November 23, 2014

Home Sweet Work: Telecommuting Boosts Employee Productivity

More than three-quarters of Mainline Information Systems employees work from home.

Amy Keller | 8/1/2010

Ten years ago, Rick Kearney, president and founder of Mainline Information Systems, built a $4-million headquarters building that Inc. magazine called the "ultimate employee-centric workplace."

Mainline Information Systems
Tallahassee
No. 30 / Large Company

Kearney carefully planned every detail, from the building's fiber-optic network to the glass-enclosed sky bridge and large, abundant windows that bathe the interior in natural light.

The building remains a source of pride for Kearney and his employees — but it's not where all, or even most, of the work gets done. These days, 77% of Mainline's employees work from home. "We have telecommuting workers in every area of our business, from sales to technical to marketing to finance to customer care," says Kearney.

Why I Work Here
Juan Camprubi, sales manager for Mainline
"For me there are several benefits to telecommuting. First, it has reduced my commuting time and the stress of dealing with rush hour traffic, which I believe makes me more productive. I am able to work longer days but do not feel exhausted by working more hours. An additional benefit is that the wear and tear on my car has diminished considerably and my total spending on gas has been reduced."
— Juan Camprubi, sales manager for Florida and Puerto Rico

[Photo: Donna Victor]
Founded in 1989, Mainline Information Systems is an IBM reseller and integrator with annual revenue of around $800 million. Teleworking saves the private company plenty, "partly because of the space requirements, partly because they don't have to spend an hour commuting each day, or more, and generally, we get greater productivity out of employees because they're in a comfortable environment," Kearney says.

"If they need to deal with a kid issue, a dog issue, a medical issue or whatever, they just do it and they come back to work and they'll work after dinner, work first thing when they get up, check their mail, so all in all, it's a more productive environment."

A 2009 study by Forrester Research found that 34 million U.S. adults telecommute at least occasionally and that number will rise to 63 million — 43% of the workforce — by 2016. Key factors driving the trend include widespread adoption of broadband technology; rising management confidence; and companies' needs to retain talent in a workforce that is increasingly demanding flexibility.

Kearney says there was a "lot of resistance on both sides" to telecommuting, with many employees wanting to come to the office to be among their peers.

Rick Kearney
"We get greater productivity out of employees because they’re in a comfortable environment," says founder Rick Kearney.
"As we realized it's not absolutely necessary (to be in the office) for what most people do, we get used to it and we get better at it and more productive in that environment."

Having good communication tools that allow employees to interact and collaborate is the key to making the arrangement work. Mainline has an instant message program, and employees can also easily share information over the company's intranet.

The company, which also has offices in New Jersey, California, Puerto Rico and Canada, holds regional meetings on a regular basis so that employees can get reacquainted. Recently, the company held a national meeting in Orlando to give employees some face-to-face interaction. "The feedback from that is phenomenal," Kearney says. "Even though it might cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to bring everybody together for three days, we believe the benefits far outweigh the costs."

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