How Does Telecommuting Improve Productivity?

Woman telecommuting from home

Since the Covid-19 pandemic, conversations about telecommuting and productivity have been in constant circulation. In March 2022, Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal said he would let employees work from anywhere permanently. Meanwhile, in July, Elon Musk decried working from home as “pretending to work”, and banned the majority of Tesla employees from doing it.

Famous entrepreneurs may be divided, but we believe the evidence is clear: telecommuting is fantastic for productivity. After all, a massive 83% of employees report that they’re more productive at home. But what, exactly, are the reasons for this? And, furthermore, how can your business ensure your team telecommutes productively?

To answer these questions with real-life insights and experiences, we spoke to entrepreneurs, managers, and business owners from across the US and beyond. Read on to find out what they told us.

What is Telecommuting?

Telecommuting is another word for working remotely. More specifically, it refers to the practice of using communication technology such as the internet, emails, instant messaging, video chat, and phone calls to do it effectively.

The Benefits of Telecommuting for Business Productivity

More Flexibility in Working Hours

Just as one size doesn’t fit all, the traditional nine to five working hours don’t suit every person’s productivity patterns – but telecommuting can. “Telecommuting gives people the flexibility to work when they are most productive, whether that means early in the morning or late at night,” confirms Catherin vanVonno, President and CEO of 20Four7VA. “This can result in less time wasted during the workday, and ultimately lead to higher productivity levels.”

Your team can also get more done faster if they’re not limited to working office hours. Ellie Walters, CEO at FindPeopleFaster, tells us: “My business is one that needs prompt attention to clients’ demands and orders, so most times waiting till office hours to get things done may be a little bit of a hassle; so from anywhere and at any moment, via texts, online meetings, or even mails, we are always a step ahead in our service delivery.”

It’s also important to note that, if your staff are telecommuting from home, it’ll be much easier for them to fit their working hours around family or home commitments. As well as boosting your team’s satisfaction with their work-life balance, this also means they’re less likely to use leave to attend to these matters, because — without the need to travel to and from the workplace — it’s much easier to simply do what they need to do, then log back on and make up the time.

“Though they may have to run the kids to baseball practice or help a neighbor with something during office hours, our employees seem more willing to work a little bit longer in the day because they are already at home,” Chris Gadek, Vice President of Growth at AdQuick, tells us.

Sarah Jameson, Marketing Director at Green Building Elements, concurs: “There is less risk of employees failing to show up on important dates for the company because the option to work from home exists. Unlike before, when employees are left with either having to attend to a personal emergency at home or simply go to work, they now have leniency and feel more in control of their time.”

More Flexibility in Working Environment

While we appreciate you might’ve put tonnes of thought into a slick, creative office design, there’s no guarantee that every person will be able to work productively in that environment. Telecommuting, on the other hand, enables each team member to choose a place where they work best; whether they prefer the comfort of home, the buzz of a café, or the studious atmosphere of the local library.

Logan Mallory, VP at Motivosity, says: “When people have more control over their working environment, they can best adapt it to increase their effectiveness and productivity.” When working from home especially, there’s freedom to plan the space so it’s conducive to productivity.

Importantly, when staff members choose where they work, they can also choose to minimize the distractions that they find most disruptive to their productivity. “Ringing phones, deliveries, and watercooler chats are interruptions that can result in mistakes and unfinished tasks,” says Gadek. “Telecommuting allows our team members to carve out a quiet corner for themselves where they can focus more intently.”

Entrepreneurs speak...

“Working from home means workers can set up their workspace to suit their individual needs and preferences. And whether it’s a high-end ergonomic chair, a stand-up desk, or an air purifier, customizing their home office space boosts their mood which, in turn, increases their productivity.”

Maria Shriver
Maria Shriver Co-founder and CEO of MOSH

Maria Shriver is an award-winning journalist, author, and NBC news anchor. She's also founder of the non-profit organization The Women's Alzheimer's Movement.

Less Time and Energy Spent on Commuting

When your staff telecommute, they don’t need to start each day commuting by car, train, or bus to your company workspace.

