Remote Work under the Microscope


Published on

Two major Fortune 500 employers have made headlines recently by announcing that they are eliminating or significantly reducing opportunities for their employees to work remotely. This new ebook authored by Linda Stuit is covering the topic of working remotely and what it means for employers and employees.

Published in: Career, Business
1 Like
  • Be the first to comment

No Downloads
Total views
On SlideShare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

Remote Work under the Microscope

  1. 1. remote workunDer themicroscopeLinda Stuit
  2. 2. Introduction2 | remote work under the microscopeTwo major Fortune 500 employers havemade headlines recently by announcingthat they are eliminating or significantlyreducing opportunities for theiremployees to work remotely. Responseto the announcements came quickly frombusiness analysts and the mainstream media,speculating about the effect these decisionswould have on the companies and theiremployees and how those effects mighteventually impact the workforce in general.Yahoo!®led the charge in February whenCEO Marissa Mayer instructed her HRdepartment to have all remote employeesreturn to working in company offices. Thereason given for the major policy changewas that the company believes face-to-faceemployee interaction fosters a collaborativeculture that can’t be developed amongremote workers. A statement from thecompany said that they are not offering anybroad industry view on working from home,but rather making a decision based on whatis right for Yahoo!.Just a few weeks later, electronics retailerBest Buy®also announced changes to itspolicies about telecommuting. The companyisn’t eliminating remote work across theboard, but instead of it being an option thatemployees can decide for themselves, theymust consult with their managers to discusswhether the arrangement is working.These policy shifts in high-profile corporateAmerica have ignited a national debateabout workplace flexibility. Some employeesat both companies have hailed the changesas positive, saying that more in-personcollaboration and innovation will boostmorale and nurture the company culturethat is essential to maintaining a strongcorporate brand. But many workers believeworking remotely allows them to be moreproductive, because they can concentrateon their work without the distractions of anoffice. While Yahoo! and Best Buy wait to seehow their changes play out, the discussionand examination of remote work continuesto heat up.
  3. 3. For years, there has been a growing trendtoward permitting and even encouragingemployees to work remotely. A recent reportby the U.S. Census Bureau showed thatsince 1997, there has been a 35% increasein the number of workers in the UnitedStates who work at least one day a weekat home. More than half of those workersare private company employees, and therest are self-employed and governmentworkers. According to data gathered, in 2012there were more than three millionemployees in the United States—2.5%of the total workforce—who weretelecommuting at least part time. Theteleworker population has grown by anestimated 73% since 2005. Clearly this is an3 | remote work under the microscopeLooking at the Officein the Rearviewincreasingly popular option to the traditionaldaily commute to an office.Technology and today’s bustling globalmarketplace are two key drivers for thepopularity of remote work. Collaborationhas always been essential for fosteringcreativity and innovation, but collaborationno longer requires team members to sit incubicles and meet in conference rooms.Complex systems that let employeeschoose their own computers, smartphones,tablets, and operating systems have broughttogether a large, geographically distributedworkforce like never before. VoIP phonesand Skype enable communications aroundthe globe, meetings can be streamed live onvideo, and shared PowerPoint presentationson universal storage systems in the cloudhave taken the place of whiteboards anddry erase markers. The team-orientedcorporate culture today’s businesses arestriving for no longer requires everyoneto be together in the same place at anygiven time.A few industry observers have suggestedthat the decisions by Yahoo! and Best Buymay signal the beginning of a reversal in thetelecommuting trend. But the concept ofworking remotely or from home has becomedeeply rooted in the workplace, with anever-growing body of research showing thatremote work benefits employees, employers,and the bottom line.The teleworkerpopulation hasgrown by anestimatedsince 2005.73%
