Working from home is becoming an attractive option for many people who have long commutes or find that they can concentrate better without the distractions of being in an office. If you are a manager who hasn’t considered the work-from-home option for your agents or advisors yet, it might be time to consider the many benefits.
More employers are offering this option than ever. According to the 2017 State of Telecommuting in the U.S. Workforce Report, the number of people telecommuting in the United States increased 115 percent from 2005 to 2015. The report reveals that 3.9 million U.S. employees, or 2.9 percent of the total U.S. workforce, work from home at least half of the time, up from 1.8 million in 2005.
The average telecommuter is 46 years of age or older, has at least a bachelor’s degree and earns a higher median salary than an in-office worker. Roughly the same population of women and men telecommute.
Stanford University Study Says Home Workers Are More Productive
A Stanford University study published in 2014 shows that allowing people to work from home results in benefits for employees, companies and the environment.
Nicholas Bloom, a Stanford Graduate School of Business professor, led a research team who studied China’s largest travel agency, Ctrip, for two years. Headquartered in Shanghai, the company has 20,000 employees and a market capitalization of about $20 billion.
The research team found what they call a “massive, massive improvement in performance — a 13 percent improvement in performance from people working at home.” Of that performance increase, 9 percent was from working more minutes per shift (fewer breaks and sick days), and 4 percent was from more calls per minute (attributed to a quieter and more convenient working environment).
Two Reasons Home Workers Are More Productive
The researchers said two reasons led to the improved performance:
- People working from home actually work their full shift. In the office, people might be delayed by traffic, take a long lunch with a colleague or leave work early to let a repair person in. They are less likely to be on the clock for the full workday.
- People are able to concentrate better at home. Noise and non-work-related conversations in the office are distracting.
How Everyone Benefits from the Work-from-Home Option
The Stanford study found these benefits when companies allowed employees to work from home:
- Resignations at the company dropped by 50 percent, which enabled the company to spend less time and money on recruiting and training new people.
- The company made more profit per person at home.
- Employees were much more productive and happier.
- Employees who worked at home used less sick time than their in-office counterparts.
- Society benefits because there is reduced traffic congestion, driving times and pollution.
Many home offices have employed work-at-home employees for years. One example is in the underwriting department. To attract experienced underwriters, companies have found it much easier to hire top talent when the underwriters do not have to move and disrupt their family’s lifestyle to accept a position.
Reducing fixed costs is always a very attractive strategy for any operation. Allowing team members to work from home reduces the brick-and-mortar costs, in addition to related fixed expenses such as electricity, phone and so on.
With today’s technology, especially with cloud-based solutions, people no longer need to be in the office to get paperwork and research completed. Training for most organizations has become virtual to accommodate all of their detached offices and associates. This is achieved in part with online training resources. With today’s low cost of video conferencing, you can still accomplish live training and one-on-one meetings effectively. The meetings will actually be more efficient, too, because they are likely to stay more on track and be completed more quickly.
With video chats, conference calls, VPN networks and wireless internet, everyone can constantly stay just as connected, whether they’re sitting down the hall from us, across town or two states away.
Working from Home Is Less Stressful for Team Members
Now, this might not be the perfect solution for everyone; however, organizations can save money and increase productivity and retention. Many associates have found the work-from-home solution to be the difference between a balanced lifestyle and a stressful work life. In fact, a 2011 study from Staples found that those who worked from home actually experienced 25 percent less stress. This study further reported that they were able to maintain a better work–life balance, as well as the ability to eat healthier.
This solution offers other benefits for everyone, too, such as the reduced costs of commuting, tolls, parking and eating lunch out.
It’s a Differentiator for Many Types of Workers
We all know that millennials for the most part seek a balance between work and their personal lifestyle. But there are many other groups for whom this balance can be an important aspect in deciding who to work with. One group could be those who are just returning to the workforce after spending time at home with a new child or elderly parents. Many of these workers had successful careers prior to their decision to take time away and having the opportunity to work from home might be a very attractive option. Also, think about encore candidates, who have done their time in the corporate trenches and are seeking an opportunity to share their skills, connections and established work ethic. Again, this balanced work style can be a real differentiator.
Offering work-at-home options at least some of the time can give your agency or firm a competitive edge in hiring top producers who prefer a flexible schedule. You could try this option to see the impact it has on productivity. You could offer it as a reward for advisors or agents who reach certain production levels. Or you could offer it a few days per week.