Work environments are becoming more supportive. Ideas like flexible working hours, job sharing, onsite child-care centers, company gyms, and personal days off are commonplace in many companies now. These kinds of benefits are making it easier and more enjoyable for workers. They also make good sense for employers. Replacing an employee is expensive. Between the downtime when the job is unfilled and the costs of recruiting, hiring, and training a replacement, the price of replacing someone runs up to a third of an employee's annual salary, according to a study by the Society for Human Resource Management. It's cheaper to grant a few reasonable requests. So if you're a solid performer who wants to work from home, now's the time to ask. More bosses are listening.
They'll be listening even harder soon. There's an impending shortage of workers as baby boomers start retiring, and the younger generations don't have the numbers to fill all the jobs. They need you. That's the best time to negotiate. You've got leverage.
Companies are already discussing ways to keep the brain power of baby boomers on the payroll either by rehiring them as consultants where they set their own schedules, or letting them work part-time. The bottom line is that the American workforce is going to need everybody. Whether you want to find a job, change your job, go part-time, work from home, or combine work with college or retirement, your chances of finding a position you can work on your terms have never been better.
Teleworking -- people working remotely from the office at home -- is an idea whose time has come. Sure, bosses were skeptical at first. "If I send them home, how will I know they aren't napping or at the mall?" It didn't happen. People appreciated the freedom and convenience. They liked the trust. Without interruptions they often worked better. Research backs that up. Studies show that teleworkers usually are more productive. They are happier and more engaged in their work.
Employees gain, but so do companies. Sending people home to work means less office space to buy or lease and fewer utilities to pay. That improves profits.
It's also better for the environment, according to the Clean Air Campaign. Carpooling, van-pooling and mass-transit all decrease traffic and pollution, but teleworking takes cars off the highway altogether.
Lawmakers enacted the Telework Enhancement Act of 2007, which says that all future government employees be eligible to telework, in part to decrease traffic in Washington. What they saw outside their government windows was gridlock.
The idea is just beginning to catch on, with the Patent and Trademark Office leading the way. It has nearly 700 patent examiners working from home at least four days a week. It plans to increase that to 3,000 teleworkers by 2011. According to the Telework Exchange, a public-private partnership focused on demonstrating the tangible value of telework, the average federal employee who works two days a week at home would reclaim 98 hours (now lost to commuting) and save $55.52 a month (with gas averaging $3 a gallon). Federal jobs can be found in all states -- and the government is facing a worker shortage as well. Anyone care to apply and volunteer to work from home?