  4. 4. 4 | remote work under the microscopeIn early 2013, more than 122,000 peoplefrom 31 countries in the Americas, EMEA,and the Asia Pacific regions respondedto a workplace survey developed byKelly Services®to assess employees’ viewsof work and the workplace. The Kelly GlobalWorkforce Index (KGWI) asked respondentsfor their opinions about career development,employee engagement and retention, socialmedia and technology, global mobility, andworkplace changes.Results of the survey showed that theworkplace has undergone dramaticchanges that have spurred workers tobecome more self-reliant and proactive incontrolling their professional development.Workers are looking toward the future,Taking Stock of the Workforceboth within and outside of their currentcareer paths. They are open to consideringchanging jobs not only for better pay, butalso for better benefits, new opportunities,and personal fulfillment, all of which helpworkers to achieve balance between theirwork and their personal lives.One factor that contributes to a betterwork/life balance for many employees isthe ability to work remotely. Among therespondents to the KGWI study, 29% workremotely for at least part of the work week.Significantly more APAC workers (12%)spend one work day at home than workersin the Americas (5%) and EMEA (7%). Moreyounger workers telecommute than oldergenerations, and significantly more (11%)Professional/Technical workers spend oneday working from home versus only 4% ofnon-Professional/Technical workers. In ITjobs, 15% of workers work remotely one dayper week.Studies show that the number of employersoffering remote work options grows everyyear, so the assumption is that employeesvalue this flexibility. These recent reversalsin telecommuting policies are surprising,but may not be indicating an overall shift inthe general outlook. There are positives andnegatives associated with every companypolicy, but remote work is firmly entrenchedin our global economy, and it’s here to stay.29%work remotely forat least part ofthe work week.
  5. 5. 5 | remote work under the microscopeAdvantages and Disadvantagesof Working RemotelyThe advantages of remote work areindisputable for both sides of the issue. Foremployers, numerous studies have foundthat telecommuting can increase productivityand lower costs for companies. A studyco-sponsored by Stanford University andBeijing University found that remoteworkers for a Chinese call center workedmore efficiently and took fewer breaks.IBM estimates it has cut real estate expensesby $50 million by offering remote workoptions, and Nortel estimates a savings of$100,000 per employee in relocation costs.For employees, the biggest advantage inremote working (noted in the KGWI by69% of US respondents, 69% of EMEAworkers, and 63% of APAC respondents)was the fact that not having to go toan office every day minimizes the timeand money they spend commuting.An advantage of fewer interruptions wasrecognized by 49% of remote workers in theAmericas, 48% of EMEA remote workers, and44% of APAC remote workers. An average of45% of all remote workers globally said thatworking at home gives them greater flexibilityto deal with unexpected personal incidents.The challenges of managing a family,particularly for parents of young children, canbe lessened by one or both parents beingable to work from home.On the disadvantages side of the issue,some employers believe that remote workinterferes with the flashes of insight andinnovation that happen spontaneously inunplanned meetings in hallways and breakrooms. Results from the KGWI indicate thatmany workers share similar concerns, with54% of respondents in the Americas (55%in the EMEA and 57% in the APAC) sayingthey lose opportunities for collaborationand networking by not being in anoffice with other employees. Difficultyin establishing boundaries to separatetheir work life from their personal life wasnoted as a disadvantage by 32% of remoteworkers in the Americas (39% of both EMEAand APAC workers). Nearly as many (37%Americas, 32% EMEA, and 40% APAC) saidthat working remotely reduces their accessto company information and involvement inteam activities.All parties involved in a remote workarrangement will realize their own advantagesand disadvantages that result from it. Theserecent policy changes by major companieshave surely stirred up a lot of discussionand people are watching closely. Butcutting out remote work may have a negativeeffect on morale, hiring, and retention.It remains to be seen whether there willbe enough benefits in terms of increasedinnovation and collaboration to outweighthe costs in terms of employee loyalty andjob referrals.
  6. 6. 6 | remote work under the microscopeThe Importance of aStrong Employer BrandWith the proliferation of social networkingin recent years, employees have a globalforum for telling job candidates exactlywhat they can expect by working fora particular company. Social media hasbecome an important platform for jobseekers to receive referrals from friends aboutopen positions. These personal referrals areoften accompanied by opinions about thecompany and its employer brand, includinghow interesting or challenging the work is,how flexible their work schedule is, and whatoptions are available for telecommuting.According to the KGWI, 22% of workersare likely to recommend their employer toa friend or colleague as an employmentopportunity, and 65% of workers areinterested in receiving job referrals fromfriends in their social