Monday, April 6, 2009

Telecommuting Revisited

In my previous post I talked about the benefits of working from home. Just when I was researching on quantifying the benefits, I spotted a recent article by Ted Samson on Infoworld about telecommuting. Interestingly, Ted covers the same points that I mentioned in my post but has given references to some telecommuting experiments and quantified benefits. 

He drives the point from the perspective of sustainable IT. Ted lists out the benefits:

1. Increase employee productivity
2. Save companies money
3. Benefits the environment
4. Incentive for current and prospective employees

I would also include business continuity as another benefit with incidents like WTC attack or  worst snow fall in the UK having tremendous potential to affect the operations.

For productivity, he cites the example of American Express:

American Express teleworkers produce 43 percent more business than employees at the office, according to Colorado Telework Coalition. Productivity increased 31 percent among the 9,000 telecommuters in British Telecom's workforce of 80,000, according to the Telework Foundation.

 When he talks about productivity boost, he does not mention every single employee. It is critical for the company to have right recruitment structure to hire right kind of employees, set expectations and manage them effectively.

He also has provided data from Canadian Telework Association and ITAC The Telework Advisory Group of WorldAtWork around the cost savings by implementing telecommuting.

According to the Telework Advisory Group of WorldatWork, employers can realize an annual per-employee savings of $5,000 through telecommuting.

... AT&T reports savings of $3,000 per office, for approximately $550 million, by eliminating or consolidating office space. Meanwhile, about 25 percent of IBM's 320,000 workers worldwide telecommute, saving Big Blue some $700 million in real estate costs.

He also refers to Sun's telecommute program where Sun employees benefited by saving on fuel, time and wear and tear of car. He also refers to Cisco's Virtual Office package which gives remote workers and in-the-office experience.

What about India?

All said, this works very well in the US and Europe, but how does it apply in India? 

Accenture, IBM, Texas Instruments and Wipro were planning to start telecommuting on a war footing basis. Cisco is also known for encouraging telecommuting and one of the pioneers in the field. 

Let me try some math here. 

Considering an average of Rs. 1500 is spent on travel per month by an average employee (which would probably on the lower end) and with 2500 employees, the collective expense to be at work in a month is Rs. 37.5 lakhs and close to 85000 litres of fuel. Over and above this, there is wear and tear of the vehicle, traffic jams, health issues due to pollution and climatic conditions.

This is just a very basic idea of the savings. Having said, all this, telecommuting is not something that can be implemented overnight. Careful planning along with responsible behavior from employees is very critical is successfully running a telecommuting environment.

Do share the experience, benefits and challenges that you or your company had while implementing telecommuting. 

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