What Can We Learn from Employers Cutting Back on Telework Programs?
Three things you can do to balance company needs with this valued employee benefit
Telecommuting and telework programs have been around for decades. Research has demonstrated that remote workers are more productive and report higher levels of job satisfaction. In fact, Gallup’s State of the American Workplace report found that employees who spend three to four days each week working away from the office were the most engaged. That leaves many wondering why big companies like Yahoo, IBM, and Bank of America have scaled back or eliminated telework programs.
The first big rollback
When Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer announced that workers could no longer work from home in 2013, the decision came under instant fire. Many saw it as an attack on flexible work arrangements. However, Mayer saw it as a way to bring workers back together to drive collaboration and innovation. In a memo to employees, she stated, “Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings. Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home.”
Desperately seeking agility
Once a remote work pioneer, IBM recently called about 5,000 of its workers back to the office. The company has been building work hubs across the country in order to meet changing business demands and gain greater agility. Similar to Yahoo, IBM is seeking to foster a more collaborative work environment and inspire creativity.
Even though IBM and other companies have made headlines with the rollback of telework programs, many still offer flexible work arrangements on a case by case basis. In fact, recent surveys show that telecommuting—especially when offered on an ad-hoc basis—is still growing. A 2017 report by WorldatWork found that 89% of respondents offered some telecommuting, with 61% working from home at least once a week.
Is telework a privilege or right? Three takeaways from this debate.
Many analysts warn that simply limiting remote work options isn’t the solution to your collaboration problems. Increased face time doesn’t always translate into increased levels of engagement or creativity. In fact, the elimination of telework could drive away some of your best talent.
What can we learn from the telework debate?
- Identify and correct the real issue. The back-to-the-office movement is doomed to fail if management doesn’t face collaboration challenges head on. For example, experts agree that IBM should really focus on restructuring work environment and culture in order to improve performance.
- Define your telework policy. Some of the companies pulling back on telecommuting cited bad experiences or had jumped on the bandwagon without clearly defining expectations. Remember that telecommuting takes special skills and qualities to be successful. You should have clear guidelines on communication requirements. You can also reserve the right to grant flexible work arrangements on a case by case basis.
- Communicate the benefits of working on-site. Working from home has become so deeply rooted in many organizations that employees have developed an entitlement mentality and even view coming into the office as a punishment. HR professionals can change this perspective by touting the perks of working on-site including benefits such as gourmet food and exercise facilities. Promote the positive aspects of belonging to the workplace community.
Work with your employees
As companies seek better ways to compete in the digital world, it’s important to open up the discussion with your workforce. Don’t be dictatorial. Talk to employees about your changing business needs and competitive demands so you can find a balance that works for everyone.
Remote workers usually don’t work from home all of the time. Asure Software Hoteling and Mobile Workforce Management solutions can help your organization maintain the right amount of real estate and types of workspaces to support remote workers when they visit the office.