There has been a trend since the mid-nineties that has allowed more employees to telecommute rather than having to come into the office every day. Initially this concept was an exciting perk for employees who looked forward to avoiding their often exhausting commute to work. Companies who offered telecommuting had a recruiting advantage.
This is no longer the case for many companies who are corralling their employees back to the office. One of the reasons is that relatively few firms have fully embraced telecommuting, wanting more face time in the office. As glamorous as working remotely may seem, research shows that it doesn’t always reach expectations.
A study conducted by Deloitte by the Office of Personnel Management- a U.S. government agency that runs the nation’s civil service, determined there were some definitive negatives in allowing employees to telecommute. This pilot program found that OPM senior managers couldn't evaluate performance of their employees, the quality of work deteriorated, and employees had little idea whether they were putting in enough time and effort.
Aetna when they acquired U.S. Healthcare in 1996, was fearful of losing their employees and embraced telecommuting, yet 10 years later only 9% of their workforce works from home, citing issues with their telecommuters being heavier and having to provide an online personal trainer, among other negatives.
Regus, the world’s largest provider of flexible workspace, recently did a survey that defended the rights of telecommuters with respondents saying the pressure should be on businesses to trust their employees more and that managers should be more accepting of flexible working environments.
The Regus study went on to say that 51% of managers in Chicago who create a flexible work environment are rewarded or recognized for their innovation. Also, it should be noted that younger workers have made flexible working more mainstream in their lives.
Lastly, managers in this Regus study are more apt to see an employee arriving early and staying late as “hardworking” while the individual employee does not. So what does it take to keep telecommuters on-task and what is the best method to evaluate their contribution to a company?
The debate on whether telecommuting is better for the overall performance of employees or not will continue as companies determine what works best for their bottom-line and their business environment. Whether to telecommute is not a “one size fits all” type of proposition. There is value in both working from home and in an office environment.
What do you think?