According to the US Census Bureau, the average American spends 27.6 minutes travelling to work each day. It’s safe to say that these 27.6 minutes aren’t always enjoyable, but can we also claim that eliminating them from the workday can lead to better productivity?

Actually, yes – and for a number of reasons. Firstly, without the need to commute, your employees can use that time to do something more valuable.

“When employees do not have to travel to work, they tend to re-invest this time and energy into their work,” Dan Shepherd, CEO and Owner of VEI Communications, tells us. “Simply put, instead of forcing employees to spend an hour traveling to and from the office, I prefer they spend that hour performing productive work.”

Daniel Tejada, Co-Founder and Chief Learning Officer at Straight Up Growth, agrees: “Typically, the work day begins earlier for telecommuters as there’s no drive to the office. This means our team members are communicating with one another and addressing customer needs sooner.”

There’s also the fact that the commuting experience tends to range from dull to downright stressful, dampening moods and draining energy before any work has even begun. Harvard Business School’s Andy Wu analyzed the impact of commuting on inventor firms, and found that firms whose inventors had no commutes or shorter commutes tended to register more patents, and patents of a higher quality, than firms whose inventors faced longer commutes. His conclusion? Longer commutes stifle creativity, innovation, and productivity.

Easier Collaboration and Communication

It may sound counter-intuitive, but telecommuting can actually make communication and collaboration easier. It’s all in the tools – unified communications platforms, including instant messaging and video conferencing, facilitate immediate, focused conversations from any location. No need to catch a train or plane to meet with a client, or travel across to a different office for an important meeting.

“Telecommuting has allowed us to streamline communication between our three offices using Slack and Asana for internal communication, projects, and tasks,” says Piper Loehrke, Culture Specialist at Online Optimism. “Once we were all remote and/or hybrid, it became easier to get in touch with fellow Optimists.”

If you have offices, clients, or partners in different time zones, telecommuting can make working with them less of a logistical hassle, too. “It is very different being asked to stay in the office to be on a call at 8pm in the evening, than it is jumping on from home after dinner,” Freya Ward, Global Business Director at Headley Media, tells us.

Ward also speaks about the connecting power of telecommuting for those who travel regularly: “Being able to connect for meetings from hotel rooms, airports, and trains means that being on the road no longer means being out of contact. While phone calls were previously the only way of keeping in touch, the ability to seamlessly access company systems remotely now means that face-to-face meetings, issuing reports, or collaboration on a spreadsheet can all easily take place regardless of location.”

Let’s not forget that sales people can use telecommuting tools to easily contact potential customers, too: “Direct communication has a significant impact on any customer,” says David Reid, Sales Director at VEM Tooling. “With the help of telecommuting, employees can explain the features of their product in front of customers and attract them.”

Faster Hiring and Improved Job Retention

When hiring is easier, important roles get filled faster, and crucial work gets done more quickly. Read: your team’s productivity increases sooner. Telecommuting makes hiring easier in a couple of ways:

“Certain jobs may be difficult to fill, but offering to telecommute can be an attractive benefit to job-seekers,” says Olive Grat, Marketing Director at Techiegarden. “Telecommuting can also make it possible for employers to retain top workers who otherwise might have had to quit or take another job that offers telecommuting.”

Zachary Hamed, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Clay, tells us: “Telecommuting also expands the talent pool outside the usual radius of a local metropolitan area, bringing in the possibility of more diverse talent and more productive collaboration.”

Savings to Spend on Productivity

Let’s face it, running an office at full strength on a full-time basis is expensive. According to research from Abintra, just one workstation can cost as much as $18,000 per year for a business to run.

However, in allowing your team to telecommute and anticipating that fewer staff members will use the office each day, you can reduce your costs by cutting down on space, energy bills, supplies, furniture, waste collection, and more. “Employers can save between 30 and 70 percent in expenses on employees who telecommute just part-time,” confirms Grat.

Of course, if you allow your whole team to telecommute full-time, you can eliminate office costs entirely.  Victoria Mendoza is CEO of  MediaPeanut, which recently went fully remote. She shares her experience: “Our numbers are in the green because of savings from office operations expenses, like doing away with our physical office in New York and opting for a virtual and coworking setup whenever we need to meet in a physical space.”

