Chicago, IL June 12, 2012 – Typically viewed as a “soft,” family-friend perk, telecommuting at a Washington, DC-based university is now driving hard-number results and helping them execute their strategy to attract and retain top-level talent.
Companies looking to cut costs and attract top talent, federal agencies seeking to comply with the 2011 Telework Enhancement Act, and employees looking to make the case for working remotely can all learn from the university’s experience.
University officials estimate that their new telecommuting policy will generate an annual savings of more than $800,000. Furthermore, having a few hundred employees work from home two days a week is generating a projected aggregate annual carbon footprint savings of 2,851 metric tons and saving an estimated $1.6 million in fuel and maintenance costs. Employees are saving money too. Those that travel between 20 and 30 miles to work can save approximately $1,400 a year.
Juan Pablo Gonzalez of Axiom Consulting Partners, who helped the university execute its telecommuting strategy, said a significant opportunity lies in treating telecommuting like a strategic initiative, validating the potential financial and organizational impact, prior to implementation. Factors worth considering include:
- Office space (cost per square foot/employee) and energy costs;
- Technology setup costs for high-speed home internet connections, laptop computers, and online collaboration tools;
- Environmental and community impact;
- Commuting distances and employee productivity/engagement;
- Business continuity, particularly during emergencies.
“Telecommuting should be a data-driven decision, not an emotional one,” said Gonzalez. “We gathered people’s perspectives regarding telecommuting and coupled this with rigorous data analyses and a variety of economic models to test whether telecommuting could deliver tangible benefits to the university and its employees.”
Creating Value, Avoiding Risks of Telecommuting
Even when the benefits are obvious a telecommuting strategy is not without risks.
“There are five key factors that have to be addressed upfront to make sure telecommuting doesn’t backfire,” Gonzalez said. “First, managers have to be capable of managing remotely; it often requires new tools and techniques, setting clear expectations and holding employees accountable. Second, managers need to support telecommuting policies. A lot of counter-productive ill will can build up if managers discourage employees from participating.
“Third, decisions regarding the functions and processes that lend themselves to telecommuting arrangements must be well thought out and communicated,” Gonzalez said. “The criteria we applied to assess telecommuting eligibility included the ability to maintain or exceed service levels and the frequency and type of customer interaction required by specific roles.”
Fourth, work processes may need to change paper-based to digital formats. Fifth the criteria for telecommuting eligibility must be applied clearly and consistently. Gonzalez said, “Often the employees ‘left behind’ have their own concerns about fairness and workloads. Telecommuters worry about status and staying connected.”
Is It Working?
Before starting a telecommuting program, Axiom Consulting Partners recommends setting measures to monitor success. Plan to formally gather and assess feedback from telecommuters, their managers, their peers and customers. Monitor the financial impact of empowering telecommuters vs. operational savings. Adapt performance management processes to specifically assess how telecommuters are performing in their new environment.
“Telecommuting can be a valuable part of a larger business strategy,” said Gonzalez. “But don’t rush into it. Only by calculating the potential benefits, managing the risks and measuring the results can an organization leverage the power of telecommuting to improve its performance.”
About Axiom Consulting Partners
Axiom Consulting Partners works side-by-side with leaders to deliver pragmatic solutions that drive results. Our services help clients clarify strategy, focus on the highest priority sources of value and align their capabilities, processes and people to deliver sustainable, profitable growth. We always look at a client’s challenges through the lenses of business strategy, organization design, and talent management – it’s why they choose us over firms that operate in just one of those disciplines.
Learn more at www.axiomcp.com