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Facilities managers at every company have an obligation to manage their businesses' office spaces by finding optimal layouts that will make the workforce more productive. By providing employees with the real estate and other resources they need to be successful, FMs can make the most of their opportunities, benefiting both themselves and their employers.

Lately, though, a trend is afoot. Managing employees' workspaces isn't just a matter of overseeing an office building, as workers are scattered in terms of physical location. Some are present at their desks each day, but others are remote - some decide that they'd rather work from home than show up to the office.

Infographic: Why Employees Embrace Telecommuting

Not only are employees embracing telecommuting, but their managers are approving as well. This might come as a surprise, as the prospect of working remotely raises a lot of questions. Will people keep in touch with their co-workers and supervisors? Will they block out distractions and stay productive? Will they be preoccupied with family or personal issues?

Despite all the potential problems, iOffice has found that companies are largely tolerant of their workers' remote lifestyles. Some workers check in with the office from home, others from coffee shops and still others from remote desk-share facilities. All of the above are becoming acceptable practices according to most bosses. Employees might be wearing pajamas instead of business formal attire, but that doesn't mean they still can't be productive.

A rising trend

Recent survey data indicates that the trend of working remotely is rapidly rising in America today. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 1 out of every 4 workers in the United States is remote at least some of the time.

Moreover, the organization revealed that in the six-year period between 2005 and 2011, the trend of teleworking increased by 73 percent in the U.S. This makes perfect sense - as technology has improved, workers have become more agile, enabling them to be productive from anywhere. They’re armed with laptop computers, tablets and smartphones, which make it easy for them to stay connected with others. Rarely is their data kept on paper printouts and stashed away in file cabinets - these days, it’s entered onto a computer and saved in the cloud. Workers can manage files from anywhere.

This trend isn’t causing a drop-off in productivity, either. The Telework Research Network reports that teleworking programs actually make people more productive, not less - and in addition, they contribute to increased satisfaction with work-life balance.

Productivity happens everywhere

People used to think they could only be productive when they were located in the office. That mindset is history. We’ve moved on to new ways of thinking about work. Today, 3 out of every 5 workers say that they don’t need to be in the office at all to maintain productivity. When asked where they felt most productive, only 46 percent of people said work - 38 percent said home, and 9 percent had no preference. Airplanes, public transportation and cafes also ranked among people’s favorite locales.

The number of mobile workers worldwide is still rapidly increasing. At any given time, 50 percent of office space is vacant. In turn, this provides unique challenges for facilities managers. They’re trying to make the most of their office buildings, but those buildings are largely empty thanks to the telework trend.

This means a new mindset is necessary. By realigning the way they use their office spaces, companies can reap tremendous savings. A typical business could save $11,000 per person per year. The telecommuters themselves could save between $2,000 and $7,000. The total economic effect could be a national savings of over $700 billion each year.

These numbers are too large to ignore. The trend of telecommuting is having a profound effect on the way America does work, and the way facilities managers run their offices.

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