Networking giant Cisco has revealed that it has saved more than $277 million (£168 million) in productivity savings, after allowing staff to work from home using its own virtual office technology.

Not only does Cisco's telecommuting technology help the company save on collaboration technologies, but also the company's telework program makes employees happy, survey results show.

Cisco based its productivity savings on the number of billed hours at an average of $91 per hour, with the total figure reaching about $277 million. In addition, the vendor estimated employees garnered fuel cost savings exceeding $10 million per year.

Yet cost savings was not the primary goal of the survey, Cisco executives say.

"Our main intent was to really evaluate the social, economic and environmental impacts associated with telecommuting," says Rami Mazid, vice president of global client services and operations at Cisco. "We sampled employees who have the flexibility and desire to telework to get the most up-to-date information, and the key conclusion is that employee productivity is much higher and collaboration is the same if not better when working remotely."

Cisco also found that 91 percent of the nearly 2,000 respondents to a late 2008 survey believed the ability to telecommute is "somewhat or very important" to their overall satisfaction on the job, improving the vendor's talent retention rate. More specifically, 69 percent of employees surveyed cited higher productivity when working from home and 75 percent said the timeliness of their work improved. More than 80 percent of respondents reported that their ability to communicate and collaborate with co-workers is the same or better when working from home. About two-thirds said their overall work quality improved when telecommuting, and 80 percent cited an improved quality of life by telecommuting.

Cisco's survey showed that responding employees spend about 63 percent of their time communicating and collaborating, and 40 percent of those polled are not located in the same city as their manager. The average Cisco employee telecommutes about 2 days per week, and 60 percent use the time saved by telecommuting to work, while 40 percent put the extra hours toward personal activities.

The company, which about 18 months ago ramped up its telework program in response to a request from CEO John Chambers, estimates that about 20,000 Cisco employees use its Cisco Virtual Office (CVO) to work remotely from their homes. Another 80,000 Cisco employees and vendors have the company's software product installed on their clients, which enables end users to VPN back to Cisco's network securely from any location.

"Teleworking has been going on for quite some time at Cisco, but not at the scale we have today. It increased 18 months ago and we provided additional capabilities about 12 months ago and are seeing a huge demand to have CVO installed in employees' homes recently," Mazid adds. "A properly executed program for telecommuting can be extremely effective at unlocking employees' potential by increasing work-life balance, productivity and overall satisfaction."