Challenger Survey: Most Companies Not Following Yahoo, Best Buy

When struggling big box retailer Best Buy followed in the footsteps of Yahoo! Inc. by altering its telecommuting policies for employees, some undoubtedly concluded that there would soon be a flood of companies doing the same.  However, a new survey indicates that Best Buy may be in the minority, with the overwhelming percentage of companies planning to maintain their telecommuting policies.

According to the survey, 80 percent of the 120 human resources executives polled said their companies currently offer some form of telecommuting option to employees with 97 percent of them saying there are no plans to eliminate that benefit.

The survey was conducted by global outplacement and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. in the days following Yahoo’s widely reported and controversial plan to bring work-at-home employees back to the office.

“When major companies like Yahoo and Best Buy make notable policy changes, there is no doubt that other employers will take notice and some may even re-evaluate their policies.  However, it would be misguided to assume that other companies will follow blindly without considering their own unique circumstances,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

Get the full report here.


Monday Bulletin: Telecommuting Turnaround at Yahoo; Sequestration Cuts To Come

Telecommuting Trend Turnaround at Yahoo!

At a time when many Silicon Valley tech firms are battling each other to attract and retain the best talent, the decision by Yahoo! Inc. to end its telecommuting program may prove to be shortsighted. The move, which was widely reported this morning after a leaked memo made its way to the press, stems from the belief that “speed and quality are sacrificed when people work from home.” Yahoo’s new CEO Marissa Mayer is determined to shake things up in an effort to turn the struggling company’s fortunes around. “To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side. That is why it is critical that we are all present in our offices. Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings. Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home. We need to be one Yahoo!, and that starts with physically being together,” the memo reads. According to John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., there is some wisdom behind the memo’s sentiment. “Yahoo is definitely in a fourth-and-long situation, so it needs to try new tactics. There is a collaborative advantage to having all of your employees in the office. However, there is also an advantage in having the best and brightest tech workers on your payroll. The question is whether this move will result in an exodus among the company’s top talent,” he said. Could the move to end telecommuting backfire for Yahoo? What are the pros and cons of telecommuting programs? Will other companies follow Yahoo’s lead and end or rein in telecommuting options?

Sequester Could Send Government Job Cuts Soaring

Will failure to reach a budget deal by March 1 ignite another round of government job cuts? Automatic spending cuts totaling $85 billion are scheduled to take effect Friday and will impact federal agencies, including transportation and defense, as well as cut aid to states. Instead of finding a solution, Democrats and Republicans are arguing the overall impact of the cutbacks, with Democrats taking a “sky-is-falling” stance while Republicans argue that the cuts, which amount to less than 3% of the $3.5 trillion budget, will barely be felt by most Americans. The truth, as usual, probably lies somewhere in the middle. “The thousands of federal workers forced to take unpaid furloughs will certainly feel the pinch in their annual budgets. Meanwhile, state governments will have to pass along the cuts by eliminating jobs. In Missouri, for example, the automatic budget cuts will slash about $12 million in school funding and will put about 160 teaching jobs at risk. That may not seem like a lot of jobs in the big scheme of things, but it’s everything to the 160 teachers who could ultimately find themselves unemployed due to political gamesmanship,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. Last year, announced job cuts by government agencies fell to 19,128 after reaching 142,503 in 2011 and 183,064 in 2010. What will be the overall economic impact of automatic budget cuts that kick in March 1? Will automatic budget cuts send government job cuts to 2010-2011 levels? Are consumers and businesses spending enough now to hold up the economy if government spending declines?

Telecommuting Could Save Time, Money Created by Monster Commutes

With a new report detailing the growing cost of daily commuting to and from work, one workplace authority wonders if it is time for the nation’s employers to make a serious commitment to expanding the use of telecommuting strategies.

“Right now, a very small fraction of the nation’s workers who could viably work from home on a regular basis are actually doing so.  By not expanding the use of telecommuting, employers are negatively impacting the environment, worker productivity, job satisfaction and, most importantly, their bottom lines.  And, it is not a lack of technology or other resources that is holding back this expansion.  It is simply a lack of vision, a shortage of trust and an irrational adherence to antiquated notions of how and where work should be done,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

The call for increased telecommuting comes on the heels of a new report from the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, which revealed that increased traffic congestion is forcing the nation’s workers to build in extra time to their daily commutes to the tune of $121 billion in wasted time and fuel in 2011.

The longest commuting times are found in Washington D.C., where it takes drivers three hours to reach a destination that would be 30 minutes away with no traffic.  On average, commuters are giving themselves one hour for what should be a 20-minute drive with no traffic. Continue reading

Telecommuting On The Rise, Jobless Claims Fall

Increased traffic congestion, higher gas prices and rising rents for office space could spike interest in telecommuting as companies continue to seek ways to contain costs. A new report out today shows that traffic congestion is beginning to climb back toward pre-recession levels. The Texas Transportation Institute estimates that traffic cost the U.S. economy nearly $115 billion in time and fuel in 2009. That figure probably increased further in 2010 as the economy continued to improve. Meanwhile, in the fourth quarter of 2010 Manhattan office rents rose for the first time in more than two years, according to brokerage firm Cushman & Wakefield. Employers and employees are also facing rising gasoline prices. At least one employer sees the cost-benefit of increased telecommuting. In December, President Obama signed the Telework Enhancement Act, which will encourage telecommuting for federal employees through a number of measures. What are the biggest obstacles blocking increased adoption of telecommuting? What are the challenges of implementing a broader telecommuting strategy? What are the pros and cons of telecommuting?

