Remote Work Succeeds at Some Firms , Not Others

Bob Larson, CPC


Career Report

September 2017

Feature Story



 Although a growing number of U.S. employees are working remotely, thanks in large part to technology that enables flexibility and young workers who expect it, the perk has been getting mixed reviews of late, according to an article in the Chicago Tribune.

That’s mainly due to some high-profile companies that have called employees back to the office for more face time and collaboration, with most of the scrutiny on IBM. The company in May announced it would require some remote staff in the U.S. and Canada to work out of regional offices instead.

The change was particularly jarring because the technology giant was a pioneer in letting employees work remotely, and in software facilitating that trend. Honeywell, Bank of America, Best Buy and Yahoo are among those who have made similar shifts away from remote work in recent years, the article noted.

Some companies that have been having success with work-home arrangements are keeping a careful watch on the latest developments. “I want to see what went wrong,” said Joe Hagan, CEO of National Equity Fund in Chicago, who three years ago instituted a work-from-home policy for a few days a week in hopes of improving employee retention.

So far, it seems to be working: turnover was less than 5 percent last year, its lowest ever, dropping from an average of 8 to 11 percent before employees could work from home.

In IBM’s case, skeptics wondered if the goal was to cut staff through voluntary departures, but the company has maintained that it is building a workforce of the future composed of small “agile” teams that work quickly and closely in the same room to meet demands of a constantly evolving industry.

To be sure, remote work is not dead at IBM, as the change only applied to 2 percent of the workforce. Moreover, the perk is succeeding at many other companies, as flexible work policies top employee wish lists when employees look for a job, the article noted.

Nationally, about 3.7 million employees, or 2.8 percent of the workforce, work from home the majority of the time.

According to a report this year from Gallup, the most engaged employees are those who work off-site three-to-four days out of a five-day workweek. The key, advocates of flexible work policies say, is to match the environment with the type of work that needs to be done.

“The office is becoming a place for collaboration, while home is a place for concentration,” said Kate Lister, president of Global Workplace Analytics.

Studies have shown working remotely increases employee engagement, but in moderation since there is still value in relationships nurtured when colleagues are face-to-face.

“I want to kill the notion that it’s one or the other,” said Kate North, managing director of workplace innovation and strategy at the Chicago office of Colliers, a commercial real estate firm. “We’re working everywhere.”

As more employees allow people to work from home they are also shrinking and revamping their offices with new workspaces and other features to make employees excited to come in.

At National Equity Fund, adopting a work-from-home policy coincided with the end of its office lease and a move to a new building. The new office is 25 percent smaller and will save $2.5 million over the course of the 10-year lease, according to the article.

Now 91 of its 176 employees nationwide work from home two or three days a week, spread out in such a way that 22 people are out of the office at a time. On their home days, employees tend to start work earlier and end later, but take longer breaks to take care of personal business.

Employees were warned the perk would be withdrawn if it affected productivity, but since the policy was instituted productivity is up 50 percent.


Bob Larson’s scheduled speaking engagement at this year’s annual NAPS conference is scheduled for September 21st in Denver CO.. This year’s session, entitled “Talent Acquisition Lessons Learned on the Yoga Mat”, will combine the knowledge of his 39 years in Talent Acquisition with the philosophies learned through his 16 years on the Yoga Mat.

For additional Information about this event

 Present Moment Awareness: For More Placements
Bob Larson, CPC

“Talent Acquisition Lessons Learned on the Yoga Mat”

16 Years on the Yoga Mat – 39 Years doing Talent Acquisition – We work in a “instant” results, “instant” information, “instant” communication environment. Our clients look for us to respond instantly, 24/7. For example, one of our staffing assignments had us covering the three U.S. time zones with the client located at a 17 hour differential. Sleep for us to service this client was not an option.

Fall-offs, cancelled appointments, no-shows, MIA clients and candidates, client’s poor communication/feedback, failed background checks and just the fact that our product (candidate) has a “free-will” adds to our world-wind challenges and disappointments.

At times you operate in a panic mode, searching for candidates, job-orders, concerned that budgets are being slashed, expenses are under double scrutiny and in the back of your mind you wonder if/where your next job-order will materialize.

Learn how Yoga Philosophies’: “staying in the moment”, “breath control”, “flexibility”, ‘relaxation”, “patience” and “just sitting” can bring positive – sensible – realistic results to yourself, your billings and build confidence within your department and organization.

No organizational charts, PowerPoint presentations, strategic plans, metrics or mission statements will be offered. Only peaceful, simple solutions will be offered. Attend this session with an open mind and it is strongly suggested you leave your PDA’s and shoes outside the room… Namaste