But can saving money promote productivity? Yes it can, if you spend that extra cash on things that energize and empower your team.

“These can range from direct remunerative measures, such as an increase in salary, to perks and benefits for employees,” says Konstantin Kuligin, Owner of K5 Mortgage. “Indirect ways in which you can use these savings for the long-term benefit of employees can be additions to the workforce to help reduce the workload on existing teams, or upgrading the technological infrastructure with new tools and platforms.”

Continuity in a Crisis

Covid-19 taught us hundreds of things. But one of the most unsettling revelations was the fact that it is actually possible for life (and work) to be drastically interrupted by something unexpected. Fortunately, with telecommuting, businesses can be agile and remain productive if, for some reason, the office becomes inaccessible.

How to Encourage Productive Telecommuting in Your Business: 5 Top Tips

1. Invest in the Right Tools

Telecommuting is all about the tools. If your team are working away from the designated workspace, they’ll need access to the technology that enables them to productively communicate and collaborate with colleagues, and complete work from whatever device they’re using.

“Our increased use of technology since moving online has streamlined several important processes in our business,” says Jessica Anvar, Founder and Managing Partner of Lemon Law Experts and CEO and Co-Founder of LawLinq, Inc. “We make great use of legal software like Clio and DropBox to keep all our tasks and our clients’ information organized. Answering services and software like RingCentral ensure that we do not miss a single call or message. Like other businesses, we also use Microsoft Teams to keep everyone connected.”

Of course, understanding and training play a big role in how well these tools can power your productivity. Jeremy Luebke, founder of We Love Land, tells us: “We make sure that everyone knows how to use the tools they need: we have a dedicated team member who keeps up with the latest updates to our workflows, and we have a set of rules about what works best for each kind of project.”

Checklist: Telecommuting Tools

Make sure you invest in all the different software platforms your teams will need to be productive. Depending on your industry, they may need to:

  • Start and join video meetings
  • Message one another instantly
  • Create and edit shareable documents, spreadsheets, slideshows, etc.
  • Store and share files
  • Access company/team resources, from company policy information to customer contact records
  • Contact clients and partners, whether by video conference or softphone
  • Speak to customers, whether by live chat, email, or softphone

Some software platforms enable you to do many of these things in one place. The best cloud-based VoIP systems, for example, will work on any internet-connected device, and provide video conferencing and instant messaging tools alongside business softphone capability.

2. Set Clear Expectations

Ensuring your remote team are completely aware of their targets, commitments, and expected hours empowers everyone to stay on the ball every day.

“We put a premium in communicating clear directives, aligning individual targets to the corporate goals, and making sure our communication lines are open when people require clarification and guidance,” says Stacey Kane, Business Development Lead at EasyMerchant. “Good performance is rewarded.”

Laura Fuentes, Operator at Infinity Dish, adds: “We set clear expectations of our goals and when we expect our employees to be online or reachable through Slack or email.”

Of course, being vocal about expectations is also key to helping your staff avoid productivity-killing burnout by maintaining a healthy work-life balance (which can get a little skewed when your home is also your workplace). Your expectations of when staff shouldn’t work are just as important to communicate as your expectations of when they should.

Mila Garcia, Co-Founder of iPaydayLoans, tells us: “We took the liberty of implementing a strict ‘right to disconnect’ policy that essentially creates an information blackout during off-hours. This means that no staff member is obligated to send or respond to work messages once official work hours are over.”

Entrepreneurs speak...

“A clearly-defined policy will help both employees and employers understand their boundaries and the limits during the work-from-home setup. It should be comprehensive in laying out expectations from employees, the required setup, work hours, violations, and data security. Make sure that the policies being laid down are clearly communicated to employees to avoid miscommunication and that everyone understands their responsibilities.”

Sarah Jameson
Sarah Jameson Marketing Director at Green Building Elements

3. Maintain Trust and Transparency

When you can’t physically see what your staff are doing, the temptation is to check in with them repeatedly, request frequent updates, or ask to see all the work they do. While this kind of micromanagement might put your mind at rest, it also interrupts your team’s work and kills their morale.

