No end in sight to telework, survey finds

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When Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer's decision to end telecommuting at her company was followed soon afterwards by a similar move at Best Buy, it was tempting to think a new trend had been started, and that more firms would soon follow suit.

That, however, doesn't appear to be happening, according to the results of a new survey.

In fact, the vast majority of companies fully intend to keep their telecommuting arrangements in place, as global outplacement and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas reported on Monday.

“When major companies like Yahoo and Best Buy make notable policy changes, there is no doubt that other employers will take notice, and some may even re-evaluate their policies,” explained John A. Challenger, the company's CEO. “However, it would be misguided to assume that other companies will follow blindly without considering their own unique circumstances.”

97 percent report no change

Challenger, Gray & Christmas polled 120 human resources executives in the days following Yahoo's announcement last month, it said.

A full 80 percent of those executives said their companies currently offer some form of telecommuting option to employees, and a whopping 97 percent said that there are no plans to eliminate that benefit.

In the United States, some 3.1 million people—not including the self-employed or unpaid volunteers—considered home to be their primary place of work in 2011, Challenger noted, citing data from the Telework Research Network. That figure is up 73 percent since 2005, but it's still just 2.5 percent of U.S. nonfarm payrolls.

As many as 64 million U.S. employees, or roughly half the workforce, hold a job that is compatible with telework, the company adds.

Numerous benefits

Of course, just because a job is compatible with telework doesn't necessarily mean the person holding the job is, Challenger noted, adding that managers should evaluate suitability on a case-by-case basis.

Challenger, Gray & Christmas

Indeed, fewer than 10 percent of the companies surveyed offer the benefit across the board, as noted in the chart above; most are selective about which employees can take advantage of it.

Best Buy's decision, in fact, was not to eliminate telework entirely, but simply to require a supervisor's approval before non-store employees are allowed to work at home.

The benefits of telecommuting can be considerable, Challenger notes, including increased productivity, better morale, increased loyalty, and fewer unscheduled absences.

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