WorldatWork Fact Sheet: Myths and Truths About Telework
April 17, 2013—Scottsdale, Ariz.—Telework, telecommuting and mobile work have been hotly debated in the media lately. WorldatWork, a nonprofit human resources association, has been studying telework trends since 2001. This fact sheet sets the record straight on what is actually happening in the business world with regard to telework.
MYTH: Yahoo and Best Buy announcements cancelling telework programs signal a backlash against workplace flexibility. TRUTH: “The Yahoo and Best Buy decisions should be viewed as temporary exceptions to a global movement away from expensive bricks and mortar towards more virtually distributed work,” said Kathie Lingle, WLCP, executive director of WorldatWork’s Alliance for Work-Life Progress. Today, more than half of surveyed employers around the world offer telework. (WorldatWork Survey on Workplace Flexibility, 2011)
MYTH: Telework is a ploy used mostly by parents to get childcare on the cheap. TRUTH: Teleworkers who happen to be parents are required to arrange and pay for child care during their working hours regardless of their work location. Staying home to provide primary childcare is never an acceptable reason to approve a telework arrangement. (Alliance for Work-Life Progress)
MYTH: People who telework are slackers. TRUTH: Telework requires above average organizational and communication skills and is actually more valued by top performers. Progressive organizations have learned over time that you need not offer telework to everyone – but primarily to key talent that you can’t afford to lose who are in positions that can be done remotely. “Telework is a highly effective tool for organizations who need to retain top talent,” said Rose Stanley, WLCP, work-life practice leader for WorldatWork. “A common situation involves a valued employee who must relocate, as the result of a spouse accepting employment in another area, an aging parent demanding care and attention, or any number of things.”
MYTH:Negotiating and managing individual telework arrangements takes too much of a manager’s time and effort. TRUTH: Granting a slew of individual accommodations is not how telework is done in today’s workplace. Flexibility is best practiced as a team sport, since most work today is done in work groups, many of which form and reform in response to different projects. Nothing lasts forever, including telework arrangements. Properly constituted teams establish goals, enforce compliance, handle under-performance and take care of every member’s life events over the course of a project or a career. Applying flexibility as a business strategy requires training. (Leslie A. Perlow, Harvard Business Review)
MYTH: For telework to work smoothly, employers simply need a written agreement signed by both the employee and his/her manager; training is optional. TRUTH: Telework success depends on leaders who manage by objectives, not by observation, and this critical skill needs to be taught and learned. Only 21% of employers train managers on how to implement and support flexible work arrangements, and only 17% train workers on how to be successful as an employee with a flexible work arrangement. (Telework 2011: A WorldatWork Special Report).
MYTH:Telework can cost the company money, especially if the teleworker relocates to a city with higher competitive salary levels (also known as a geographic differential). TRUTH: In general, many companies (40%) pay employees based on his/her assigned work location, even if his/her work generally isn't performed there. (WorldatWork)
MYTH: Telework negatively impacts employee morale or company spirit. TRUTH: A majority of surveyed employers say flexibility programs have a positive or extremely positive effect on employee engagement (72%), employee motivation (71%) and employee satisfaction (82%). (WorldatWork Survey on Workplace Flexibility, 2011)
WorldatWork experts are available for media interviews on best practices and employer trends on telework. To schedule an interview, please contact Marcia Rhodes at 480-304-6885 or firstname.lastname@example.org or Melissa Sharp at (202) 315-5565 or email@example.com
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WorldatWork (www.worldatwork.org) is a nonprofit human resources association for professionals and organizations focused on compensation, benefits, work-life effectiveness and total rewards — strategies to attract, motivate and retain an engaged and productive workforce. WorldatWork and its affiliates provide comprehensive education, certification, research, advocacy and community, enhancing careers of professionals and, ultimately, achieving better results for the organizations they serve. WorldatWork has more than 70,000 members and subscribers worldwide; 95 percent of Fortune 500 companies employ a WorldatWork member. Founded in 1955, WorldatWork is affiliated with more than 70 local human resources associations and has offices in Scottsdale, Ariz., and Washington, D.C.