Telecommuting is the future. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that about a quarter of employed Americans work from home some hours each week. In a recent study by the Families and Work Institute, 63 percent of employers said they allowed employees to work remotely in 2012, up from 34 percent in 2005. Even Marissa Mayer, the new Yahoo! CEO who banished telecommuting from company policy last year, can’t stop this train.
Given the pervasiveness of the trend, in the new edition of my book for entry-level hires, They Don’t Teach Corporate in College, I added a section on telecommuting. I recommend that twenty-something employees who want to telecommute talk with HR and/or read their orientation materials to understand how their organization’s flextime procedure works. I give them some suggestions regarding how they can build a business case for telecommuting and how to trial the new arrangement successfully.
The downside of early-career telecommuting
There is something, however, I feel I need to add for any HR managers that may be reading this. As a general rule, I don’t think professional entry-level hires should work from home more than one day a week. Being able to telecommute effectively implies that you can do your job just as well remotely as you could in an office, and I don’t believe that’s the case with young twenty-somethings. New college graduates haven’t worked long enough to have mastered critical soft skills such as in-person communication, conflict resolution, and emotional intelligence. Their learning curve also includes cultural assimilation, or figuring out and then adhering to the spoken and unspoken rules of engagement within a particular organization. If they don’t have the opportunity to master these things in the same building as colleagues and managers, they may never catch up.
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