Forty-five percent of organizations offer telecommuting arrangements, a jump from 35 percent in the past few years, but as major employers, such as Yahoo and Best Buy, have ended their telecommuting arrangements, it might cause others to consider a similar move, says Aon Hewitt, a human resources consulting firm. However, an employer should not just look at what other companies are doing but examine its individual needs and whether telecommuting makes sense for its situation.
“While we do not expect to see a huge flux of companies banning telecommuting, it does open the door for other companies to at least consider whether virtual work makes sense for their own work force today,” says Carol Sladek, work-life consulting lead at Aon Hewitt. “It’s important for employers to remember that virtual work programs are not one size fits all. They need to consider how to best balance work force productivity with initiatives that attract, engage and retain top talent. This balance is particularly important in today’s increasingly global and mobile work force.”
When an employer is evaluating its own telecommuting program, it should ask itself to what extent does the organization’s strategy highlight collaboration and innovation, Aon Hewitt maintains. The employer should determine what tools it has to encourage and enhance collaboration among virtual workers, and how collaboration could be impacted if all employees were onsite.
An employer also should determine whether there are formal guidelines that help managers and employees assess if telecommuting is appropriate for the role and employee, Aon Hewitt says. When it comes to employee attraction, engagement and retention, an employer should understand how telecommuting can affect those aspects, particularly among high-performing employees.
Additionally, an employer should evaluate whether it has managers capable of successfully overseeing their teams, regardless of whether the employees are on-site or remote, and it should examine the tools in place to measure the effectiveness of telecommuting, such as performance, engagement, retention, teamwork, and cost and savings, Aon Hewitt says.
“Virtual work programs are most successful when organizations set appropriate expectations, foster communication between managers and employees, and measure performance to ensure effectiveness,” Sladek says. “They should be designed and implemented to support the needs of employees yet drive results and support the organization’s overall business goals.”