Working at home is not a privilege, it’s a business case. So goes the argument from a growing number of advocates of telecommuting, including office-less entrepreneurs who’ve done well on the home front and technology firms eager to sell the enabling IT infrastructure.
Yet calculating how much employers save, and all of us benefit, by not going to work every day is not easy. Hundreds of variables, and dozens of databases, must be considered. A new calculator by Govloop and HP is simplifying the process of laying out the economic rationale for a leaner workplace where more things get done by trading the commuter for the computer.
Compiled from various federal databases and studies, the teleworking calculator uses time and distance traveled each day, vehicle type, and the number of telecommuting days to calculate your savings and productivity gains. Although intended for government employees, it lays out a case for almost anyone trying to trade their office for home. Someone who drives an SUV to work (20 miles, one hour each way) can save $5,000 and gain another $5,000 in productivity by swapping three days at home. For employers, the deal could be even better: Govloop says the average employer spends about $10,000 in energy, real estate, and production costs per employee annually, while the (not unbiased) American Telecommuting Association claims teleworkers show 10% to 15% improved productivity in nearly every related study over the past two decades.
There’s not a definitive answer on where telecommuting works best, and where it doesn’t. Anyone working at home knows that perils lurk around every corner: a sink full of dirty dishes, insistent pets, interrupting children, and the lure of distractions are everywhere. But—in different ways—these are plentiful at work too. Engineering your environment at home can eliminate many of these perils. At least one Stanford study (PDF) in China found working from home increased performance by 13%, and cut attrition by 50%.
So want to see if it works for you, and convince your boss to give it a shot? You can check out the calculator from Govloop and HP, or try these from the National Institute of Health (Excel), Seattle’s commuter challenge, or one from Kelly Services that peers deep into your soul to find out where you really spend your money. It counts the annual cost of work clothes, shoes, and accessories, as well as attending office social events. Good luck talking to your boss.