Sharp rise in telecommuting as Canadian firms strive to cut costs

Today 10 per cent of Canada’s labour force – or 2.5 million people – work outside the office at least one day a week, says Roberta Fox, a board member of the Canadian Telework Association. Fox is also president and senior partner at Fox Group Consulting, a Toronto-based telecommunications analyst firm. 
One example is Canadian telecom firm Telus Corp. that has experienced dramatic results from its Workstyles initiative launched a year and a half ago.Its purpose is to help employees work when and where they are most effective.

The program is available to everyone in the company if their job allows it, says Mark Lang, HR business partner at Telus.
He said 18,500 of his company’s 30,000 employees are remote-work enabled and 15,500 of those do work remotely once a week.
On any given day there will be at least 6,500 people telecommuting, Lang says.
The Workstyles program seeks to enhance employee flexibility, contribute to the environment, and reduce real-estate costs.
Since its launch the program has produced many tangible benefits.
For instance, according to Lang, staff satisfaction and engagement is now greater, and this has reduced employee turnover. Attendance has also improved.
“I don’t think telework is making employees more engaged, but it’s allowing them to choose where they can be most effective.”
Lang notes that the program did encounter initial resistance from some managers — mostly from the baby boomers.
He said much of the resistance was caused by “perception” issues. Managers were concerned they couldn’t see if their report was working all day.
“But the issue should be performance. If employees are getting their work done and meeting all goals, who cares if they take a break to walk the dog?”
Lang compares the virtual office to being in university. In high school, attendance mattered, but once you get to university – all that matters is performance. This type of thinking needs to be applied to the workforce, he says.
“The millennials probably wouldn’t work for us if they couldn’t work from home. They demand flexibility.”  Now, however, telecommuting is constant across generations.”


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