October 1, 2012
Telecommuting Catches On at the Council of Better Business Bureaus
The Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB) is a national nonprofit headquartered in the Washington, DC area. They generate $20 million a year with 114 employees, leading a network of 115 independent BBB’s generating $165 million in revenue with 2,300 employees. So they probably land in the middle of mid-sized organizations. We work hard to make the world a better place, helping consumers to avoid getting ripped off. We were a random collection of about 100 white-collar workers bustling about the halls and cubicles of a random high-rise in DC. Or at least that’s the way it was until this year.
Early this year, after being located at the same office building since the 1980′s, CBBB packed up and moved to a smaller office – an office close to HALF the size. Every employee received a dockable laptop computer equipped with phone and video capability. And many were told to “go home”….. with their equipment, that is.
Now, 30% of all hours worked by CBBB employees take place at home. And this is expected to rise closer to 50% in the next year or two. At last check, 30% of employees worked more hours from home than they did in the office. Exactly 50% worked at least 1 day a week from home. And about 15% of employees now work from home full-time – either in the DC metro area or beyond.
In the department that directly serves the local BBB’s around the country, 8 of 9 employees work from home, including the senior vice president. Staff meetings are held every other week by phone or videoconference. The department gathers in-person in DC once or twice a year. However, the customers themselves have no idea that this has happened – remaining mostly oblivious to the fact that they’re more likely to be talking to someone wearing pajamas than a dress shirt. In fact, some of the employees in the department went months without any clue that some of their co-workers weren’t in the office, either.
So what’s the result of this grand experiment? On the ledger, CBBB saves half a million dollars in rent alone each year. But the results run much deeper. CBBB recently hired a manager working full-time from Michigan, a senior manager working full-time from North Carolina, a senior manager working 50% of the time from Idaho, and an interim CEO working 50% of the time from Texas. Would any of these talented folks have accepted offers from CBBB if telecommuting weren’t offered? No.
Some recent number-crunching has found that CBBB’s full-time teleworkers are 50% less likely to take sick time as their counterparts who work in the office. Among IT workers in CBBB, those that are teleworking have been 75% less likely to leave the company. A survey of teleworkers and their managers have found that they report working more hours, being more productive without the distractions of the office, and communicating better than ever before with colleagues and clients.
All of this especially makes sense for CBBB being located in the DC area, which boasts one of the country’s higher costs of living and one of the longer average daily commute times. To an average DC working earning let’s say a modest $60,000 a year and aspiring to buy an affordable home, this means commuting at least 2 hours per day and spending $15,000 a year or more in commuting costs including wear-and-tear on the vehicle, gasoline, parking, meals, clothes, laundry and dry cleaning, etc. Additionally, there can be up to $15,000 a year in “soft” commuting costs, what economists call the “value of their time” – 25% of an 8-hour day.
While telecommuting isn’t right for every worker or company, this DC nonprofit has found one way to cut costs, boost employee retention and productivity, and tap into a national talent pool. And maybe it will even help boost the sale of pajamas.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Matthew Scandale is a career veteran of the Better Business Bureau system and has worked remotely from Texas for the past 10 years. He doesn’t like pajamas.