‘One day, when traffic is as slow as a crawling baby, we’ll all work from home.’ These were the thoughts running through my brain as I impatiently tapped the steering wheel while stuck in traffic.
When I finally made it to work, I decided to do some research on virtualization, with these questions in mind.
Is commuting hurting productivity in the workplace? Can working from home increase productivity and profitability? How will enterprise social networking platforms have an impact?
Most likely as a result of the whole “Mayer culpa” debate, a lot of useful research has surfaced on the topic of virtualization. Evidence shows businesses are decreasing commuting time, reducing costs and increasing productivity with virtualization. In a recent study, 16,000-person travel company CTrip increased productivity by around 13% through employees telecommuting. Not only was the company able to increase output from employees (who worked longer, took less breaks and were less distracted), but they also saved productive hours on commuting, reduced attrition by 50%, and saved an estimated $2,000 per employee per year on office rental costs.
In another study from 2012, British company O2 asked 2,500 employees at their headquarters to work from home one day, resulting in an estimated 2,000 hours of commuting time saved. 52% of that time saved was spent working. Part of what makes working from home so successful is that it gives employees the time to work without distraction—a recurring theme reported by 44% of home workers. They can finish their work, and then check in with co-workers on their own time.
But virtualization does have its caveats. A business needs to have proper management and clear communication as well as the technology to enable employees to work remotely and stay in touch with what’s going on. This is where enterprise social networking fits in. Businesses are using private networks to improve collaboration across regions and cut travel costs by over 40%. Businesses are seeing a 25% increase in productivity overall.
Take my co-worker Ward Evans, copywriter and Head of Brand Voice for tibbr. Ward lives in San Francisco and spends up to 2 hours a day commuting. Occasionally he’ll work from home, where he’s able to spend several hours of quiet time writing the latest web content without distractions. Then, on his own time, he can check back into the organization’s internal social network to discover the latest updates from co-workers. “Face-to-face collaboration is still essential for some things” says Ward, “but there is no comparison in terms of fewer distractions and time saved—the home office wins every time.”
Even if employees are thousands of miles from headquarters, they can interact with co-workers and get the latest information from their internal social network, all the while staying focused on their work. And maybe, just maybe, the traffic will start to ease up a little.