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Telecommuting Has Had a Bumpy Ride: To Offer or Not To Offer?

A number of major companies have recently reduced or ended their telecommuting programs. These include IBMYahoo!Bank of AmericaHoneywell, and other major enterprises.

Is this one-time rising star of a benefit suddenly crashing back down to the earth?

Maybe, but there’s more to this controversial benefit than meets the eye. Employers usually offer remote working options to gain access to talent that might otherwise be unavailable; and as a recruitment and retention strategy, it works. According to MetLife’s 15th Annual U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study, two-thirds of employees will be more loyal to their current employer if the ability to work from home or remote locations is offered. Almost the same number will be more likely to accept a job with a new employer in the same situation.

So it’s no wonder that a similar number of employers offer some type of telecommuting: 62%, according to the Society for Human Resources Management. In fact, between 1996 and 2016, telecommuting tripled in frequency as a benefit.

But there are some nuances that get lost in these numbers.

For instance, less than a quarter of organizations allow telecommuting on a full-time basis. Moreover, the benefit is not distributed evenly among all workers: “In the U.S., remote work is more common for workers at the lowest and highest end of the pay scale,” reports The Huffington Post, and high-wage workers receive the benefit significantly more often than other groups.

That suggests employers are making compromises. They offer some remote working benefits to some workers, usually in situations where they can see clearer return-on-investment for the benefit.

Is it worth paying the overhead to dedicate office space to low-wage workers, depending on their job duties? Not always. Is it worth sacrificing some collaboration – the loss of which is one of the most common criticisms of remote working – if it means gaining access to top-end talent? While it appears that telecommuting can indeed make workers feel more disconnected and less engaged, it nevertheless appeals to many job candidates. Top-tier talent in particular almost always have good job options in front of them, and gaining access to the best and the brightest can sometimes simply require concessions that employers might not otherwise make.

What this really says is that remote working options must be taken on a case-by-case basis. Each employer needs to assess their workforce, look at their employee engagement and recruitment strategies, and then determine if it fits their particular needs.

It also means that remote working plans need to be implemented carefully. Poorly structured plans are much more likely to fail to bring about the desired results. Here are 20 tips to help remote workers succeed.

CoAdvantage, one of the nation’s largest Professional Employer Organizations (PEOs), helps small to mid-sized companies with HR administration, benefits, payroll, and compliance. To learn more about our ability to create a strategic HR function in your business that drives business growth potential, contact us today.