Telecommuting (working from home) has been a hot topic since Yahoo!’s CEO Marissa Mayer came down hard on the company’s telecommuting policy.  This is a question we often ask when reviewing recruiting requirements with our clients.  We’re not asking because we are attempting to transform the way our clients conduct their business.  We’re asking because our main goal is to help them recruit the top candidates.  We’ve noticed a trend when interviewing candidates: the desire to work from home is ranked up there with salary expectation and career advancement.  During the recruiting process candidates often comment that they would be interested in the opportunity only if the employer provided the flexibility of working from home a day or two a week.  Their reasons may vary from the desire to reduce commute times, provide flexibility for family activities and reduce expenses associated with transportation (gas, parking, etc.).  Ultimately these candidates are looking to their employer to help them improve their work-life balance.

We’re not saying you have to provide this flexibility to your employees, but we recommend you weigh the pros and cons.

Here are some of the advantages:

–       Happier and healthier:  Working from home a day or two a week can help reduce stress and we often hear that it helps people maintain a healthier diet.

–       Loyalty: A recent survey by a Fortune 500 company found that avoiding a long commute to the office lead to improved employee retention.  86% of respondents felt that they were more productive while working from home and 76% were willing to put in extra time on work since they’ve been telecommuting.

–       Work-Life balance: In that same survey 80% responded saying they now maintained a better work-life balance.

Here are some of the disadvantages:

–       Social interaction: working from home can reduce an employee’s ability to socialize with co-workers and collaborate on work projects.

–       Communication:  If not managed properly, employers could experience problems related to the quality of coordination and communication among employees.

–       Security: There has been and always will be concerns surrounding the security of your data and IT systems.

Providing employees the ability to telecommute a day or two a week is becoming a sought-after perk.  If you do provide this option it’s important that the guidelines be clear for all.  The Government of Canada, Treasury Board Secretariat provides useful guidelines and information.