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Survey: Telecommuters Are Happier and Healthier
Instant messaging, videoconferencing and unified communications technologies popular

By SHRM Online staff  7/19/2011

Telecommuters are more loyal and productive employees than those in offices, according to a survey from Staples Advantage, the business-to-business division of Staples Inc. The survey found that 86 percent of telecommuters said they felt better and were more productive when they work from home.

Telecommuters said they were:

Happier and healthier. When asked to draw comparisons, telecommuters said their stress levels have dropped 25 percent on average and their overall happiness has increased 28 percent since they started working from home. Seventy-three percent said they ate healthier when working from home.

More loyal. Without the trek to the office—on average, a 77-mile round trip for respondents—76 percent of telecommuters are more willing to put in extra time on work and say they are more loyal to their company since telecommuting.

Better balanced. More than 80 percent said with telecommuting they maintained a better work/life balance.

The survey pointed to opportunities for companies to better assist their workers. For instance, most telecommuters said their companies don’t provide furniture (87 percent), office equipment (60 percent) or supplies (57 percent). Improving in these areas can help create an environment that simulates corporate office conditions and maximizes productivity.

Technology Needs

In addition to Internet connectivity and access to company networks, the survey revealed that top technology considerations for telecommuters include:

Communication tools. Telecommuters rely on e-mail (96 percent), instant messaging (68 percent), videoconferencing (44 percent) and unified communications technologies (25 percent) to stay connected.

Security. A proactive security strategy can help telecommuters prevent data loss, breaches and viruses, which can be spread to company networks. More than two-thirds of telecommuters didn’t receive IT security training in preparation for home office work. Fortunately, many are applying good judgment and security best practices—95 percent said they installed operating system updates right away, and 84 percent don’t store personal data on their machines.

Data backup. Nearly one in three telecommuters never back up their data—leaving themselves and their companies vulnerable to data loss. It’s important to educate telecommuters on how and when to back up their data. Data backups should be automated and tested to ensure functionality.

“Data can be the lifeblood of an organization, so it’s important to provide telecommuters with IT training and security best practices,” said Ed Ludwigson, vice president and general manager for Staples Technology Solutions, an arm of Staples Advantage. “Because advances in technology continue to help dissolve geographical barriers, companies should provide their telecommuters with tools that make it easy and efficient to collaborate and stay connected.”

With the right setup and support from employers, telecommuting programs can be rewarding and productive options for employees. Some telecommuters (40 percent) said they even would be willing to take a pay cut rather than stop telecommuting.

The survey was conducted in May 2011 among telecommuters who work at least one day per week from home for U.S. companies of various sizes and across industries.

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