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At a time when we’re looking at reduced staffing in libraries, reduced salaries, reduced benefits, and reduced morale, it might be a good time to ask your boss about telecommuting (working from home) opportunities.  Maybe your union could concede a 5% pay cut if every staff member gets two telecommuting days per month.  Maybe you agree to a transfer or a reduction in health care if you get to work from home a half-day each week.  I can tell you from experience that telecommuting is a positive thing: for both the employee and the employer.

I work from home 1 or 2 days per week.  This was my only condition for getting hired at SJPL.  I live two hours away, and even making that commute only 3 days per week is hell on earth.  Every day I get to work from home is one more day I don’t go crazy.

To all the telecommuting haters out there: telecommuting works!  It’s cheaper, increases productivity, saves energy, reduces traffic, and increases morale.  Below are some stats you can use to convince your supervisor that telecommuting is a good idea!

The number of Americans who worked from home or remotely at least one day per month for their employer was 17.2 million in 2008. (WorldatWork Telework Trendlines 2009)

40% of U.S. employees hold jobs that that could be done at home (50 million). (Telework Adoption and Energy Use in Buildings and Transport Sectors in the United States and Japan)

The EPA estimated that $23 billion could be saved in transportation, environmental, and energy costs if there were a 10 to 20 percent increase in telecommuting. (EPA Study)

33% of Canadians would choose telework over a salary raise: 43% would quit for another job that allows telework. (Innovisions Canada)

Organizations could save 1 office for every 3 teleworkers (that’s about $2,000 per teleworker per year, or $200,000 per 100 teleworkers).  With telework, AT&T saved $3,000 per office for approximately $550 million by eliminating or consolidating office space people no longer need.  About 25% of IBM’s 320,000 workers worldwide telecommute from home offices, saving $700 million in real estate costs.
(Innovisions Canada)

Dozens of reputable studies have proven that teleworking 1 to 3 days per week increases overall employee productivity by 10% to 45% — a great way to trim overtime and related costs. That means that 2 to 10 teleworkers (depending on your situation) equates to one “free” extra worker.  The increase in productivity for half-time teleworkers would equate to over 5.5 million man years of work.  Specific company stats are below:

  • American Express telecommuters handled 26% more calls and produced 43% more business than their office-based counterparts.
  • Compaq Computer Corporation documented productivity increases ranging from 15 to 45%.
  • Surveys and pilots conducted by IBM Canada (where about 20% of its workforce teleworks) indicate that employees can be as much as 50 per cent more productive when they work in telework environments (Innovisions Canada)

Cisco saved over $277 million in productivity in one year by letting employees work from home using the company’s own virtual office technology.  In addition, employees garnered fuel cost savings exceeding $10 million per year. (Cisco)

Gen Y’ers are more difficult to recruit (as reported by 56% of hiring managers) and to retain (as reported by 64% of hiring managers) but they are particularly attracted flexible work arrangements (ranked as 8 on a 10 scale for impact on overall job satisfaction). (The Edge Report, 2008 Robert Half International Survey)

72% of employers say telework has a high impact on employee retention. (1999 Telework America National Telework Survey)

Telecommuting programs reduce unscheduled absences by 63%. (16th Annual Unscheduled Absence Survey)

Productivity is hugely increased among telecommuters.  And it’s not just the staff themselves who think so.  Over two-thirds of employers report that supervisors view a measurable increase in productivity among their telecommuters.  Specific company stats are below:

A great resource for more information on telecommuting is the Telework Research Network website. They offer a great deal of research, a huge list of pros and cons with statistics, and a lot of information for both companies and individuals wanting to telecommute more.

“Tell Your Boss: Benefits of Telecommuting”

  1. Marge Loch-Wouters Says:

    Great post. Hits home for me – been sick with flu the past three days and have still gotten an amazing volume of work done while keeping my germs mostly to myself. Reviews read; programs planned; books on order; info submitted to online events calendars and etc.

  2. Karen Says:

    As someone who has been working completely remotely for the last 2 1/2 months, I’m finding that it has advantages both for employees and employers. One big advantage I see is the ability to easily time shift. Because going to the office means going upstairs its easier for me to timeshift and work with OCLC colleagues in various parts of the world.

    Also because I don’t work in an office I have a lot more distraction free time. Personally I find it easier to do highly focused work like coding or writing documentation in this type of environment. In terms of interacting with colleagues I chat or Skype or phone people daily. I’ve also found my remote meetings much more productive.

    Personally I spend less on gas. Also I also spend less on lunch because I’m home and am not tempted to buy something for lunch.