“Micromanaging causes employees to feel uneasy and to focus more on reporting what they are doing than on the actual work itself. Ironically, that does a number on your team’s productivity,” cautions Anvar. “Show your employees that you have faith in their abilities, and they will perform well, no matter where they are working.”

Fostering trust lies in responding to results instead of assessing the minutiae. Laura Spawn, CEO and Co-Founder of Virtual Vocations, tells us: “We facilitate a results-oriented work model that focuses on outcomes rather than fussing over processes and schedules. Team members can work how and when they want, as long as tasks are completed well and on time.”

As well as trusting your employees, you should also encourage them to trust you, by being transparent and showing you value them beyond their work output. When trust is mutual, anxiety drops (yes, yours too!) and productivity rises.

Spawn tells us: “We notify our department managers of company updates and policy changes, as well as providing monthly and quarterly data to team members and a long-form virtual company newsletter at the end of the year. We discuss our successes, challenges, and how we plan to grow in the year ahead. From the team perspective, we encourage feedback from our team members and open communication at all levels.”

4. Foster Team Engagement

It’s a fact: engagement with the company and the work is an important driver of productivity. Data tells us that companies with highly engaged employees can see performance increase by as much as 202%.

As a leader, it’s natural to worry about your team’s engagement levels when said team is split across different locations. But fostering an engaging remote culture doesn’t have to be difficult. Think relaxed video chats, perks delivered to homes, and virtual socials such as quizzes or creative competitions.

The professionals we spoke to had plenty of fun tips to offer:

  • “We run little friendly competitions. My team members tend to be gamers so why not gamify work a little to appeal to that nature?” – Todd Ramlin, Manager of Cable Compare
  • Just-because perks like internet subsidies, ergonomic workstation supplies, surprise food deliveries, and the like are great ways to keep members motivated.” – Steven McConnell, Arielle Executive
  • “Arrange periodic fun online group activities combined with at-home prep tasks, for example a best home video competition. Support these activities by sending pre-kits home, such as a bar kit with a can of beer, a party hat, etc.” – Mey-Ling Cortinas, CPO at Flatfeecorp

5. Provide Tailored Training and Assistance

Given that only 30% of employees worked remotely pre-pandemic compared to 48% in 2022, it’s safe to say that many businesses their employees are still fairly new to telecommuting. This is where training can lead to more productive results.

“A lot of businesses fail to consider that employers and managers are navigating through new waters and are unsure of how to approach telecommuting employees,” says Jameson. “Management training should be provided so the transition and workflow are as seamless as possible. This also reduces the risk of managers falling into the trap of micromanaging their employees.”

Ronald Williams, Founder of BestPeopleFinder, describes the value of training employees in how to telecommute to their advantage: “Not only do we arrange regular training sessions about telecommuting, but we also engage every participant. These activities have helped our employees to be productive by understanding the importance of telecommuting and the greater flexibility it offers.”

It’s also worth remembering that some of your employees may not be IT-savvy. Mendoza recommends “providing assistance to employees that need technical and equipment support in setting up their home offices.” Ensure your IT team are on hand to (remotely) give their colleagues any assistance they may need. Who can be productive with a laptop, home wifi connection, or cloud-based software that they can’t get to work?

In Summary

The professionals we’ve interviewed are resounding in the results they report: telecommuting has improved their businesses’ productivity.

This is thanks to an increased flexibility in working hours and environments, the elimination of commuting stress, the fact that collaboration and communication are easier with telecommuting tools, the fact that hiring is faster and more successful and so leads to important work being done more quickly, the savings on office costs that can be spent on empowering and enabling benefits, and the fact of increased agility and continuity if things go wrong.

Looking to encourage your telecommuting team to be as productive as possible? Our top tips are:

  1. Invest in the right tools
  2. Set clear expectations
  3. Maintain trust and transparency
  4. Foster team engagement
  5. Provide tailored training and assistance
Written by:
Julia Watts author headshot photo
Specialising in business software, Julia writes jargon-busting guides about VoIP, fleet management, dash cams, fuel cards, and more. Having spent almost a decade writing for entrepreneurs and reviewing business solutions, she loves helping exciting ventures – big or small – to flourish.