Most Companies Plan to Keep Teleworking Programs

13 Mar, 2013

Will others follow Yahoo! in telecommuting ban? No.

When struggling big box retailer Best Buy followed in the footsteps of Yahoo! Inc. by altering its telecommuting policies for employees, some undoubtedly concluded that there would soon be a flood of companies doing the same.

However, a new survey indicates that Best Buy may be in the minority, with the overwhelming percentage of companies planning to maintain their telecommuting policies.

According to a survey conducted by Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc.,  80 percent of the 120 human resources executives polled said their companies currently offer some form of telecommuting option to employees, with 97 percent of them saying there are no plans to eliminate that benefit.

The survey was conducted by the global outplacement and executive coaching firm in the days following Yahoo’s widely reported and controversial plan to bring work-at-home employees back to the office.

“When major companies like Yahoo and Best Buy make notable policy changes, there is no doubt that other employers will take notice and some may even re-evaluate their policies,” says John A. Challenger, CEO, Challenger, Gray & Christmas. “However, it would be misguided to assume that other companies will follow blindly without considering their own unique circumstances.”

The latest available statistics from the Telework Research Network indicate that 3.1 million people, not including the self-employed or unpaid volunteers, considered home to be their primary place of work in 2011.  While that is up 73 percent since 2005, it still represents just 2.5 percent of U.S. nonfarm payrolls. It is estimated that as many as 64 million U.S. employees (just under 50 percent of the workforce) hold a job that is compatible with telework.

“However, just because a job is compatible with telework, does not mean the person holding that job is,” Challenger says. “Not every worker has the discipline and self-motivation to work from home on a regular basis, which makes it nearly impossible to have a blanket policy. Every manager must determine whether telecommuting will be permitted on a case-by-case basis.  And, if allowed, it must be continually monitored to ensure that the quantity and quality of the employee’s output does not drop off.”

Increased productivity is one of the leading reasons for allowing employees to work from home, according to the survey. Respondents also cited the desire to help employees achieve better work-life balance. Other top reasons for telecommute included increased morale and lowering office costs.

Among the respondents who indicated that they may or already have eliminated telecommuting, the driving factors were decreased collaboration and increased animosity among those who were not permitted to telecommute.

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Illustration by marin at Free Digital

Compiled from Challenger, Gray & Christmas press material.