The Revolution Will Be Telecommuted


Why Nonprofits Are Letting Employees Work Remotely

If you're reading this article at work, there is an increasingly good chance that your desk is situated in your own home. Currently, more than 43% of nonprofit organizations offer some sort of telecommuting policy.

GrantStation shifted to a telecommuting model years ago. We have people on the West Coast, in Middle America, on the East Coast, and in places in between. We even have several employees in Spain! A couple months ago, I saw my boss and supervisor for the first time in almost ten years; we've done all of our communication digitally during that timespan, except for a couple phone calls.

I'm currently writing this article from my home office in Oregon. I have a passably comfortable chair and an ergonomic keyboard and mouse, and a bathroom I don't need to share with other employees. My pet chinchilla is sleeping only ten feet away. I'm drinking some hot coffee fresh out of the French press. It's quiet and relaxing and a situation that allows me to be focused and productive.

The setup is ideal for me, but does it work for other employees? Let's look at some data about remote workers.

  • Studies show that remote workers can be up to 20% more productive than their office-bound counterparts, and they are also more likely to put in extra hours. When workers themselves are interviewed, 91% believe they accomplish more when working remotely.
  • In addition, employees who work from home report lower stress levels and greater job satisfaction and morale, with 82% saying they were less stressed and 80% indicating higher morale. 
  • Telecommuting policies also help improve recruitment and retainment. The ability to work remotely is a crucial benefit for many job seekers. Seventy-four percent of Millennials say that they want flexible work schedules, and they are also more likely to join companies that offer telecommuting options. Among current employees, remote workers are also 50% less likely to quit.

But despite the documented benefits, telecommuting isn't a cure-all for every organization. Last year, the Chicago Tribune looked at the pros and cons of working from home.

While many organizations offer some sort of remote-work policy, only 2.8% of the nation's workforce do the majority of their work from home. According to the Tribune, the employees who are most engaged spend three or four days out of the office, with one to two days in the office. The face-to-face time with colleagues helps nurture relationships in a way that telecommuting doesn't allow.

Some offices set up a specific dynamic between the office and home: the office is for collaborations and working through ideas collectively, and home is for focusing on work that includes a great deal of focus and concentration.

While workers largely approve of working from home, the virtual office can provide a lot of difficulty for managers. How do you keep track of someone you almost never see? How do you monitor their work or evaluate their performance? The answer lies in setting clear expectations and lines of communications to ensure both parties are happy with the situation. The transition may be easier for some companies and individuals than others. Managers must keep in mind that working from home may not be the best option for some employees.

In the coming years, the telecommuting trend will move even more nonprofit workers from their offices to their homes. Nonprofit organizations that adapt with this trend can help keep their employees happier and more productive.

In the next couple of months, we'll look at ways to move your organization toward more remote-work options, and at ways for individual telecommuters to improve their comfort and efficiency. 

Action steps you can take today

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