We’ve all gotten jobs by arguing how much we’ll bring to a workplace. A better argument may be how much our employer will save if we don’t come in at all.
A study by Global Workplace Analytics finds that a company saves an average $24,000 a year for each employee who works entirely from home. Global Workplace looked at case studies and academic research to come up with the estimate.
The savings are “huge,” says Kate Lister, president of Global Workplace Analytics, a research-based consulting firm. “You figure that average office space is about $10,000 a year per employee. So it’s completely doing away with that expense.”
Once working from home, it’s possible to consider relocating to an area with lower cost real estate. It’s also possible to think with absolute freedom about where you’re truly like to call home and who you’d like to have as neighbors.
Other gains for companies include better employee productivity and big declines in absenteeism and worker turnover.
There’s more. Work-at-home employees themselves save an average of $4,500 yearly through reduced costs for travel, food, parking and dry cleaning, the study found.
That makes for happier employees. But it also means many will accept up to 10% less salary if allowed to work at home, Lister said.
Working remotely also provides a societal good: reducing greenhouse gases. The Global Analytics study estimated a firm embracing working remotely for 1,000 workers would slash worker gas consumption by 186,000 gallons per year, the equivalent of taking 300 cars off the road.
Of course, experts have been predicting the telecommuting economy for decades. Yet the physical workplace has proved resilient. People are social animals who crave daily interaction with each other.
Another brutal reality: It’s harder for a boss to fire or lay off someone they see every day. It’s easier to do it with the distant voice on the telephone. Workers instinctively know this and keep trudging into the office each day, even when they could just as easily do the job from afar.
But the way U.S. society is evolving is likely to give a boost to work-at-home employees. The decline in nuclear families means more single parents are on their own when it comes to childcare. And the graying of America means that more workers are caring for an aging parent. Juggling such responsibilities is easier for work-from-home employees.
In addition, as the economy enters its 11th year of expansion, companies are looking for new ways to wring more profits. The cost savings from remote workers could help. Consider the savings claimed in the Global Workplace study for a company when employees work from home:
n A 15% boost in productivity. Workers can get more done when they’re not worried about sprinting out the door to get home. Global Economics found that people working remotely give back to the company about 60% of the time they save from not commuting.
n A 20% drop in voluntary worker turnover. In a tight labor market, hanging on to existing workers is often far easier than finding new ones. Studies show the ability to work remotely at least part of the time is a top factor in retention.
n A 31% reduction in absenteeism. Single parents are often forced to take sick days when the problem is actually a sick child who can’t go to school. In addition, employees who work from home are more likely to keep working through colds and other minor illnesses than commuters. “You don’t really feel well, but you still sit down in your pajamas and work on your computer,” Lister says.
Indeed, the telecommuting economy could get a test later this year if the coronavirus takes hold in the U.S. Many employees won’t be willing to go to work. And the employers may not want them there either. Some Asian governments are already mandating working remotely to battle the virus.