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Telecommuting is declining – or is it?

August 11, 2017

By Sara Pebbles, courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner ASE

Last month the Bureau of Labor Statistics released the results to its 2016 American Time Use Survey. It reported that in 2016 the percentage of employed people who did all or some of their work from home dropped slightly from 2015 to 22%.

Just earlier this year, IBM announced that it was recalling its employees back to the office and rolling back some of its telecommuting policies.  IBM is not the first major company to do so and joins the ranks of Yahoo, Bank of America, and Aetna who all have been in the news in the past few years for terminating or decreasing their work from home policies.  

All of that together might make it seem that telecommuting is no longer effective or a prevalent perk, but that’s not the case.  Employees like having the option to work remotely as needed.

Much of the data available on telecommuting tends to show that not only do employees want the option but that companies are giving it to them. Gallup reported in their State of the American Workplace report that 43% of employees said they worked remotely last year.  Flex Jobs 2017 State of Telecommuting Report found that since 2005 there has been a 115% increase in the U.S. workforce that works from home at least half of the time.

ASE’s own data also shows that more and more companies in Michigan are instituting telecommuting as an alternative work schedule.  In ASE’s 2017/2018 Michigan Policies & Benefits Survey 16.3% of organizations reported using telecommuting, up from 8.9% in the 2015/2016 edition of the survey.  The biggest increases were seen in organizations with over 500 employees where the use of telecommuting increased by 17.9% for exempt employees and 16.8% for non-exempt employees.

All of the companies restricting or removing the option to work from home cited collaboration and innovation as the reason for restricting the ability for employees to telecommute. These larger companies believe that they need their employees back together in order to compete with smaller companies who perhaps have less hoops to jump through during an approval process and are able to come out with new products more frequently.

Before eliminating the telecommuting benefit that some employees may cherish, perhaps it is worth the effort to first work on collaboration within your teams.  ASE’s Team Collaboration training class is running on December 5th and focuses on inspiring and motivating teams within your workplace and the principles can be applied to teams where the members may not all be in place.

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