remote work telework

Offering remote-work options to current and prospective employees hugely increase your firm’s chances of beating out the employer competition to that perfect candidate, and of retaining your valued employees. It assists with ADA compliance and gender parity in hiring and promotion.

Telework or “remote work” can also save your firm thousands, if not millions, of dollars each year.

A look at the numbers of remote work

37 percent of employees would leave their current job for one that allowed them to work wherever they wanted at least part of their work week

According to 2017 research by Global Workplace Analytics, nearly nine out of every ten employees and job candidates want to work remotely, at least part-time. In the 2017 Hiring Sentiment Study by Management Recruiters International, 22 percent of the 265 recruiters surveyed said that job candidates requested a telework option very often, while another 46 percent said the candidates wanted to work remotely somewhat often. Only 3 percent said the subject never came up. Of the 263 candidates surveyed, 55 percent considered remote work important.

Scarier still, for companies that resist telework but need to retain valued employees,  is Gallup’s latest State of the Workplace report. The analysis giant’s researchers found that 37 percent of employees would leave their current job for one that allowed them to work wherever they wanted at least part of their work week. 

While United States telecommuter numbers have more than doubled since 2005, with over 32 million US employees now telecommuting at least part-time, that’s still only one in every four workers.

Why the discrepancy between those that want to work remotely and those that actually do?

The first two reasons might seem obvious:

  1. Some positions aren’t suitable for telework. An auto mechanic, for example, needs to be at the garage to fix customers’ cars (unless the company offers a mobile repair service); and a physician needs to be in the office when ill patients arrive (except if she makes house calls or participates in telemedicine.) See, when you think about it, there aren’t that many jobs that can’t be done remotely at least part of the time.
  2. Some employees and candidates aren’t suitable for telework. Folks for whom socializing with others is a huge perk of employment, those who lack the self-discipline to leave the TV, social media, and refrigerator alone during work hours, and new staff who haven’t a good handle on their job duties and product knowledge, are better suited for work in an office environment. (On the other hand, once those new workers learn their job and the company products …)

The primary stumbling block to an employee’s remote-work option, is not the job or the employee, however. It’s the employer.

We asked Kate Lister, president of the workplace strategy consultancy Global Workplace Analytics, why some employers resisted implementation of remote-work.

“They’re counting butts in seats instead of studying how [workers] perform,” she told RecruitingDaily.

Lister confirmed that 70 percent of U.S. employers offer some type of telecommute option, but that fewer than 30 percent of them make it available, or even known, to all or most of their employees.

“It’s what we refer to as the five-percent privilege,” she said. “At many firms, working remotely is only offered to older, more tenured employees. There’s no documentation and no formal program. They want to be able to choose [who gets to telework]; to make sure it’s seen as a privilege, not a right.”

Companies that offer a formal, documented, internally publicized telework program are, therefore, a shoe-in for an employer of choice.

Professional services giant Ernst & Young first introduced remote-work opportunities to its staff in 1998, primarily to combat turnover problems among its female employees who were parents, and for whom work/life balance was crucial. Prior to telework’s implementation, hiring at E&Y was evenly divided between the genders, though most women weren’t sticking around. This turnover meant that 80 percent of supervisory and management positions were going to men.

The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton Work/Life Roundtable, for its Proving Leo Durocher Wrong: Driving Work/Life Change at Ernst & Young report, talked with an Ernst and Young senior manager, prior to the telecommute pilot. The executive said that most workers leaving the company were doing so because they had children.  The departing women made that reason clear. The men not so much.

“Men are leaving for that reason, too, but they don’t say it,” the manager said. “When they leave, they don’t say: ‘I just want to spend more time with my kids.’ What they say is: ‘I’ve got this great opportunity where I will be able to make more money without these horrendous hours.’”

Ernst & Young, with more than half of its nearly 42,000 employees now working remotely, is number three on Working Mothers Magazine’s 2017 100 Best Companies for Working Mothers list. Women now make up 45 percent of its workforce, and 43 percent of its senior management.

What Else Is In It for Me?

Beyond offering what candidates want, and what the hiring competition doesn’t offer, telework provides employers with several financial benefits. These often help reduce and defray the cost per hire.

