What telecommuting can do for your business

There are many advantages to telecommuting, and the drawbacks are mostly in how it’s perceived

Telecommuting, which allows people to work together from different locations, offers a wealth of opportunities for small businesses, including cost savings and the ability to quickly add specialized temporary workers. Telepresence tools, such as video conferencing, make telecommuting possible.

The U.S. government pushed teleworking long before many companies in the private sector gave it a second thought. A growing number of businesses now thrive on remote workers, providing services via the Internet, from writing to remote computer and network management. Here's what why should consider offering telecommuting for members of your team, too.

1. Your workers are more productive.

When they can work from home, they may have fewer distractions than at the office, not to mention a reduced commute time. Numerous academic studies and corporate surveys show that teleworkers are often happier and more productive than those at headquarters. Some workers may need supervision, but you can accomplish this through setting production goals rather than monitoring hours per day worked.

2. You can reach team members wherever they are, regardless of location.

Implementing telecommuting generally requires two things: an Internet connection and the appropriate software. Tools include remote-control applications, collaboration software, and video conferencing software. It may be easier to reach team members via the Internet than walking to their office.

Remote control apps such as LogMeIn, GoToMyPC, or Splashtop Remote Desktop let a user log in from home and control their work PC. Collaboration software such as Google Apps and Office 365 allow users in different locations to share documents, files, presentations, and other data simultaneously. And video conferencing software--such as Cisco WebEx Meeting Center, Citrix GoToMeeting, or the free, multi-person chat enabled by Google+ Hangouts--facilitates group meetings.

3. You conserve office space and save money.

The remote worker not only furnishes his own desk and PC, but also electricity, snacks, water, bathroom, telecommunications bandwidth, phone service, and more. This lets you reduce your expenses for your office. Even if you reimburse some costs, such as Internet connectivity or phone use, you'll still save on the square footage of office space required and utilities.

4. You reduce IT management time and equipment costs.

In general, remote workers provide their own connectivity and PC. While you may need to establish antivirus, collaboration, remote access, and other software, overall costs should be much less than managing the machines, network, and desktop software in-house. You'll want to set standards, and perhaps implement compliance-checking software to ensure that no one who logs into your network is infected with a virus or has unpatched software.

5. You can take advantage of distributed, cloud-based IT functions.

Rather than hosting servers in your offices, you can take advantage of cloud applications that enable telepresence. If your employees are distributed, cloud applications may provide more reliable service than your own servers would, since cloud vendors have multiple data centers and redundant connections to ensure reliable connectivity. Of course, you'll need to thoroughly investigate the available security and backup options of each service.

6. Your organization can become more agile.

If the tools are set up properly, telepresence can make your company more agile, while giving workers greater flexibility to meet project requirements. You can find and enlist contract workers quickly for specific projects.

7. Your workers cost less.

If you're located in an expensive area such as San Francisco or New York City, telecommuters can save you substantial amounts of money. They might live in Fargo, North Dakota, with a low cost of living and good Internet connectivity--and be satisfied with much lower salaries than in big cities. In addition, many workers will accept a lower salary in exchange for telecommuting. Finally, if you hire the workers as independent contracts, you'll save still more on payroll costs.

Telecommuting can save your company substantial sums with little in the way of real downsides, as long as you manage security carefully. The perception of difficulty in supervising remote workers often seems to be the biggest bar to implementing telecommuting, but you can overcome this by looking at the bottom line.

This story, "What telecommuting can do for your business" was originally published by PCWorld.

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