They Want You Back: A Push Against Remote Employees

By: Lauren Mineau

Many companies have embraced flexibility in the workplace, either through scheduling, laid back dress code or allowing remote work.

However, a recent surge of big companies taking a step back on allowing employees to work from home is bucking that trend.

International Business Machines Corp., Aetna Inc., Bank of America Corp., Best Buy Co., Honeywell International Inc. and Reddit Inc. are among many companies that have ended or reduced remote work arrangements recently, according to the Wall Street Journal. Yahoo’s then CEO Marissa Mayer banned telecommuting in 2013, sparking a continuing conversation and arguments for both sides ever since.

Managers note that remote work allows employees to set their own hours and work style, which can hinder progress if everyone’s not on the clock at the same time.  Set meeting times and offices with open floor plans are intimidating to those employees that are used to working in solitude at home, research shows. Striking a balance is key, but an obstacle for sure.

A majority of U.S. employers let staffers telecommute sometimes, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. Yet the proportion of U.S. workers who performed all or some of their work at home fell to 22 percent last year, from 24 percent in 2015. Such workers spent an average of 3.1 hours a day working at home last year, down slightly from 2015, according to the Labor Department's American Time Use Survey.

This spring, IBM offered thousands of employees a chance to move their position back into an office setting or apply for a new role. But those who did neither were let go, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The publication interviewed marketing manager Dave Wilson, who spent 10 years working from his home in New Hampshire. He said he often felt isolated from his colleagues and distractions from his two young children at home were endless. He took a new role in the company’s Massachusetts office and was eager to return.

Best Buy's work-from-home program gave 5,000 employees freedom to work wherever they wanted, but the perk made scheduling complicated,  Best Buy spokesman Jeff Shelman said.

"There was no control," he said. "Managers didn't have the tools to do their jobs."

The company ended the policy in 2013. Workers now arrange time out of the office with their managers.

With ending the program, the company has seen tangible success. Net income has more than doubled in the period and shares have climbed more than 200 percent.