Consider the following:

Real Estate, Utility Costs, and Constraints – Have you failed to hire because you’ve outgrown your current office or parking space? Are you in an area where real estate is expensive, or hard to come by? Sending folks home or elsewhere to work can solve this problem.

  • The U.S. Dept. of Treasury reduced office space by 484,000 square feet after implementing remote work. The most recent reported savings, for all of 2016, was about $10 million.
  • IBM and Sun Microsystems’ telecommuting options have saved $50 million and $68 million respectively in real estate costs, according to Global Workplace Analytics.

Costly Job Vacancies – Vacant positions cost your firm productivity and money. The ability to reach beyond your own geographic area, especially to places where the cost of living and wage expectation are less, can expand your search for the ideal candidate while reducing the cost per hire.

The tech-career gurus at Dice talked with industry experts, who painted a financially dim picture of job vacancies.

“CEB (formerly Corporate Executive Board) estimates the cost of an open position at $500 per day,” Dice Insights reported. “Recruiting guru Dr. John Sullivan places the loss from missing out on a single game-changer, purple squirrel or innovator at over $1 million each.”

Nortel has estimated a savings of $100,000 for each non-local employee that it doesn’t have to relocate.

Productivity – Is productivity lagging in your firm due to disengagement, absenteeism, and tardiness? Numerous are the ways that telecommuting can curtail the problem:

  • Remote workers have no commute; no “flat-tire” or “stuck-in-traffic” excuse for being late. They’re already at work. In fact, numerous studies show they’re at work earlier and longer than their in-office colleagues.
  • If sick and contagious, they can still work from home without infecting the entire office.
  • Parents of young children, who typically choose doctors close to home, reduce their time off when child illness strikes. A commuting parent who might well take the day off to get their sick child to the doctor can reduce that time off to a couple of hours if working from home.
  • If your firm operates in an area that periodically deals with blizzard conditions, mudslides, floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, or other natural disasters, remote workers can keep your business open and productive, even if folks can’t make it to the office.
  • For those positions that needn’t designate times of day for work to be accomplished, teleworkers can work during their most productive hours, during their body’s peak performance times.

Starting In 2010, Stanford University Economics professor Nicholas Bloom led a nine-month study of teleworking employees at China-based travel service giant Ctrip. The study, reported by, found home workers 13 percent more productive than their non-teleworking colleagues.

Gallup’s State of the Workplace study discussed employee disengagement, and its effect on productivity and other byproducts of disengagement, such as company theft, negative influence on co-workers, poor attendance, and negative interactions with customers.

Gallup estimated such disengagement as a whopping annual nationwide cost of between $483 billion and $605 billion in lost productivity.

The researchers found that employees who worked remotely between 60 percent and 80 percent of their work week were far more engaged, and thus 31 percent more productive, than their commuting co-workers.

Health Insurance Costs – Remote workers often lead less stressful lives than their commuting co-workers. This tends to stave off illness, with the added benefit of curtailing absenteeism.

  • Researchers at the Royal Society for Public Health in the UK found that 55 percent of workers felt more stressed as a result of their commute. They snacked more, and, with fewer free hours, were less active with less healthy lifestyles, than those who worked remotely.
  • Of the 1,000 knowledge workers surveyed for collaboration software provider PGI’s 2014 State of Telecommuting report, 82 percent claimed a reduction in their stress levels thanks to their telework.

Telecommuting is not for everyone or every position.

But, setting aside for a moment the myriad benefits and cost savings to your firm, here’s the number one reason you must consider remote work options: Employees and job candidates want it; and they’re looking elsewhere if your firm doesn’t offer it.

As one long-time telework manager told us, “If you’re not offering telework, you’re losing candidates to me.”

Sharon Hill

Sharon is a writer for RecruitingDaily.  Sharon's background is in two decades of newspapers, primarily in classified advertising including management. As a senior writer/analyst for client AIM Group, LLC for 11 years she kept abreast of the tools and best practices in multimedia advertising, with a special focus on recruitment, automotive, real estate, online marketplaces and all forms of social networking. For 3.5 years she wrote the monthly "Classified Intelligence Case Studies" newsletter, which looked at products and ideas that newspapers and other media have used to grow their classified advertising.