Is it possible for an employee working remotely from home to be as productive as they would in a normal office setting? That is the critical question businesses of all sizes are facing in light of the recent remote working ban enforced by major companies, Yahoo and Blockbuster. Even Bank of America has drastically reduced its work-from-home program which has been active since 2005. Yahoo’s CEO, Marissa Mayer cited efficiency, cutting back costs, and the importance of employee collaboration as the reasons for bringing employees back into the office. Google has no official policy on remote working, but their Chief Financial Officer has reportedly stated that “working from the office is really important.”
Although these corporate giants are opting out of remote working, also referred to as telecommuting, there are even more companies extolling the benefits of allowing employees to work from home. According to a uSamp survey, an impressive 65 percent of American businesses allow telecommuting either full or part-time. Employees overwhelmingly assert that remote working increases both their productivity and liberation. Working from home means fewer distractions from fellow employees and allows them to remain productive even when they have to stay at home tending to a sick child or waiting for the cable guy. Remote working isn’t limited to a single industry either; telecommuting opportunities exist in business, retail, government, health, technology, travel and even education. For example:
Management consultant giant Accenture certainly hasn’t let Yahoo’s choice influence its telecommuting workforce. They have developed an innovative Smart Work program aimed at reducing the time their employees must spend at client sites. Thirty six of their offices have high tech videoconferencing capabilities.
Connecticut based health insurance provider Aetna Inc. allows nearly 50 percent of its employees to work from home. Mark Bertolini, Aetna’s CEO, has stuck to his guns throughout the telecommuting debate and continually argued for the numerous benefits of remote working arrangements. Aetna employees enjoy the increased flexibility of telecommuting and Aetna managers can cut real estate costs (an estimated $78 million) as a result of all those unoccupied office desks. Bertolini believes so strongly in the power of telecommuting that he has incorporated it in his own office management practices; his quarterly address to the company is delivered not in person or through a conference call, but rather via video conferencing.
The federal government is actually one of the biggest proponents of telecommuting. A whopping 70% of government employees enjoy at least some level of telecommuting. This push for remote working may be a result of concern over the environmental impact of commuting to the office (think of the Clean Air Act) and equal accessibility for disabled employees. And, of course, there is also the potential for curtailing costs of office space, transportation, office cleaning, and so forth. Remote working opportunities also exist in some local and state governments including the New York State Department of Transportation and the City and County of Los Angeles.
It makes sense that the tech industry has a high percentage of remote working options available to employees. For one thing, these companies are more concerned than most about their appeal to the brightest young minds. Telecommuting offers potential employees a tantalizing opportunity to contribute to a major company from the comfort of their home. It also helps that these companies are largely responsible for the creation and marketing of the very telecommuting and remote communication tools they implement for remote working. Apple, AT&T, Cisco, Intel, and Xerox are just a few of the big name tech companies using telecommuting.
With so many major companies embracing telecommuting, it’s pretty clear that remote working isn’t going to be phased out anytime soon. If anything, it will likely continue to grow in popularity as younger and more tech savvy generations join the workforce.
Eric Foutch, a regular contributor at Recruiterbox, a provider of recruiting software, writes about building teams and the impact of different corporate cultures on long term outcomes.