Employers Rethink Telecommuting Policies

Telecommuting has been seen by many large companies as a great way to save on overhead and operational costs. By allowing employees to work from home, companies have been able to attract the most talented employees. However, recently the productivity of work from home workers has been questioned. For example, IBM, a company known for being a model for companies managing telecommuting employees, has now reevaluated its remote work policies and has given its employees an ultimatum of either returning to the office or finding another job.

IBM is not alone. Companies such as Yahoo, Best Buy and Bank of America have also been pulling employees back in to the office, taking a more team-based approach. IBM feels that its remote workers perform better near their colleagues. Peter Cappelli, Wharton management professor and director of the school’s Center for Human Resources, joined in a discussion about why IBM is rethinking its remote work policy for some roles, and whether other companies could follow suit. He noted that, “IBM is switching to a business methodology known as ‘agile management,’ which necessitates the end of telecommuting for many. Agile management emphasizes highly flexible cooperation, face-to-face communication and daily interaction as keys to fostering innovation.”

IBM and other companies are taking a more collaborative approach, seeking a more flexible and team oriented workplace atmosphere, as opposed to a top down management methodology. As opposed to offering telecommuting as an option, companies have begun to focus on transforming their office spaces, by allowing employees to collocate to satellite offices.

We may start to see a shift in companies providing work from home options. However, at this point, it is unclear whether this policy change will actually make a difference with profits.