Despite Yahoo, Bergen firms increasingly embrace telecommuting : page all – NorthJersey.com

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News

            Despite Yahoo, Bergen firms increasingly embrace telecommuting




                                    Sunday, March 24, 2013                                     Last updated: Sunday March 24, 2013, 10:31 AM




                                                                                                                    BY 
                                                    <a shape="rect" href="http://www.northjersey.com/authors/?name=LINDA%20MOSS" target="_authors">LINDA MOSS</a>

                                            STAFF WRITER

                                                The Record






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                                ILLUSTATION BY K. CASSIDY / STAFF ARTIST                                









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                                Do you offer telecommutingoptions to employees? 

                                Yes, we offer telecommuting options to some employees:  40%

Yes, we do not have a formal program, but we permit some employees to work from home some days: 31.1%
Yes, we offer telecommuting to all employees: 8.9%
No, we don’t offer any telecommutingoptions: 20%
What is the best reasonfor allowing telecommuting?

  • Offering workers a betterwork/life balance: 32%
  • Increasing productivity: 30%
  • Building morale: 12%
  • Keeping costs to office down: 10%
  • Efficiency: 8%
  • Helping offset long commute times: 5%
  • Recruiting talent: 3%

Source: Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. survey of human resources executives, conducted after Yahoo’s ban

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Kochman, an employment law specialist with Cole Schotz Meisel Forman and Leonard, said employers are increasingly seeking legal advice on the topic.

"I'm drafting telecommuting policies where I never did five years ago, 10 years ago," she said. "I wasn't getting calls on that issue. Now I'm getting calls on it saying, 'Look, we have employees asking for it. We want to keep them.' I would say in the last year or so it's become more prevalent."

Mayer's pronouncement made national headlines, since it seemed at odds with her industry. Internet companies such as Yahoo were known for giving young employees greater workplace flexibility, to encourage creativity, collaboration and productivity. After Yahoo announced changes in its telecommuting guidelines, consumer electronics retailer Best Buy Co. tightened its policy, saying employees would have to negotiate at-home work situations with their managers. Bank of America had already tweaked its telecommuting policy.

In North Jersey, companies such as Unilever in <a shape="rect" href="http://www.northjersey.com/englewoodcliffs">East Rutherford</a> are among those offering some form of telecommuting to employees.

A privilege, not a right

In <a shape="rect" href="http://www.northjersey.com/news/bergen">Bergen County</a>, employers interviewed said telecommuting is a privilege that workers earn, not a right. And in some cases, industries where customer service is person-to-person, working from home isn't a viable option. That said, in an era where companies are trying to trim their costs, having fewer employees at an office eight hours a day, five days a week can cut overhead by permitting companies to lease less office space.

The very act of telecommuting became most feasible by 2007, the age of Pentium computer chips, iPhones, iPads and high-speed Internet service, said James Hughes, dean of the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University. Office-bound employees could now be "mobile" and "untethered," he said, "no longer geographic prisoners, no longer cubicle captives."

A number of local businesses said it behooved them to let employees telecommute so they could take care of their at-home responsibilities, such as tending to children and caring for aging relatives.

To attract and keep some of the best employees, not letting them work from home can be a deal breaker, said Michael Kempner, founder and chief executive of MWW, the public relations firm.

"There are many talented people that just can't work five days a week, 10 hours a day in an office," he said, adding that while it is particularly an issue with working women, it also affects many men.

"We have had telecommuting in place before we even had a term called telecommuting," Kempner said.

MWW, which has 200 employees around the country, with 90 of them in <a shape="rect" href="http://www.northjersey.com/eastrutherford">East Rutherford</a>, has allowed people to work from home for about two decades.

"We have always believed in helping to create a healthy work-life balance for our employees," Kempner said. "And for those who need the ability to do that