Alison Gleeson manages 1,100 employees nationwide, and she’s doing it from a home office in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., for part of her workweek.
Gleeson is a married mother of two elementary school-age kids, and works as a vice president of commercial sales for information technology giant Cisco Systems, based in San Jose, Calif.
A few weeks ago, she captained a meeting while sitting in her car at a T-ball game for her son.
“It’s about work-life balance becoming possible,” Gleeson says. “It’s about me participating in things as a mom I don’t want to miss. I can attend a meeting through a mobile device. You are so much more empowered — any time, any place.”
Gleeson’s experience mirrors that of some 2,000 Cisco employees, who participated in a recent survey that found that telecommuting generates multimillion-dollar savings for the corporation and contributes to high satisfaction among employees.
Gone are the days that career paths are limited by geography, Gleeson says. “You can still live in Michigan and through collaboration technologies, be part of the corporation globally.”
The number of companies and employees embracing telecommuting — also known as teleworking — is growing. People working at least eight hours per week from home grew from 6 million to 12 million from 2000 to 2007, according to market research firm Gartner Dataquest.
Telecommuting has also gained ground in government. There are 381 telecommuting state of Michigan employees. Some 95,000 employees, or 7.6 percent of the federal work force in 2007, were telecommuters. The feds view it as a tool for recruitment and retention, and as a “green” initiative that cuts down on energy and building costs, according to a U.S. Office of Personnel Management report.
“Young people are asking in their interviews how many days a week can they work at home. That’s stunning to some managers, but good talent will go elsewhere if there isn’t flexibility,” says Debra Dinnocenzo, who authored “101 Tips for Telecommuters.”
And for both workers and companies, telecommuting has proven benefits.
At Cisco, some 80 percent of employees surveyed said telecommuting improved quality of life. Cisco workers also say they were more productive working remotely.
Cisco says enhanced productivity by its telecommuting employees was worth about $227 million annually.
“For me and my team, it’s about the ability to participate in meetings without missing a beat,” Gleeson said.