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.
May 25, 2012
Stegmeier Consulting Group
6 Tips for a Successful Telework Program
1) Develop the Business Case
So, you see the benefit of implementing a telework program, but how well can you articulate these benefits to the key decision makers in your organization? Deliver a compelling and well-thought-out argument to the C-Suite as to how and why your organization will benefit from a mobility program.
You don’t even need to scour the web to support your case—The Telework Coalition is a non-profit organization focused on promoting mobile work, and they offer a wealth of information that members can access. White papers, such as The Business Case for Web Commuting, provide key content you can include in the development of your case. A free copy can be obtained from our website: www.stegmeierconsulting.com/
March 7, 2012
Using Telework to Create Jobs and Reduce the Deficit
As the country strives to gain its footing amidst the jobs crisis and the deficit crisis, lawmakers must focus on the traction telework offers.
Telework enables businesses to start hiring. By slashing overhead, recruitment and other business costs, telecommuting makes it more affordable for companies to bring on new personnel. Consider the 2009 State of the State Address given in North Dakota by then Governor John Hoeven (R). While 41 other states faced budget deficits and the nation’s economy was “in a down-cycle,” North Dakota had built a surplus and “a solid financial reserve for the future,” the Governor said. Telework helped account for the state’s success: Companies in North Dakota were using telework to create jobs. One tech-based healthcare company employed over 400 people, about a quarter of whom were telecommuters, and was planning to use telework to hire additional workers without increasing its space needs, according to Hoeven. He cited other companies, too, that were implementing telework “to help retain and recruit workers, while reducing overhead.”
In addition to making it easier for businesses to create jobs, telework makes it easier for individuals to start working. It enables unemployed Americans who cannot find jobs in their local communities – and cannot sell their homes to relocate – to broaden the region where they look for work. Further, according to the National Broadband Plan, increasing telework opportunities could enable 17.5 million individuals to join the workforce, including retirees, homemakers and disabled people, for example.
The addition of these 17.5 million new teleworkers would yield for the federal government an estimated net increase of over $256 billion a year in income tax revenue, social security revenue and federal disability savings, according to Connected Nation, Inc.
As telework increases employment and federal revenue, it strengthens American companies. It enables them to hire the best applicants from anywhere in the country and keep turnover low. It enables them to maximize productivity and continue functioning during emergencies – like powerful storms, flu pandemics or terrorist scares. At the same time, telework can reduce:
• The drain on the economy caused by traffic congestion;
• The federal expense of repairing and maintaining the nation’s
roads and transit systems;
• The fuel and security costs resulting from America’s dependence
on foreign oil.
Telework’s critical economic benefits notwithstanding, a harsh tax penalty continues to thwart its widespread use: The telecommuter tax.
The telecommuter tax derives from a state tax provision known as the “convenience of the employer” rule. In a state applying this rule, nonresidents who work for employers located in the state and choose to telecommute part-time must pay taxes to the state on 100% of their salary – not just the wages they earn when they work in the employer’s state, but also the wages they earn at home, in a different state. Because the states where telecommuters live can also tax the compensation they earn at home, workers across the country are threatened with two state tax bills on the same wages.
The risk of owing taxes to an extra state forces many Americans to reject the telework option. As a result, businesses cannot use telework to cut the high cost of hiring and retaining employees.
On November 7, 2011, Senators Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) reintroduced the Telecommuter Tax Fairness Act (S.1811) – legislation that would remove the double tax penalty for interstate telecommuting by prohibiting states from taxing income nonresidents earn when they are physically in another state. The 112th Congress must make this bill law. It is a common sense proposal to eliminate a needless barrier to job growth and deficit reduction.
Telecommuter tax fairness has broad support. The Telework Coalition has been a long-time champion of the relief Senators Lieberman and Blumenthal are offering. Supporters have also included:
• The National Taxpayers Union;
• The Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council;
• Take Back Your Time;
• The American Homeowners Grassroots Alliance; and
• The Association for Commuter Transportation.
Other organizations that have recommended eliminating the penalty for interstate telecommuting include the Mobility Choice Coalition, Workplace Flexibility 2010, the National Foundation for Women Legislators and the National Organization of Black Elected Legislative Women.
In the National Broadband Plan, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) specifically calls on Congress to consider abolishing the telecommuter tax, asserting that the “double taxation issue … is preventing telework from becoming more widespread.”
To get more Americans working and make it easier for U.S. businesses to thrive – to relieve workers from unduly burdensome taxes and help bring our deficit under control – lawmakers must respond to the FCC’s call. Congress must seize the opportunity Senators Lieberman and Blumenthal have presented and finally pass legislation to get rid of the double tax penalty for telecommuting across state lines.
Nicole Belson Goluboff, Esq.
