Telecommuting refers to employees working remotely for part (or all) of the work week. Many job functions are not tied to a specific office or desk, and are suitable for remote-work arrangements. These employees are judged by the quality of their work, not by their presence in the office. Remote workers tend to be healthier (reduced exposure to sick coworkers), less distracted by office politics and gossip, less prone to slacking (no "water cooler" distractions), and are highly motivated to perform better than their in-office counterparts in order to maintain their telecommute privileges.
Let's look at some benefits for both the employee, and the employer.
- LOWER GASOLINE EXPENSES Fuel prices are rising again, and have become a hardship for many families. An employee with a Monday-Friday work week will save 20% each day they telecommute in gasoline expenses, which otherwise would have been used for their commute. At $50 for an average fill-up, the savings adds up quickly.
- IMPROVED PRODUCTIVITY & MORALE Long-term studies have shown that employees who telecommute are happier and more productive. They more effectively balance work and family demands, begin the workday relaxed rather than stressed from traffic jams, frequently work longer hours, and view their jobs more positively. According to a Gartner Group survey, telecommuters are up to 40% more productive than their office-based counterparts. 
- LOWER OFFICE OVERHEAD Every job converted to a telecommute position reduces the office space, furniture, computers, and utilities needed to support the same level of total production. For those positions requiring a mix of telecommute days and in-office days, two or more workers can time-share the same workstation. With this type of flexible work environment, adding employees does not require increasing your office space.
ComTel, a communications technology firm, recently vacated its downtown offices and deployed telecommuting solutions for half of its 20-member staff, saving $10,000 per month in rent. Lou Darnell, the company's founder, says his workers are happier, more productive, and no longer deal with the rising parking expenses or lengthy commutes.
- LOWER PAYROLL EXPENSES As your business grows, you are able to hire employees living in other regions of the US, where the cost of living (and the average wage) is lower, on a telecommute basis. This lowers payroll expenses, without sacrificing the quality of work. Since these employees are domestic, there are no language or cultural barriers to overcome, and your dollars remain here in the US.
- BUSINESS CONTINUITY: DISASTER Fires. Storms. Terrorism. Take your pick. There are many reasons your employees might be unable to come to the office. After the unexpected happens, the ability to work remotely and keep your operation running is critical to business survival. Establishing a telecommuting program sets up the remote-worker infrastructure now, before loss or disaster strikes.
- BUSINESS CONTINUITY: PANDEMIC Another concern that illustrates the need for telecommute ability, is the threat of avian flu or other pandemic that could shut your business down. Because people would be discouraged (or prohibited) from congregating or even going to work during a pandemic, organizations would have to be run remotely.
1. Telecommuting Now and Forever: Business Week, Mar. 2007
2. Wired to Work: Star Bulletin, Apr. 2008