While telecommuting can be incorporated into a wide variety of
positions, it lends itself particularly well to certain fields.
“The work that we see most commonly associated with telecommuting
includes jobs in the fields of medical and health, administrative,
sales, computer and IT, marketing, nonprofit and philanthropy, education
and accounting and finance,” said Sutton Fell.
PROS OFTEN OUTWEIGH CONS
Telecommuting (sometimes referred to as telework or remote
work) is essentially an arrangement where employees do not commute
to a central place of work. One can work remotely all or part
of the time, thanks to today’s technology.
Kristy Carscallen is chief human resources manager for KPMG,
a firm offering audit, tax and advisory services. With 34 locations
across Canada, the company has more than 700 partners and
6,000 employees that provide services
to many top business, not-for-profit
and government organizations. She
says it makes good business sense for
the company to incorporate telecommuting
into their business strategy.
“It enables us to take care of our
greatest asset – our people – allowing
KPMG to achieve a balance between
managing work and personal
commitments. Telecommuting is costeffective
and reduces absenteeism for
people with minor illnesses and family
Carscallen says KPMG has many
employees who telecommute, but they
don’t track these figures formally as
the number varies by season.
“Our people work with their managers
to create plans that make sense
for both the individual and the firm.
Many of our people telecommute on
an ad-hoc basis to help manage personal
commitments,” she said.
Erin Sproule is just one of KPMG
employees who telecommutes. As
manager in the Transfer Pricing (Tax)
group, he is responsible for managing
the whole lifecycle of engagements,
from start-up/administration, to delivery
Working out of his home office one day a week in Milton, Ont.,
Sproule says he has the flexibility to do more if needed.
“My wife is a college professor and doesn’t have flexibility in her
teaching schedule,” he said. “So if she has early classes, I have to be able
to drop off our kids, or if she has late classes, I have to pick them up
from school/childcare. When I’m working downtown and have to be
home by 5 p.m., it means taking the 3:40 p.m. train home. I often do a
couple extra hours of work in the evenings after the kids have gone to
bed. My arrangement is flexible for both me and the company.”
The pros of telecommuting can be plentiful – increased productivity,
decreased overhead costs, reduced commuting time and
decreased rate of absenteeism.
The cons are that it can be more challenging to build a team environment
and alleviate isolation.
“The biggest thing you miss out on is networking,” said Sproule.
“When you’re not physically there, it can be more difficult to
deepen relationships with other colleagues.”
Carscallen says when recruiting employees for certain positions
or hard-to-find skillsets, telecommuting can be very beneficial because
it virtually eliminates geographical limitations by opening
up a wider pool of candidates for selection.
“The cost of relocation of an employee and family is potentially
eliminated. KPMG recruits for telecommuting
positions through our
regular channels such as LinkedIn, social
media, a member referral network
and our alumni network. Our recruiters
and hiring managers speak to the
‘flex work’ options during the interview
She says that KPMG’s human
resources department is highly supportive
of its telecommuting staff by
providing a strong performance management
system that includes annual
goal setting and year-round feedback.
“This helps our people in terms of
accountability for their work responsibilities
and to achieve their goals,”
said Carscallen. “Keeping our people
engaged with business and social updates
through our internal portal is
As wonderful as telecommuting can
be, it is not for everyone. It requires a
high level of self-motivation.
“You have to be disciplined in setting
specific hours to be working and
stick to them,” said Sproule. “I shower,
get dressed and say goodbye to my
family when I head into my home office,
just like I would if I were leaving
for the train.”
Since employees (remote or otherwise) are often only as effective
as their managers, it’s vital that a company sets a strong
foundation for its telecommuting program. For example,
policies must be in place to govern schedules, regular communication
and meetings and any other expectations the firm has
for its team.
“It’s also important that we make sure that our telecommuting
are stored and saved properly,” said Carscallen. n
“BY HAVING PEOPLE
WORK FROM HOME,
THEIR OVERHEAD AND
REAL ESTATE COSTS.
BUT THEY ALSO REAP
THE BENEFITS OF A
– SARA SUTTON FELL,
FOUNDER AND CEO, FLEXJOBS
56 ❚ MAY/JUNE 2015 ❚ HR PROFESSIONAL