While some companies have sought to curtail telecommuting in recent years, a growing number of creative professionals are working outside the office, a new survey by The Creative Group suggests.

One-third of advertising and marketing executives polled said the percentage of creative staff working remotely today is higher than three years ago; only 4% said it's lower. Gaining access to talent outside of their geography and improving morale and retention rates were cited as the greatest benefits of offering remote working options to employees.

Advertising and marketing executives were asked, "How does the number of creative staff who work remotely for your company today compare to three years ago?" Their responses:

  • Much higher: 10%
  • Somewhat higher: 23%
  • Same: 59%
  • Somewhat lower: 2%
  • Much lower: 2%
  • Don't know: 4%

View an infographic of the research highlights.

Executives also were asked, "Which of the following would you say is the single greatest benefit of offering remote working options to your employees?" Their responses:

  • Allows access to talent outside of your geography resulting in a broader talent pool: 22%
  • Improves retention and morale by providing enhanced work/life balance: 19%
  • Increases productivity by reducing commute time: 15%
  • Saves money by requiring less office space: 9%
  • Allows access to talent where the cost of living and salaries are lower: 7%
  • Other: 2%
  • Don't know/no answer: 25%

The Creative Group offers five questions for employers to consider when establishing a remote working program:

1. Is my business ready? New companies or those in a state of transition may want to limit remote work arrangements. The same goes for firms already experiencing internal communication struggles.

2. What creative jobs are best suited for remote working arrangements? Certain tasks, such as graphic design or copywriting, lend themselves more easily to telecommuting than others, such as those that require face-to-face contact or ongoing access to equipment and materials.

3. How frequently should creative staff work off-site? In-person interactions build camaraderie and boost creative output. Consider limiting remote work to one or two days a week. Encourage staff who live far away to make office visits on occasion.

4. How will you stay in touch? Collaboration tools like Skype and instant messaging can keep distant colleagues connected. A centralized calendar noting where employees will be working also helps ensure projects flow smoothly.

5. Have I taken all necessary steps? Before instituting any new work policy, be sure to check with your human resources representative or legal counsel.

This last point is deceptively brief but can be quite significant and involved. Here are a few things to consider:

  • The opportunity to work remotely should be presented as a benefit, not an entitlement. It is not for everyone, nor is it suitable for all positions.
  • Be sure that your compensation and recordkeeping practices are in compliance, based on a correct classification of each position as exempt or nonexempt under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
  • Equipment used remotely, whether company or employee owned, needs to be provided with proper use and security policies in place.
  • Supervisors, among others, need to be schooled in effective strategies for managing colleagues working remotely. Some may resist the arrangement based on the "old-school" perspective, "if I can't reach out and touch my people, how do I know they are working?" You might ask them how often they get voicemail when they call one of their on-site employees.
  • How is employee performance measured, by the number of days they physically report to work, or by the quantity and quality of work completed?