When I wrote about telecommuting last week, a couple of readers took me to task for passing along the news, published in eWEEK, that several large corporate proponents of telecommuting, including Intel and HP, have scaled back the practice.
To be clear, I wasn't trying to trash telecommuting. I've been a regular telecommuter for the past five years or so, in my current job and at a previous position. I will work from home more often this summer while my son's elementary school is not in session. It's hard to overstate how much that kind of job flexibility means to me as a working mom.
Recent survey results indicate that, even as some companies re-examine their telecommuting policies, others are adopting them to help employees cope with rising fuel costs. Yet companies seem more open to options like organizing car pools or subsidizing public transportation than they do to telecommuting.
Fifty-seven percent of U.S. companies have implemented at least one program designed to offset the increasing costs of commuting, according to outplacement specialist Challenger, Gray & Christmas. That's not surprising, considering that 34 percent of respondents say potential employees have declined a job offer due to long commutes.
The most popular policy, mentioned by 23 percent of survey respondents, is a work week that compresses 40 hours into four days, reports Fortune. Other popular responses: organizing employee carpools (20 percent), subsidizing public transportation (18 percent) and allowing employees to telecommute at least one day a week (14 percent).
Why isn't telecommuting a more popular option, considering research that shows that 40 percent of Americans work in jobs that could be accomplished remotely? Says Challenger, Gray & Christmas CEO John Challenger:
Telecommuting is a tough sell when business conditions are as weak as they are now. In a slowdown, managers want all their workers on the front line.
A survey by staffing company Robert Half Technology yielded similar results. It found that 18 percent of companies are increasing mileage reimbursements for travel (nice perk for employees but one that does nothing for the carbon footprint); 17 percent are adding ride-sharing or carpooling services; and 11 percent are offering telecommuting.
When Robert Half surveyed workers, not their bosses, 33 percent said they telecommute more frequently, about the same number as those who reported driving a more fuel-efficient vehicle, according to a Network World story about the survey.
Other ways workers are trying to cope with rising fuel costs: looking for a job closer to home (30 percent), working from office locations closer to home (29 percent), working fewer days of the week (26 percent), asking for increased compensation (25 percent), using public transportation more often (23 percent) and walking or biking to work (18 percent).