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Home Work

Telecommuting can improve employee morale and increase productivity.

Besides giving them hefty raises, perhaps the best thing you can do to keep employees productive and happy is to let some of them work from home. I should know--I recently began telecommuting myself. Today's workers demand more flexibility in their jobs, and telecommuting provides just that, thus allowing them to spend more time with their families. It also improves their productivity by helping them avoid a hectic--and often distracting--work environment.

Telecommuting doesn't pay off just for employees, however: Companies with telecommuting programs typically experience a reduction in lost time and the costs involved with commuting, sick leave and employee turnover.

Instituting a telecommuting program slashes office space and furniture costs, too. When expensive office space became a real concern for ConnexT Corp., a fast-growing Seattle-based company that provides software and services to the utility industry, it created an on-site telecommuting center, which features an advanced wireless data network. The center supplements telecommuting by providing a place where homebased employees can meet and work with each other. It now supports roughly 20 percent of the company's work force, helping it save on office expenses: Without the center, ConnexT would need seven floors of office space; they now use only four.

"We've been able to reduce costs, use less space and allow people to commute less," says 44-year-old president and CEO Robert Bismuth. "It's really quite a dramatic difference."

While most small companies don't have a need for a telecommuting center of this kind, many can reap similar rewards by allowing employees to work from home, typically from one to three days a week. If you're considering this option, first examine the scope of your proposed telecommuting program. Then look at such issues as the type of hardware and applications you'll need and whether remote access to your on-site network will be necessary.

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This article was originally published in the December 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Home Work.

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