August 1, 2011
Co-author, Making Telework Work
In today’s work environment, it’s possible to work almost anywhere. Advances in technology have made work more mobile while business benefits for teleworking have become more tangible. Even legislation, such as the Telework Enhancement Act, is helping to change how some people work by requiring government agencies to prepare their organizations to implement telework. Despite all of this, many organizational leaders may struggle with the transition from traditional office-based assignments to distributed work teams or employees that work from home.
According to a 2009 Office of Personnel Management (OPM) survey, about half of federal agencies cited management resistance as a barrier to telework. In the following year, a Booz Allen Hamilton and Partnership for Public Service study reinforced the OPM survey results when researchers discovered that federal managers were the largest single factor among barriers to telework adoption.
If we have the right technology and a good value proposition for telework, why is it so hard for many organizations? Why have we seen a decline in overall teleworkers in the US from 33.7 million in 2008 to 26.2 million by 2010? Don’t be too quick to explain it away based on the current economic environment. With organizations tightening their belts and searching for ways to reduce operating costs and increase productivity, you would expect to see more teleworking, not less.
If the economy is not to blame, then what drives teleworking numbers? In a word, leadership. If leaders in the organization don’t drive and actively support telework, then you can’t expect telework to spread among the employees.
Since ‘telecommute’ was first coined in the 70s, the main challenge to telework has been people, not technology. But don’t take my word for it. In the Booz Allen Hamilton and Partnership for Public Service study, management resistance was the most often cited barrier to telework. Out of the top 5 manager concerns listed in the study, only 2 dealt with technology (data security and technology). The other concerns were people-related: employee productivity and accessibility, alienated and disengaged employees, and lack of interaction or collaboration.
Further research in the private sector also confirms these results. According to a 2010 Mineta Transportation Institute study on telecommuters, the most significant resistance to telecommuting comes from lack of senior management support and the organizational culture. Perhaps it’s a perception of losing some control or some distrust in what employees will do if they are not physically supervised. And even though evidence suggests that most teleworkers don’t feel isolated and have no problem working with others, many managers are still reluctant to trust virtual interactions.
Transitioning to a virtual workplace can be very difficult for people raised in a traditional office setting. What’s needed is leadership. Leadership to overcome the misperceptions and stereotypes. Leadership to experiment and try something new. Leadership to set the example. Leadership that won’t be hindered by what has been done in the past. Organizations that are reaping the benefits of telework have good leaders – at all levels. Other organizations should take note. The workplace is changing. To remain competitive, organizations must cultivate leaders that are willing to chart a course into an ambiguous future that is far different from how we’ve worked in the past. There are huge benefits to be gained in the virtual workplace, but only if we have the right leadership to make telework work.
May 15, 2011
The need for effective workplace Leadership and Teamwork has never been greater, yet there seems to be vast differences of opinion on what INNOVATING, and REFORMULATING Information Technologies, policies, processes, and procedures (P³’s) will actually create new jobs, especially in rural areas. Those presently excluded from information age employment continue their reliance on expensive transportation solutions, either commuting long distances or the need for workers to move closer to an employer’s facility.
We have wasted much of the past decade debating job creation and have preferred to talk about the possibilities of the incorporating new ways of working in some abstract terms instead of actually doing something. Personally, I am so tired of hearing people in both upper and mid-level management, after ‘thinking about it’ for months and sometimes years, decide it’s time to try a pilot telework program. Telework programs have been piloted to death. Telework works! And, there are a few of us out there who can actually help organizations get off on the right foot with a fully integrated approach to a comprehensive Work@Home™ program.
Until very recently, governments, federal, state, and local, have exhibited indifference to distributed work, arguing and bickering over all sorts of minor issues, while the unemployment numbers have risen and highway congestion and construction have increased. The rising cost of gasoline makes getting to some jobs just too expensive, and outdated solutions like light rail projects and highway expansions, divert attention from the best modern day work/life balanced solution – Working from Home!
With the ever expanding availability of broadband telecommunications, new Work@Home™ employment opportunities, both full time and part time, are developing for both urban and rural workers. Several states are offering incentives and tax breaks, as well as increasing private sector employment opportunities by reducing or eliminating obsolete protocols, unnecessary zoning hindrances, and overlapping jurisdictional taxation policies (taxing the same earns multiple times).
The federal government is making its best effort yet to implement telework internally, but has still done little to offer tax incentives, come up with a standardized home office deduction, or eliminate the double taxation on interstate teleworkers imposed by several states.
The good Work@Home™ news is that today more executives and forward thinking investors are recognizing the many benefits of distributed work for their organizations, their employees, our communities, and society in general through reduced energy usage, increased information security, and an improved environment standards both here in the US and globally.
TelCoa salutes all those who are willing to risk ‘change for the better’, those who question outdated ‘status quo arrangements’ that no longer produce results, and those visionaries who offer practical solutions to replace the jobs sent overseas with opportunities to work and live in any geographic area which can be serviced by a broadband connection!