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Telecommuting: Should Small Business Embrace this Growing Trend?

December 11, 2017 –

It’s becoming more and more common to bump into people who telecommute to perform their jobs.  It may be full time or just a few days a week, but it’s a growing trend in Denver and Boulder.  In fact, the latest data lists Boulder, CO as the #1 telecommuting metro in the nation overall.  And in the large-metro category, Denver is ranked #2 (Austin, TX hold the #1 spot).*

But telecommuting and providing work-from-home options are more typically provided by larger organizations.  Large companies provide telecommuting options for their employees 12% of the time, with small business only providing these options 5% of the time. But this trend may be shifting.  Midsized businesses (those with 100-500 employees) offer it 7% of the time, but have seen the largest growth in this area since 2010.

Is Telecommuting Right for Your Business?

Small businesses are the least likely to provide telecommuting options for their employees.  And in some cases, the reasons are obvious.  Small businesses with retail front ends need their employees to operate the storefront.  Construction companies and small manufacturers need employees for their physical labor.  But for many other small businesses, and for certain roles, there may not be a reason for the employee to physically be in the office.  So why are small businesses less likely to allow remote workers?  One of the reasons may lie in the technology.  Historically the technology required to enable remote work has been complicated, expensive, and challenging to implement.  But the latest solutions are removing those roadblocks, allowing more and more small and midsized businesses to explore telecommuting as an option.

Telecommuting Pros and Cons

For small businesses, there are a lot of pros and cons to consider before embracing the shift to telecommuting.

The Pros:

Pro #1: Lower Costs – telecommuting can significantly lower the overhead costs for your small business.  Not only will workers save on gas money, you can lower your real estate costs, facility management costs, office supplies and more.  And while some savings are small (nobody broke the bank due to coffee), they can add up.

Pro #2: Employee Satisfaction & Recruiting Edge – providing flexible telecommuting arrangements can make a huge difference for employees.  No need to deal with a long commute, no need to dress up, and no need to pack a lunch.  Plus many people report they love the peace and quiet when working from home.  And while the low unemployment rate has been great for the economy, it’s a challenge for small businesses.  If you are one of the early adopters of telecommuting, this can be a big edge in retaining and attracting better employees.

Pro #4: Increased Productivity – the big fear about telecommuting a few years back centered around productivity.  How can I make sure my employees aren’t wasting time on Facebook?  Studies have shown that in fact remote workers are more productive due to the heightened ability to concentrate, less wasted time (commuting, going out to lunch, socializing), and a shift in measuring employees to outcomes rather than showing up to the office on time.

The Cons:

Con #1: Fear of Lost Productivity – although studies indicate productivity often improves overall, it’s not right for every employee.  Some individuals need the group around them performing the same job to stay on task throughout the day.

Con #2: Cultural Change – employers worry that the shift to remote work will negatively impact the culture of the office.  Some remote employees can become feeling isolated and lonely.  The office can be a great place to socialize and form relationships, and without that connection some elements of company culture can shift.

Con #3: Collaboration Challenges – Creative work environments work well when employees can engage and bounce ideas off one another.  Sharing and building upon previous ideas is a cornerstone of brain storming and creative solution development. With telecommuting, team members won’t be able to collaborate in the same physical space.

While these cons may seem insurmountable, new technology solutions can go a long way in mitigating these challenges.  And now, those technologies are affordable for small businesses, too.  We will likely see more and more small businesses explore telecommuting options as the adoption of these solutions becomes more widespread.

Next week we’ll be exploring how new technologies can be used to implement a telecommuting option for your employees.

Until then, if you have any question about telecommuting please Contact Us or give us a call at 303-410-2845.

– The Xlingshot Team

* Global Workplace Analytics and Flexjobs, “The 2017 State of Telecommuting in the U.S. Employee Workforce.” https://www.flexjobs.com/2017-State-of-Telecommuting-US/

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