Is telecommuting right for your company?

Telecommuting can reduce time spent getting dressed for work and navigating rush-hour traffic, reduce spending on gas, a workplace wardrobe, and other expenses, and ultimately improve employees’ mental health. About 45 million Americans telecommuted in 2006, and that number has been increasing. Why, then, has the issue remained taboo?

Encouraging employees to telecommute can help businesses retain high-performers who otherwise might move (physically or mentally) away from their jobs. Suzanne Oaks figured she’d have to quit her job at a marketing firm in New York when her husband took a position in Florida in September, 2006. But her boss wouldn’t let her go. Instead, Suzanne received a company laptop and has been working out of her Tampa home ever since.

Suzanne and many other readers I’ve spoken to have raved about how much more productive they’ve been since they started working from home. Pat Christie in Baltimore has been telecommuting since 2002, and actually finds she works even harder than she did in the office at her software firm in order to compensate for the lack of face time with her boss and colleagues. Carl Turner in Durham, North Carolina, says his stress level has gone down tremendously since he started working from home about a year ago, and he’s better able to focus on his tasks.

A study conducted by researchers at Pennsylvania State University backs up what Suzanne, Pat, Carl and others have stated. (For a more concise and less jargon-filled sum up, click here.) But employers are still resistant. Ronda Haberman, a jet-setting consultant, finds herself on the road so much that when she’s back home, she needs time away from the office to manage her personal affairs. She has asked to telecommute one day a week, but her bosses have been unreceptive.

“If you hired a person for a position, you would like to believe that they are a professional, they are an adult, and they will take care of their responsibilities,” she says. “You need to trust them. If they’re not doing their job, it’ll come out that their work isn’t getting done.”

Have you encountered resistance to telecommuting in your workplace? Are you an employer considering whether to allow telecommuting? Have you found that it works for you? Why or why not?

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.