The Telework Cost Benefit Argument – It’s Reduced Stress; No It’s Decreased Cost

Even before our most recent March snow day, the savings to the Federal government for employees who continue to work while at home has topped $32 million, based on a study conducted by the Global Workplace Analytics and Telework Research Network and quoted in the March 3th edition of Wired Workplace. The weather this winter should have convinced any remaining skeptics that the ability to work anywhere any time is vital to keeping government operations on track.

There has always been an interesting dichotomy between those who support workplace mobility programs for reasons of work-life balance and those who support these programs for dollars and cents reasons. The first group focuses on such benefits as decreased employee stress, reduced health issues, and increased focus and productivity. The second group focuses on the savings associated with reduced costs for facility space, maintenance, and energy and reduced commuting time and the expenses associated with travel and infrastructure. Both are right, of course, but it has always seemed that the cost savings argument has done more to generate senior level support for telework than the “people” argument. That may be at least partly true because the role of the CFO has always been stronger than that of the CHCO in most organizations.

It’s time to move beyond the two arguments to a single vision of the future. Despite important changes in policy and the use of new technologies, we are still at the beginning of the transformation of the workplace. We have not fully realized either the benefits or the savings that are available if we move to a truly mobile workplace. Maybe it’s time to think bigger, to think transformation. At some point we are going to accept that the concept of the workplace has changed and that the opportunities present in this transformation are yet to be fully explored.

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