“Census data indicate that the rate of telecommuting has plateaued at about 17 percent of the U.S. workforce, with the average telecommuter working from home about one day per week.” (US News, Telecommuting Can Boost Productivity and Job Performance, 03.15.2013).
The benefits of telecommuting have been extensively documented. For the employer, the benefits include increased productivity, reduced absenteeism, decreased attrition, reduced brick and mortar expense, and a labor pool that is not geographically constrained. For the employee, they can avoid a morning commute and help with work-life balancing.
But according to research performed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and published in the Monthly Labor Review – 2012, data showed that providing the option to log-in remotely for employees, served primarily to help expand the workday, more so than replace the company office with the home office.
So why is the frequency of telecommuting not growing?
The truth is that there are some positions/tasks that can be completed 100% offsite; while there are other positions that can’t be. Aetna boasts that 47% of its 35,000 US workforce works from home. Historically sales positions have worked off-site. While positions that require interaction with colleagues within the organization do not lend themselves to tele-commuting.
This past February, Marissa Mayer (CEO), reversed a Yahoo policy. Working from home was no longer an option for Yahoo employees. Instead, employees would be required to work from a Yahoo location. The reason for the policy change was to facilitate “communication and collaboration.”
Once you identify the roles that can work remotely —
In addition to the technology which is business specific, ensure you establish policies at the company level that all employees are required to follow. Ensure these policies are fully documented and include provisions regarding equipment responsibility, data security and client privacy. The way employees that telecommute are managed should be established early on to avoid the employee feeling excluded and disconnected from the company.
But caution is warranted —
Recent claims have been made in court by plaintiffs that asserted that tele-commuting was justified for an organization to offer reasonable accommodations as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act, i.e. Bixby v. JPMorgan Chase; Core v. Champaign County Board of County Commissioners; and EEOC v. Ford Motor Co.
As such, do not leave the decision to allow a tele-commuting arrangement to be established at the local manager level. This approach will result in different managers having different policies and may create a liability for the company. Establish one policy and ensure that all follow it. Seek the input of an employment attorney.
Where is your company in this process?