Telecommuting Boosts Productivity, but IT Issues Persist: Staples

In addition to security and other IT issues, the survey also found at-home workers need to pay attention to the ergonomics of their home office.

Telecommuting programs make for happier employers and employees and reduces absenteeism and stress, according to the second annual telecommuting survey issued by Staples Advantage, the business-to-business division of office supply retail chain Staples.

Nearly all (93 percent) surveyed employees agree that telecommuting programs are mutually beneficial, and more than half (53 percent) of business decision makers state telecommuting leads to more productive employees.

However, the survey pointed out areas for improvement for companies seeking to maintain high satisfaction and productivity rates with a growing at-home workforce, and found some specific areas of concern. For example, 59 percent of telecommuters do not use their company’s data backup system, putting critical and sensitive information at risk, and 33 percent of employees said dealing with IT issues is one of the most difficult aspects of working from home.

The study results suggest employees and employers agree that telecommuting is mutually beneficial, with 75 percent of business decision makers noticing happier employees and 37 percent reporting less absenteeism. Nearly half (48 percent) of remote workers surveyed said they are less stressed, compared to a 25 percent drop in stress when working from home, as reported in last year's survey.

"Telecommuting can help achieve balance between workplace demands and life obligations, but being successful isn’t as simple as just sending employees home with their laptops," Staples Advantage Senior Vice President Tom Heisroth said in a statement.

In addition to security and other IT issues, the survey also found at-home workers need to pay attention to the ergonomics of their home office. While 17 percent of business decision makers offer furniture, just 50 percent of those respondents offer furniture installation services that can save workers time and improve productivity.

Furthermore, almost half (48 percent) of telecommuters surveyed said they use furniture or technology that is not ergonomically adjusted for them, which could lead to discomfort, loss of productivity or injury. However, 59 percent of survey respondents said they would accept company-purchased, ergonomic furniture.

The report also included a list of recommendations for an improved telecommuting experience for employers and employees, such as providing remote virtual private network (VPN) capabilities so telecommuters can easily access the network and ensuring easy access to email, document sharing, instant messaging and video conferencing to reduce IT issues. Employees should also be educated about data backup and security best practices to avoid risky practices such as emailing sensitive information.

Among the ergonomic and organizational improvements are the purchasing of desk and drawer organizers, file cabinets and additional storage options to help telecommuters minimize clutter and maximize space, as well as environmentally preferable furniture options to help support individual employee and company green initiatives.