Telecommuting isn’t just a cost-saving measure, it’s an incentive, and one that’s being used by everyone from indie video game designers to the Bank of Canada. And young workers are particularly likely to favour being able to work from their couches—Canada’s Telecommunications Industry: Industrial Outlook Spring 2014 suggests that over 70% of full-time workers aged 18–29 would be more satisfied in their jobs if they could work remotely using cloud software. Their older colleagues aren’t far behind, either.
The report forecasts increased demand for unified communications (UC) services in light of this demographic preference, as members of Generation Y move up. The Conference Board suggests that presents an opportunity for Canada’s telecom giants to expand their enterprise earnings.
Telecommuting is already leading to shifting priorities in the housing market. Peter Nowak says home buyers are increasingly looking for fast Internet:
A home’s Internet connectivity is becoming an increasingly vital selling feature, like a big backyard or a new roof, to the point where houses without good access are being valued up to 20% lower, according to real estate experts in the U.K.
Not everyone is thrilled at the prospect of letting their employees work from home, however. Last year, Yahoo banned telecommuting for its employees. A frequent complaint is that companies have no way of monitoring how much work actually gets done, though that ignores the fact that many cubicle workers spend just as much time playing Candy Crush as their home-based counterparts.
Working from home may also limit the kind of water cooler conversation that breeds innovation. Richard Branson cautions that executives need to make sure they foster better informal communication:
If you are a business leader or entrepreneur and your team is primarily working from home or locations other than the office, keep watch to make sure that they are collaborating—your employees should not be just a list of e-mail addresses or instant-messaging contacts. If you need to jump-start your team, events like hack days, conferences and outrageous parties can help people get to know each other and find creative solutions to problems.
Flexible timing practices, including telecommuting, have raised profits for companies focused on increasing employee happiness. So rather than blowing the Q2 budget on a Superdesk to attract a younger class of worker, consider letting your employees work from a more familiar setting: their own homes.