Allowing staff to work from home is good for company productivity, employee health and quality of life, according to research conducted among almost 2,000 teleworkers at BT.
The telco claims that it saves £35m a year in accommodation, recruitment costs and absenteeism alone. Its teleworkers are four times less likely to take sick days, averaging three days off a year compared with 12 for office-based staff.
Almost 80 per cent of teleworkers said that they are more productive thanks to reduced disruption, commuting time and stress, and greater flexibility about when and where to work.
Alison Garner, marketing manager for social responsibility at BT, explained that making staff feel part of the BT community is key to the scheme's success.
"Most people aren't at home five days a week," she said. "People still come in for team meetings and we're very hot on treating them just like their office-based colleagues."
Although a small number of teleworkers complain about increased working hours, four out of five survey respondents said that teleworking is 'important' or 'very important' for their quality of life.
Almost three-quarters described their work/life balance as 'good' or 'very good'.
A survey conducted earlier this year by the Department of Trade and Industry and Management Today found that one in six employees surveyed now work over 60 hours a week compared to just one in eight in 2000.
At the same time, 25 per cent of workers would like a better work/life balance, but believe that their career would suffer as a result.
BT also maintained that its teleworking policies have paid off in terms of staff recruitment and retention.
One in 10 respondents indicated that they would not be able to do their current job unless they were able to telework. These include staff with children, carers for ill or disabled people or those with special needs.
Dr Bob Crichton, managing director at HOP Associates, a Cambridge-based company specialising in helping organisations adopt 'Information Age' working practices, explained that unmetered home internet access and growth in the use of portable devices is driving flexible working practices.
"The number of companies with telecommuting policies in place is growing, although it's not spectacular," he said. "But whether companies have policies or not, there's an awful lot of it going on."
Dr Crichton warned that too many managers lack the skills and management information systems needed to manage by results rather than by presenteeism.
"It's about managing people by motivation and feedback," he said.
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