Companies Cracking Down on Telecommuting

Earlier this month, IBM urged thousands of U.S. employees to relocate from their home-based offices to regional ones, echoing a recent trend in companies stepping back from telecommuting.

As of eight years ago, 40% of IBM workers worldwide telecommuted, saving about $100 million a year in the U.S. and reducing office space by 78 million square feet. However, the recent ultimatum of working onsite or resigning from IBM came after 20 consecutive quarters of falling revenue, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The timing is ironic as IBM’s Smarter Workforce Blog recently posted an article about an IBM-convened panel which extolled the benefits of telecommuting. “The consistent message was that teleworking works, and that associated challenges can be managed with careful planning and communication,” the blog stated.

Yahoo, Hewlett-Packard, Best Buy, Bank of America Corp. and Aetna Inc. have also ended their telework arrangements in recent years. In a corporate memo that was leaked following Yahoo’s announcement of ceasing telework, Yahoo’s then-HR director Jackie Reses stated, “Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home. We need to be one Yahoo, and that starts with physically being together.”

Exploding in popularity over the past decade, some form of telework is offered by 80% of U.S. companies, according to WorldatWork, a nonprofit focused on human resource management. Digital communication has allowed employees to work from home while still knowing what’s happening in the office. It’s an incentive for those seeking work/life balance, and it’s become an expected condition of employment for millennials, who will make up half of the global workforce by 2020.

Chelsea Krost, millennial lifestyle expert and host of weekly Twitter chat #MillennialTalk, says that millennials value work flexibility because it allows for a side hustle. Whether that be driving for Uber or performing in a band or even blogging, a side hustle provides millennials with a creative outlet to express themselves or pursue a passion while they support themselves financially through a full-time job. “They love to identify themselves with various roles because of social media and the need to build their own brand identity,” Krost told SGR magazine in March.

Although 48% of managers believe employees who work remotely are equally as productive as in-office employees, many managers still find it difficult to estimate the productivity of those working from home. Chris Sinclair, vice president of business development for Brand Blvd (asi/145124), says it’s been a challenge having millennials understand the “work hard, play hard” mentality of the office. “They have no problem playing hard, but they don’t realize all the hours and work it took to get to that point,” Sinclair told SGR.