HR Wench and a LOA Specialist Position - A Match Made in Hades...
Stinky HR - Is there a Difference between the VP and Manager level?

$4.00 per Gallon Gas - Why Aren't More Companies Telecommuting?

Last week, I riffed on the worst benefit idea of 2008 (it's early, maybe someone can top it), which was the The Gas Price Guarantee - where a company locked all their employees in 2.85 per gallon, pledging to compensate them for the difference in their daily commute...

Of course, it's a NASCAR-related company that made the pledge.  Somewhere, an OPEC analyst isTelecommuting laughing uncontrollably...

My thought was/is that a reasonable alternative is telecommuting.  Don't pay for gas, find a way to keep some folks home, even for a day or two a week.  Perfect thought from the think-tank, right?

Hold on there, KD/Dave Ulrich wannabe... It appears that there are actual practical considerations that can derail something as cool as telecommuting.  I like to let my readers do the heavy lifting as much as possible, so here's what a Capitalist reader (Scott) had to say in the comments of that post related to telecommuting:

"Some of us in the IT world were talking about the tele-working.

Say I have two accounting employees. Both can work from home. One has nothing but trouble, constantly calling for IT support. The other has no problems at all.

When do you tell the one with constant troubles that they must come in to the office and work?

You are essentially taking money back out of her/his pocket since now they have to pay the gas cost. The other employee got a "gas raise" since she/he can still work from home.

I think this is the kind of situation that causes some companies to not want to deal with working remotely.

I have no solution, just wondering what the HR Pros would do and how they would handle it."

Great point on telecommuting.  I've been thinking about how to propose a program, and Scott has nailed the primary issue - in any company, it will be the case of the Haves (the telecommuters) versus the Have-Nots (those not eligible to telecommute for whatever reason).  It's enough to get you to ponder the program for two weeks, then give it up.

The issues start with mere eligibility.  What jobs are eligible?  Which ones aren't?  Don't managers deserve the ability to note who's eligible based on performance?  How do you modify your performance management system to ensure you get what you need out of the resource?

Then, should you be strong enough to get people working from home after you said "no" to those in spots not eligible, here come the technology issues.  Eddie's cable provider stinks and he's trying to do it through dial up (nice thinking, Eddie).  Sally lives outside of DSL land, but is doing a 200 foot drop from her neighbor's house that has high-speed.

Lot of considerations, to Scott's point and beyond.  The bottom line - telecommuting as an individual issue/benefit is pretty cool.  Telecommuting as an institutional force?  That's going to take a little work and a strong hand to say "tough" when folks aren't eligible, or when they don't have the technology at home to make it work...

Are you tough enough to make that happen?  Or is it just easier to take a nap and hope that the requests go away?


HR Wench

I vote for a nap. Actually, I had a few things to say about this whole gas thing over on Mike H's blog:


Another reasonable alternative are telework offices, or whatever the heck they're called. The employer contracts with a firm that provides office space (with computers, equipment, supplies, high-speed internet, etc) in convenient suburban locales. Instant satellite office! You see them here in areas where families have fled in search of affordable housing - which are affordable because they're a 2-hour commute each way to the major employment centers.

Oh, how I would love to be able to telecommute or use a nearby work center. But in a company where even the freakin' PAYROLL is still paper-based, it's not going to happen.

Kris Dunn

perrik -

You'd love our company. Digital enough that our payroll rep works 5 hours away at the beach...




I do personnel and payroll paperwork for a 325+ employee department. There are two employers involved (divided more or less evenly). One is a noted university, the other a hospital that's part of a healthcare org with over 24k employees. BOTH are still using paper-based payroll, with the paper timesheets due every week (one set on Wednesdays, the other on Fridays). Both pay bi-weekly, in alternate weeks, so I also have to be here every single Thursday to pick up and deliver checks/stubs.

And now they're going to relocate our group to an office that's two miles away from the hospital and three miles away from the university's payroll office. (right now we're one mile from the hospital and next door to university payroll) Everything will remain paper-based, of course.

I hate my life.

Marcia Robinson

I was a telecommuter for 3 1/2 years and actually wrote a pretty comprehensive paper about using telecommuting as a strategic HR tool back in the late 90's. I still think too many managers think:

- Productivity only happens Monday through Friday, 9a - 5p in the office
- People don't work unless watched
- Work = workplace
- Making the change will be too difficult

I don't happen to agree, but some paradigms are hard to shift.



I know this is an old post, but I had to comment because I've been fighting this battle for years on behalf of myself and my direct reports as well as the HR groups I've supported, with limited success. The problem is you're all looking at this from the wrong angle. You don't have a manager determine which employees are eligible to telecommute, you have them determine which JOBS are eligible by clearly defining the job responsibilties and deliverables, REGARDLESS of where the job might be performed. Those responsibilities don't change because someone choses to perform them remotely and if someone cannot fulfill those responsibilities, that is handled like any other performance issue and the resolution will sometimes be that the employee will return to the office (working a 4/10 instead of a 5/8 maybe).

It all starts with a company policy on telecommuting, then you have to partner with the employee to determine how their job can be accomplished remotely. Just like some jobs require "ability to make sound independent judgement" or "advanced knowledge of MS Office", so does a telecommuting job require "basic PC hardware knowledge". If that's too vague, you set either an actual or virtual "IT Budget" and the same can be done for office supplies. Those amounts can be reviewed and adjusted based on position and other averages, but over time employees who cannot accomplish the job with the given parameters (set with SUCCESS in mind), then they are not eligible to telecommute.

In the future, I see a job descriptions that has "ability to self motivate, organize and time manage is required" as one of the skills HIGHLY desired.

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