Indonesia leading the way.
Which makes sense, given that companies don’t have to shell out the same kind of overhead when they employ a remote work force. For less prosperous companies in less prosperous countries, overhead savings can be a big deal.
The poll revealed that North American and European organizations view telecommuting as “a great way to retain women.” I assume that this alludes to the fact that after starting families, some women look for more flexible work arrangements.
For companies in developed markets, then (and I do realize that this is a sweeping generalization), employing remote workers seems to be more about hiring and retaining the best talent than about reducing costs.
On Monday night, an interesting debate about telecommuting broke out on Slashdot. Many indicated that telecommuting makes them more productive because it reduces the number of distractions. A few highlighted the fact that it can be difficult to coordinate with a remote team, although cavtroop pointed out, “You’re not using the tools available to you then. Phone, IM, chat rooms, teleconferences.”
Ensuring that your organization has the infrastructure to support telecommuters is vital to both organizational and employee health. When I was working remotely, my company didn’t have many tools in place to support me. No teleconferencing, no Skype—I can’t even remember if I had a VPN connection or if my colleagues had to e-mail me important documents off our network shared drive!
I would submit that for many organizations, a thin-client ECM solution is an essential piece of IT infrastructure that enables telecommuting. This is especially true for companies in paper-heavy, female-dominated industries such as medical billing.
Take CHMB Solutions, a medical billing and technology company that grew 172% between 2007 and 2010. According to Ron Anderson, CHMB’s Director of Business Development, using ECM allowed the company to add 150 employees without relocating or acquiring additional office space.
“The quality of our staff has increased since we began employing telecommuters,” Anderson explained. “We’re able to attract the best people, without geographic limitations, and we find that people who value the flexibility to work from home work harder because they don’t want to lose that perk.”
As netsavior wrote on Slashdot, “No bonus, raise or corporate title bought [my company] the loyalty that telecommuting bought them. With this sweet setup, I will never quit.”
Organizations that want to attract, hire and retain top talent while simultaneously cutting costs must make sure that they have the IT infrastructure to support remote employees. As you evaluate the technology solutions that enable telecommuters, be sure not to forget about ECM.