According to a recent Advantage telecommuting survey we conducted here at Staples, telecommuting programs:
- Lead to happier employers and employees
- Reduce absenteeism and stress
- Allow for better work/life balance while still enabling productivity
For these reasons, it’s no surprise that telecommuting is here to stay — despite the recent debates. Indeed, TeleworkResearch.com reports that the number of regular telecommuters in the United States is expected to rise 69 percent and reach 4.9 million by 2016.
So businesses are considering how to make the most out of their telecommuting programs. However, companies also need to give special attention to one often-overlooked factor for achieving employee well-being: the home office environment.
Home office support in existing telecommuting programs
The Advantage survey revealed that office interiors (including furniture options, at-home delivery, and setup) are overwhelmingly ignored for the telecommuting workforce; only 17 percent of employers surveyed currently offer these options.
Additionally, technology is a major pain point for the telecommuting workforce; the majority of telecommuters do not use their company’s data backup system, which in turn puts sensitive business information at risk.
As a result, some employers are making an approved product list. Employees use that list to choose from a company-endorsed list of products, which makes it easy for employees to place orders and for the company to control costs. The pre-selected list includes furniture, office supplies, technology products, and any other necessary materials that will enable productivity.
Other employers select suppliers with at-home delivery and installation. Installation teams not only help with setup, but they ask the right questions to ensure proper furniture selection in the first place. Additionally, to help keep employees productive, employers can arrange to have at-home furniture and technology installation occur on the same day and time, thereby avoiding multiple disruptions.
Product-wise, some considerations for in-home offices are:
- Ergonomic and sustainable furniture: Supporting proper posture, preventing work-related injuries, and promoting employee health are three benefits of ergonomic furniture. And sustainable furniture and materials not only help support individual employee and employer green initiatives, but also help promote healthier work and living spaces.
- Storage: Desk organizers, file cabinets, and shelving help telecommuters minimize clutter and maximize space, thereby making home office environments more productive.
- Connectivity: With IT connectivity issues a main concern for employers and employees, telecommuting programs should ensure easy access to email, document sharing, instant messaging, and video conferencing — which means including web cameras and headsets as necessary technology items.
- Network access: Remote VPN capabilities are essential to teleworkers who need to seamlessly access the network.
- Data backup and security: Employees need to be educated about data integrity — including backup and security Best Practices — to avoid risky practices such as emailing sensitive information.
- Print: For the remote workforce, employers should support printing capabilities by helping employees print items locally at a good price. Additionally, employers can provide multi-function devices for efficient printing, scanning, copying, and faxing without the need for multiple machines.
The work/life balance benefit of working from home is a major reason behind telecommuting programs for both employers and employees. However, to truly support the lifestyle considerations of remote employees and ultimately affect business performance, employers need to provide the same level of service for all employees, regardless of location.
With these simple solutions for amplifying telecommuting programs, employers can improve performance while meeting the demands of an increasing mobile workforce by supporting employees with productive, healthy, and sustainable home offices.