Telecommuters More Productive in UK Study


Is a bed-to-desk commute a secret fantasy of yours?  Think you might actually be more productive working in various states of undress from the privacy of your very own home?

If so, you're in luck: A recent "flexible working" pilot study conducted by O2, a British telecommunications company, found that employees are, in fact, more industrious when working remotely. What's more, the environment gets a much-needed break, and-yes!-the company saves money. A win-win situation all around.

On February 8, O2 allowed 3,000 of its employees from its Slough-based head-office to work from home, shutting doors and flicking off lights in its 200,000 square foot office.  This was all planned well in advance: O2 spent weeks gearing up for the Big Day, upgrading its network infrastructure and giving employees ample time to adjust their psyches to not having to hightail it to work.

The company then recorded the results:  Eighty-eight percent of the home-based workers said they were as productive as they normally were in the office, while 36 percent said they were even MORE so. There were other reported perks: 15 percent caught up on sleep and 14 percent bonded with their families. They saved 2,000 hours of traveling time, which translates into $14,000 in commuting costs.

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The environment also benefited.  O2's electricity consumption decreased by 12 percent, and water usage plunged 53 percent.  About 12.2 tons  of CO2  was saved-roughly equivalent to the CO2 emissions from a 42,000 mile drive in a medium-sized diesel car.

The company was thrilled-and presumably, so was the British government, which has already begun encouraging businesses to let their employees work from home during the seven-week long Olympic Games this summer.

The experiment, "proves that with the right thinking and planning, even the largest organizations can protect themselves from the most severe disruptions to their business," says Ben Dowd, O2's business director. "It shows that businesses really can make significant and lasting reductions to their environmental impact, in a multitude of areas."

And, he added, it demonstrates that the "principles underlying flexible working really are the principles that will build the future of work, and determine the way that people, technology and buildings interact in the decades and centuries ahead."

One problem he didn't address: If parents telecommute, where do their kids go on Take our Daughters to Work Day?