Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer in February generated a lot of attention when the company announced that employees could no longer work from home and had to come into the office. Mayer and other Yahoo officials said it was the right move for the company, arguing that Yahoo needed to improve communication and collaboration among employees, and that it was difficult to do without having the employees under the same roof.
The decision went against the trend toward telecommuting—particularly in the tech sector—and was furiously debated, with critics saying that telecommuting boosted worker productivity, made for more satisfied employees, was a good recruiting tool, saved companies money and helped the environment. It also reportedly has engendered some anger from Silicon Valley residents, who say Yahoo's decision and similar ones by other tech vendors like Hewlett-Packard are key contributors to a worsening traffic situation in the area, according to Business Insider.
However, Dell is laying out a plan to get half of its workforce to work remotely at least part of the time by 2020, which officials said will reduce the vendor's expenses while helping out the environment. The effort around increased telecommuting is one of more than two dozen goals outlined in a recent report by the newly-private Dell—called the "2020 Legacy of Good" plan—that officials are aiming for over the next six-plus years to reduce the company's impact on the environment.
Other goals range from ensuring that 100 percent of Dell packaging is made from reusable or compostable materials, phasing out "environmentally sensitive materials" (such as mercury and berylium) as viable alternatives hit the market, getting 75 percent of employees involved in community service, and diverting 90 percent of all waste generated by Dell buildings away from landfills.
Dell already offers flexible work schedules through its Connected Workplace program, through which 20 percent of employees telecommute, work remotely or have variable work times. Trisa Thompson, vice president of corporate responsibility at Dell, told Houston television station KVUE that having 20 percent of the company's 14,000 employees at Round Rock, Texas, saved Dell $14 million in 2012 and reduced CO2 emissions by 6,735 metric tons. Increasing the number of telecommuters and remote workers to 50 percent could result in more than 7,000 cars being taken off area roads, Thompson said.
"Technology now allows people to connect anytime, anywhere, to anyone in the world, from almost any device," the Dell report reads. "This is dramatically changing the way people work, facilitating 24x7 collaboration with colleagues who are dispersed across time zones, countries and continents. Dell is a global technology leader, so our team members should be able to take advantage of the flexible work opportunities that our own products and services create."
The company also has begun offering consulting services to customers looking to create similar flexible work schedules using Dell technology and expertise.
According to the market research firm Global Workplace Analytics, telecommuting and remote working is becoming increasingly popular, with 3.3 million people in the United States—not including the self-employed or unpaid volunteers—saying their home is their primary place of work. Regular telecommuting grew by 79.7 percent between 2005 and 2012, and should grow to 3.9 million workers by 2016, according to the firm.
Sixty-four million U.S. employees—about half of all workers in the country—are in a job that is compatible to telecommuting and remote working at least part of the time, Global Workplace Analytics reported.
According to a March report by Staples Advantage, the B2B unit of retail chain Staples, 93 percent of employees surveyed said telecommuting programs are benefitting both them and their companies, and 53 percent of business decision makers said telecommuting leads to more productive employees. In addition, 37 percent of employers reported a drop in absenteeism, while 48 percent of remote workers surveyed said they are less stressed.
However, there also were concerns: 59 percent of telecommuters don't use their company’s data backup system, putting sensitive information at risk, and 33 percent of employees said dealing with IT issues is one of the most difficult aspects of working from home.