media network. Nearlyone-fifth of full-time Professional/Technicalworkers responding to the KGWI secureda new job opportunity that originated via asocial media or networking site.A positive company culture can presentan attractive employer brand to a worldof job seekers, but a negative companyculture can destroy a company from within.In fact, that was one of the cited factors thatcontributed to Yahoo! ending remote workingoptions. The company was struggling in theface of online competition from nimble rivals,and motivation and morale were decreasing.This change to remote work policies is aresponse designed to foster innovation,reinvigorate morale, and revitalize thecompany culture by bringing the workforceback into the office. The CEO is expectingthe resulting positive energy to work its wayoutward to the brand that Yahoo! portrays asan employer.The new remote work policy is the firstunpopular decision Mayer has made sincetaking over. Workers have applauded otherchanges, such as introducing free cafeteriafood and having Friday idea-swappingmeetings for all employees. The boost toYahoo!’s employer brand was evidencedby the arrival of resumes from employeesat Google®and Facebook®, which rarelyhappened in the past. A recent internalsurvey of employees found that nearly all areoptimistic about Yahoo!’s future, an increaseof 32% from the previous survey. But itremains to be seen whether this optimism willtranslate to employees being happy in spiteof their remote work arrangements ending.Employees who have the flexibility to workat home at least part of the time are moresatisfied with their jobs and more fulfilledin their personal lives, and in today’s fast-paced business arena, work/life balance ismore important than ever. The KGWI surveyshowed that work/life balance was the mostimportant factor for 38% of all workers indeciding whether or not to accept a position.Workers who are offered a job can affordto consider information they have pickedup from social media about what type ofemployer a company is and how the job willaffect their ability to balance their jobs withthe demands of their lives. And remote workis a big part of that.
  7. 7. 7 | remote work under the microscopeconclusion.References:“Costs and Benefits: Advantages of Telecommuting for Companies.” Telework ResearchNetwork., Susanna. “Best Buy Follows Yahoo!’s Lead, Takes a Look at EmployeesWorking from Home.” ABC News, March 6, 2013.Laskowski, Amy. “Abolishing Work-at-Home Policies.” Boston University Today, March 12, 2013.Miller, Claire Cain. “Yahoo! Says New Policy is Meant to Raise Morale.” The New York Times, March 5, 2013.Companies across all industries are watching to see how the policy changes by Yahoo! and Best Buywill play out in the end for both employers and employees. None of us knows what kind of generalimpact this is going to have, if there even is one, and it may take many years to find out. Employershave to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of remote work within their organization, and decidefor themselves what the proper balance is for their own company. In the meantime companies shouldcontinue to get input from employees about what they want from an employer so they can develop anattractive employer brand. If offering remote work strengthens that brand, attracts top talent, satisfiesworkers, and increases productivity and efficiency as a result, then everyone wins.
  8. 8. EXITThis information may not be published, broadcast, sold, or otherwise distributed without prior written permission from the authorized party.All trademarks are property of their respective owners. An Equal Opportunity Employer. © 2013 Kelly Services, Inc.About Kelly Services®Kelly Services, Inc. (NASDAQ: KELYA, KELYB) is a leader in providing workforce solutions.Kelly®offers a comprehensive array of outsourcing and consulting services as well as world-classstaffing on a temporary, temporary-to-hire, and direct-hire basis. Serving clients around theglobe, Kelly provides employment to more than 560,000 employees annually. Revenue in 2012was $5.5 billion. Visit and connect with us on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.Download The Talent Project, a free iPad app by Kelly Services.About the AuthorLinda Stuit is Vice President, Global Solutions for Kelly Services, Inc. In hercurrent role, Ms. Stuit is responsible for leading the High Tech Vertical teamon identifying and creating workforce solutions for many of the world’s largestorganizations. With more than 20 years of experience working directly withcomplex global accounts, Ms. Stuit specializes in assessing the talent and humancapital strategy of an organization and determining how their talent supply willimpact their overall objectives. She creates solutions and coordinates resources that drive thebottom-line results by ensuring qualified, cost-effective talent supply chains. Ms. Stuit is certifiedas a Human Capital Strategist by the Human Capital Institute (HCI) and holds a bachelor’s degreefrom Michigan State University.