• October 4, 2006
  • By Coreen Bailor, (former) Associate Editor, CRM Magazine

Telecommuting and the War for Talent

Even as recently as five years ago telecommuting was more novelty than widespread behavior. Now, companies are continuing to allow employees to shift their locations from the office to the living room, according to a survey conducted by talent and outsourcing services provider Yoh (a unit of Day & Zimmermann). Eighty-one percent of 198 HR managers surveyed at the Society for Human Resource Management 2006 Conference and Exposition in June about their telecommuting policies revealed that they have remote work policies in place. Of that 81 percent of HR managers, 25 percent have policies that let employees work from home, while 13 percent provide employees with the option of working offsite via satellite office. The options of the remaining 44 percent are captured under the "Other" category. Nineteen percent of respondents, however, don't have telecommuting policies in place. What's more, 67 percent of HR managers expect the telecommuting trend to continue; 44 percent of those surveyed believe the number of employees working remotely will likely experience an uptake over the next two years, while 23 percent contend that an increase is somewhat likely. However, 35 percent see as unlikely the probability of more telecommuters. Intense competition for attracting and keeping qualified employees is a primary driver for telecommuting, says Jim Lanzalotto, vice president of strategy and marketing at Yoh. Telecommuting perks like reduced or no commuting cost and time, and the possibility of a more flexible work-life balance are appealing benefits to desirable candidates. "If you have someone who understands customer processes and customer-centric perspectives and the technology that drive those, you want to do everything you can to get those people to work for your company and keep them there once you get them," he says. Technological developments and enhancements that include secure remote access services, broadband, VoIP, Web and teleconferencing, email, instant messaging, and handheld devices like mobile phones, Blackberrys and PDAs, have also helped mold telecommuting into a feasible practice. Employees and businesses, however, must consider potential drawbacks of the telecommuting model. For instance, both must focus on ensuring that the remote worker's system is secure. Remote workers must also be disciplined enough to not get distracted and capable of drawing boundaries between home life and professional life to avoid falling into the workaholic trap. Lanzalotto warns that managers must trash the old mindset associated with working from home. The term was sometimes used "almost as a synonym for someone who's doing his or her laundry or watching Oprah," he says. "For high-impact workers that's not the case. These are people who are achievers and want to achieve. They have to get past that mindset in a lot of companies." He also encourages companies to implement a consistent telecommuting policy and approach and to benchmark what competitor companies are doing. "Companies that put in a program that helps them attract and retain the best people available in their marketplace will win at the end of the day," he says. "The war for talent's real." Related articles: Remote Resolution Finds Business Continuity
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