With gas prices surging towards a predicted five dollars per gallon in the coming months, Americans are facing an increased cost of travel and are being forced to reconsider spring and summer vacation plans.

As a small business owner, you are probably wishing there was something you could do to help your employees through this expensive time without hurting your own bank account. Well…good news, you can!

According to Payscale.com, the average person travels roughly 25 minutes each way for their work commute. That’s almost an hour a day sitting in a car burning fuel (and money), and essentially waiting to get to and from work to be productive.

Telecommuting, workshifting, teleworking, call it what you want, but a work-from-home option will keep your employees’ wallets a little heavier and their mood a lot lighter. Workshifting studies by Telework Research Network have found that companies with workshifting policies report a 25 percent reduction in employee attrition and an increase in employee productivity by 27 percent.

Until recently, thanks to the Internet and other modern technologies, working from home with the same level of efficacy as at the office has been a dream. So how do you do it?

Use Technology

As a small business owner, you are probably already familiar with the cost saving benefits of having hosted applications in the Cloud. The cost savings is great, but don’t forget about the flexibility the Cloud provides. Products like Amazon EC2 servers, Apple’s iCloud, Microsoft Office 365, and Google Apps for Business don’t run from your local machine where they can become damaged or infected. Instead they’re hosted in remote, secure locations, accessible from anywhere and automatically upgraded without having to pay for a new version.

A hosted VoIP phone system offers the same benefits for your communication needs. Employees can set up call forwarding from their office number to a personal line, use a VoIP softphone app on their smartphone, or even bring their office phone home with them and plug it in to their home Internet connection to never miss a call.

Create a Home Workspace

Even though technology has come a long way to make telecommuting more reasonable than ever, your employees must be able to take advantage of their tools. Make sure your employees have a designated work area in their home. A couch and coffee table in front of a TV isn’t the best work environment.

Know Your Employees

Can this person be trusted to write reports instead of watching Judge Judy or playing with their pets? Telecommuting is a great policy that can save money and increase productivity, but everyone is different. Some people are at their most efficient when they feel the pressure of a nearby boss and an office environment.

Meanwhile, you may find some employees thrive at home and get more accomplished without water cooler conversations and having to work while wearing those uncomfortable pants which everyone seems to think are sooo professional.  Think about that, increased productivity, decreased pants, and happier employees. Now is the time to see if telecommuting is right for your business.

More than 33 percent of workers say they’d choose working from home over a pay raise. With the gas price projections, working from home even just some of the time will be seen not just as a convenient comfort perk, but as a policy change with dollar value on par with a raise. And it won’t cost you a thing.