  3. Stephen Says:

    I’ve been working at home for almost two weeks now and my productivity has increased by 52%. My employer and I are both reaping significant benefits from this arrangement. I would take exception to the lead though: “Maybe your union could concede a 5% pay cut if every staff member gets two telecommuting days per month.”

    I don’t feel the benefits of telecommuting can adequately be harnessed if used sporadically (where does twice a month come from?) Further, this idea of yielding compensation does not seem very well considered either – definitely when used on that scale. (While there’s obviously no one-size-fits-all rule, I would estimate twice a week would be where significant increases in productivity would be seen, generally.) Working from home twice a month and forfeiting over half a month’s pay annually, does not seem like a win-win from where I sit. I suspect that implementing a good idea in such a restricted (limited/minisucule) way, has the potential to give fuel to the critics’ fire.

  4. Marcie Says:

    The idea sounds great, but what about those of us who work in customer service, specifically the reference desk? (Or really any public desk – it’s hard to check people in and out and give out library cards from home. You can’t put materials away or weed the collection from home.) Even in a place where there are multiple staff, one person out for one day means the others have to cover the desk(s) and have less time to do off-desk projects, which may not be suitable to doing from home on the other person’s day out. I’m not sure what the answer is, but as tempting as telecommuting sounds, it doesn’t seem feasible for every job.

  5. Justine Shaffner Says:

    Sarah, thanks so much for this – I’m doing presentations on how libraries can be greener, and it talks about telecommunting, but all these hard facts will be a god send so I’ll be directing people to this post. I too work from home one day a week and am so grateful I always work at least a straight ten hour day! – Justine

  6. Sarah Says:

    To Stephen: Where I work, our staff are going to be getting a pay and benefits cut, pretty much no matter what. It makes sense to me that our union, or others in our position, might think creatively about the concessions to demand that might lessen the mental and morale impact on the staff…like offering telecommuting. I don’t think anyone should have to give up pay to get telecommuting. Absolutely not. But I do think that it’s seen in most organizations as a benefit still, so why not ask for it if you don’t already have it? Now, when they’re taking everything else away from us, seems like a good time.

    To Marcie: I think that people who predominantly work on the front desk with customers have a harder time. Obviously you can’t do most of your job from home. But you could take perhaps a day a month, at least, where you save up work that you can do from home: an online-chat reference shift, some quarterly report writing, updating social media sites, updating the events database, planning a program. It can’t be done all the time — but even just once in a while would probably be nice!

  7. Top Ten Links Week 14 | Librarian by Day Says:

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  8. rcn Says:

    I do hope you told your boss!


  9. Anna Creech Says:

    My “office” is a cube farm, and my cube is right next to the conference table and high-traffic area. I’d love to have the opportunity to work in a quiet space alone without distractions, and my home office can provide that.

    Most of the literature on telecommuting that I have seen indicates that people are more productive when working from home, and yet there is still a perception that working from home is code for slacking off or doing home-stuff instead of work-stuff. Suggesting that folks trade salary or benefits for being able to work from home doesn’t help that situation very much, nor is it a fair for an employer to ask for that.

  10. Paul Buehler Says:

    I work at Cisco, (one of your examples), and use our virtual office solution. I have the same IP phone/laptop setup at my home as I have at the office. When I call someone I just dial their extension. To get on the Cisco network I just plug my laptop cable into the router. It’s simple, and I’m so incredibly more productive since I’ve been working from my home office. As I spend most of my day on conference and video calls, half the people I work with don’t even know that I am a mobile worker. In fact, I get invited to lunch all the time and have to remind my co-workers I live 800 miles away. Teleworking is really a mindset change, and companies who do not adopt will be left behind. There is no way to compete with the productivity gains, lower real estate and overhead costs, and talent retention that teleworking companies can provide.

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  13. Rhonda Says:

    After a decision to move back to NY (from Colorado) I am in the process of submitting a proposal for making my a teleworking Emerging Technologies Librarian. All but two of my “Duties & Responsibilities” are done online. What I am having the most trouble with is creating a method of measurement of my projects and responsibilities. We have been doing a trial where I work from home a 2-3 days/week, using email, Skype and chat for communication. Anyone have suggestions on verbiage for the measurement part? Self evaluation and creating evaluations for the students who take the online classes we will be implementing (one of my duties) are in the works, I also created a “Work Journal” to note what I am doing on a daily basis (this was built on the hard copy work journal that I keep anyway).

  14. Amelia Says:

    I am really interested in the possibilities of telecommuting. I have been diagnosed with panic attacks and the idea of having them at work is petrifying. Much of what I do can be done online but I’m not sure how my school would respond to a telecommuting position. Are there any agencies that provide staffing for telecommuting positions for librarians?

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