Employees who yearn for job flexibility see working at home as the ultimate prize—and have been increasingly pushing their companies to provide the perk. Over the past decade, employers have actively started to respond. The share of workers doing some or all of their work at home grew from 19 percent in 2003 to 24 percent in 2015, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The 2015 numbers are greater still for management and professional positions, 38 percent and 35 percent, respectively.
The ability to work from anywhere has evolved along with technological advances—so much so that 68 percent of recent college graduates say that, among company policies, the ability to work remotely has “the most positive impact” on their interest in an employer, according to a FlexJobs survey.
The trend encompasses a wide swath of industries, from healthcare to technology. Here at InfoCision, we have seen firsthand the benefits of offering employees the Work-at-Home option. Thanks to cloud computing and widely available Internet broadband access, Communicators can now provide home-based services that are indistinguishable from services that originate in the contact center. Such findings have revolutionized the work place and are greatly improving work-life balance among millions of workers (3.2 million in 2014, according to The New York Times).
Reasons to consider adding Work-at-Home to your call center’s career options:
Dollars: By leveraging the Internet, businesses can reduce the costs of office space and multiple overhead charges. Employees who participate in Work-at-Home programs typically love it, which builds their company loyalty, thus lowering your attrition rates and costs.
Time: Commuting is draining on the spirit, the wallet and the clock. The average commuter spends nearly an hour a day just getting to and from the office—time that could be better used to close a deal or finish writing a story, among a multitude of other tasks. Time=money.
Morale: Job satisfaction increases with telecommuting. It should almost go without saying that having the flexibility to work from home (or anywhere)—in case you’re under the weather, a child is sick, the car’s in the shop, etc.—would improve employee morale; nevertheless, new research from the University of Minnesota and the MIT Sloan School of Management has made it official. In a randomized controlled trial, the researchers learned that workers who were given an increased sense of control over their work lives reported higher levels of job satisfaction and reduced levels of burnout and psychological stress.
Productivity: Only 7 percent of respondents to a FlexJob survey say the office is their location of choice if they need to be most productive at work tasks. The rest prefer to work remotely; their top reasons for this choice include fewer interruptions from co-workers and other distractions, like meetings and office politics. What’s more, research shows that at-home workers typically put in longer hours than their colleagues at the office.
Beware some telecommuting challenges
At-home workers have reported a sense of isolation, and they find communicating with colleagues more challenging—at least initially. Virtual connection technologies like Skype and Google Hangout help bridge the communication gap but, for others, nothing replaces chatting around the water cooler.
Keeping tabs on what co-workers are doing is also tricky, as is staying motivated to report on their own activities toward goals. This leads to another issue coming to the forefront: Telecommuters are being promoted at half the rate of their in-office colleagues, according to The New York Times article referenced above. This can be attributed to a lack of live interaction—a case of out of sight, out of mind—wherein managing employees and collaborating with the boss are inherently more difficult.
For some telecommuters, limited home resources are also a problem. After all, not every home setup includes a printer and fax machine, for example. Some people also simply work better in a structured environment; home can offer too many temptations to put work on pause.
Sometimes, the best telecommuting practice may simply be to offer employees options—a couple of days at home per week or month—when a deep focus on a work project is needed, a sore throat wants tending or the weather outside is frightful.
Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team, he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the DMA, SOCAP, and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several university boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He is a frequent speaker for national events and has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry.