Dell Ups Telecommuters

Dell, Austin region’s largest employer, to send workers home

Dell, Austin region’s largest employer, to send workers home

Dell headquarters Round Rock
Dell headquarters in Round Rock. Photo courtesy of Dell

Workers at tech titan Dell, the Austin area’s largest employer, soon will be spending a lot more time at home and a lot less time at the office. But they won’t be slacking off — they’ll actually have Dell’s permission to be away from the workplace.

Under a new initiative, Round Rock-based Dell aims for 50 percent of its global workforce to be telecommuting by 2020. That means half of Dell’s employees in Central Texas — a number that’s now around 14,000 — would be avoiding rush-hour traffic and would be contributing to a reduction in the number of cars on I-35, MoPac and other local roads.

Under a new initiative, Round Rock-based Dell aims for 50 percent of its global workforce to be telecommuting by 2020. 

Today, about 3,000 of Dell’s employees in Central Texas take advantage of telecommuting, spokeswoman Colleen Ryan said.

Steven Bugg, an account manager at Dell, is among the company’s 3,000 or so remote workers in Central Texas. A little over two years ago, Bugg started working three days a week from his home in South Austin. Working remotely saves him about 90 minutes in daily commuting time.

“I enjoy that I can get a little more sleep in the morning and still be at work on time,” Bugg said. “Since I can get right to work and don’t have to commute, I am putting in more hours, but I feel less hectic and stressed because I am able to get all of my work done without any distractions.”

Bugg and other Dell employees aren’t being forced to work remotely, according to Ryan. It’ll be up to each worker and his or her team to decide whether telecommuting makes sense.

“There’s no corporate edict here,” Ryan said. “Many of us work from home if we don’t have in-person meetings, then go to one of our campuses if we have meetings or simply want to collaborate in person with our colleagues.”

Sara Sutton Fell, CEO of FlexJobs, applauded Dell’s telecommuting push. The FlexJobs website promotes jobs that offer flexible work schedules.

“Dell is a technology company, and they certainly are aware of — and have created some — of the advancements in workplace technology,” Fell said. “If a company has a healthy management structure in place, it doesn’t really matter where their team members are getting their jobs done, because their productivity will be visible.”

Across the country, 24 percent of workers report spending at least some of each workweek telecommuting, according to a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report published last year. Back in 2009, research firm Forrester Research predicted 43 percent of US workers would be telecommuters by 2016.

Experts say benefits of telecommuting include a boost in productivity and a rise in retention. Furthermore, flexible work schedules pay off for employers and employees.

An employer can save more than $11,000 per employee when that person works from home even half the time, according to FlexJobs. Meanwhile, a typical telecommuter saves anywhere from $2,000 to $7,000 a year on expenses like transportation and clothing.

At Dell, global telecommuting saved the company about $14 million last year, according to Ryan.

Despite the cost savings and other benefits, working remotely does present drawbacks.

“Telecommuting isn’t necessarily for everyone. For example, if you don’t have a quiet home-office setup or if you derive much of your social interaction from your office, it’s probably better to stick primarily to a more traditional office environment,” Fell said.

“Also, it does take a person who is self-disciplined and can stay focused in order to be able to work from home successfully.”

“Also, it does take a person who is self-disciplined and can stay focused in order to be able to work from home successfully.”