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Remote Work Week: Telecommuting and Employee Satisfaction

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Integrator, manufacturer and consulting firm Cisco Systems released a study touting the benefits of telecommuting. They also mentioned a headline product, Cisco Virtual Office.

A TMCnet featured article entitled “Remote Workers Are Happier Workers” explains the findings:

Officials at the world’s largest maker of computer networking gear – San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco Systems Inc. – say allowing employees to work remotely can yield an uptick in work-life flexibility, individual satisfaction and productivity.

This claim mirrors those made in a Wall Street Journal article from 2007:

A recent survey finds that workers who telecommute from home or elsewhere, while still a very small portion of the work force, report the highest levels of satisfaction with their jobs and loyalty to their employers. In the poll of about 10,000 U.S. workers, 73% of remote and home-based workers said they were satisfied with their company as a place to work, compared with 64% of office workers.

Telecommuting and Employee Satisfaction

© Flickr user Lululemon Athletica

But perhaps the most interesting commentary on working remotely comes from technology pundit Paul Graham. Note the following snippet from his 2005 essay What Business Can Learn From Open Source:

Another thing blogs and open source software have in common is that they’re often made by people working at home. That may not seem surprising. But it should be. It’s the architectural equivalent of a home-made aircraft shooting down an F-18. Companies spend millions to build office buildings for a single purpose: to be a place to work. And yet people working in their own homes, which aren’t even designed to be workplaces, end up being more productive.

This proves something a lot of us have suspected. The average office is a miserable place to get work done. And a lot of what makes offices bad are the very qualities we associate with professionalism. The sterility of offices is supposed to suggest efficiency. But suggesting efficiency is a different thing from actually being efficient.

Telecommuting: A Model Airplane

© Flickr user Ivan Pik

The real reason why telecommuting makes people more productive and more satisfied is this: outside of the office, employees are automatically in control their environment and workflow. There is no better way to build satisfaction than to give people authority and responsibility, and no better way to destroy productivity than to require people to work in environments and structures which do not leverage their expertise.

The remote work revolution is not about working from home; it’s about being in control of work. Corporate offices often suggest efficiency, whereas people working in their own spaces can actually build environments that truly support efficiency. Putting power into the hands of the stakeholders has exactly the effect you expect—people enjoy work more and get more done.

Enjoy this post? It’s part of Remote Work Week here at AccelaWork.

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