Weekly jobless claims fell by 37,000 to 400,000 last week, the largest weekly drop since the week ending February 6. The four-week moving average dropped to 411,750, larger than expected possibly due to the holiday season skewing results. Most economists agree that weekly jobless claims have to drop below 400,000 before the job market begins to see significant improvement, as hiring remains slow. Which industries could see an uptick in hiring in the coming months? Will announced job cuts continue to trend downward? Is the job market on the cusp of experiencing greater and faster improvement?

Job-Seeker Relocation At Record Low

Job Seeker Relocation Drops to Record Low

The percentage of unemployed managers and executives relocating for a new position fell to a record low in the third quarter of 2010, as a slightly improved job market and greatly depreciated home values combined to eliminate this option for most job seekers.

Just 6.9 percent of job seekers who found employment in the third quarter relocated for the new position. That was down from a relocation rate of 13.4 percent in the same quarter a year ago, according to the latest Challenger Job Market Index, a quarterly survey conducted by global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. among approximately 3,000 successful job seekers from a wide range of industries nationwide.

The relocation rate has been low for four consecutive quarters, averaging just 7.3 percent since the fourth quarter of 2009. The 6.9 percent figure in the quarter ending September 30 was the lowest ever recorded by the firm, which began its tracking in 1986.

“Continued weakness in the housing market is undoubtedly the biggest factor suppressing relocation. Job seekers who own a home – even if they are open to relocating for a new job – are basically stuck where they are if they are unable or unwilling to sell their homes without incurring a significant loss,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

“In a strong job market, where talent is difficult to find, employers might be more willing to help offset some of the financial loss associated with relocation. However, at this early stage of the recovery, companies are still in cost-containment mode,” he added.

Job seekers may also be opting to eschew relocation due to increased confidence in their ability to find employment locally.

“Many areas have seen a slight improvement in the job market over the past year. While the gains have been small, for the most part, they may have been enough to lift job seekers from the sense of desperation that often compels people to relocate,” said Challenger.

According to state and local employment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 167 metropolitan areas have seen their unemployment rates decline over the past 12 months, with 45 of those dropping by a percentage point or more. As of August, there were 232 metropolitan areas with unemployment rates below the national average of 9.6 percent. There were 91 cities with unemployment rates of 7.5 percent or below.

Furthermore, 27 states have experienced net gains in payroll levels over the 12-month period ending in August. Overall, a total of 500,600 new jobs have been added to payrolls in these states, or an average of 18,500 jobs added per state.

“The job market is expected to continue to improve in 2011. If it improves faster than the housing market, the inability of job seekers to relocate will become a major obstacle to sustained job creation,” warned Challenger.

“Right now, demand for new workers is not at a level that would force companies to bring in talent from outside their region. However, as the local talent pool starts to become depleted as the economy improves, companies will be compelled to cast a wider recruiting net. Unfortunately, the immobility of the workforce may mean that some employers will have to delay expansion plans, thus slowing the recovery,” he said.

“At that point, some large companies might have the financial ability to increase their relocation budgets and help offset the difference between the home value and selling price. However, small- and medium-size companies, where most of the new job growth is expected to occur, probably will be unable to cover the costs of relocation and make up for a candidate’s lost home value,” said Challenger.

Surprisingly, small companies currently appear more willing to cover relocation expenses. A 2010 Atlas Van Lines survey of companies found that 51 percent of companies with fewer than 500 employees offer full reimbursement of relocation expenses to new hires. Among companies with 500 to 4,999 employees, the percentage offering full reimbursement drops to 45 percent, while 47 percent of companies with 5,000 employees or more cover all moving expenses for new hires.

However, most companies draw the line when it comes to covering any losses on the sale of a home. Only 28 percent of all employers are willing to reimburse new hires for any loss on the sale of their home. The percentage of employers that reimburse for financial loss drops to 14 percent for companies with less than 500 employees.

“Even if business conditions improve to the point where more employers are willing and able reimburse new hires for relocation costs and for the financial losses experience by home sellers, there is no guarantee that candidates will be willing to move,” said Challenger.

Relocation has been on the decline since the early-1990s. In 1986, the quarterly relocation rate averaged 42 percent. In 1993, relocation averaged 35 percent over the year, but reached a record high of 49.2 percent in the second quarter. From 1994 through 2000, the quarterly average sank to 22 percent from 1994 through 2000. Since January 2001, the relocation rate has remained below 20 percent for 39 consecutive quarters.

“Several factors probably contributed to the decline in relocation. The country experienced a period of phenomenal growth, with many cities and states diversifying their economies. As a result, it was no longer necessary to relocate to Silicon Valley for a technology job, for example.” said Challenger.

“Furthermore, the same Internet technology that makes it easier to conduct an out-of-town job search also makes it easier for people to work from anywhere. Faster and cheaper Internet connections, coupled with relatively low air-travels costs, made it possible for job seekers to gain out-of-town employment without actually moving out of town,” he added.

See full chart here:

GUEST POST: Living With Your Home Office by Jennifer Paulish

Living with your Home Office
by Jennifer A. Paulish

Jennifer A. Paulish is an Independent Interior Designer/Project Manager with a passion of creating functional and inspiring Interiors in the Corporate, Retail, and Healthcare Industry. On Linked-In

I have always been keenly aware of how the physical environment can psychologically affect a person. So really it was no surprise that my chosen career path was Interior Design. Specializing in Corporate Design, I have spent much of my time educating companies and individuals on the importance of bringing an Interior Designer onboard in the beginning stages of the design process. This affords an opportunity for the designer’s ideas to be incorporated into a comprehensive business plan that is synchronized with the company’s brand and image. The result is a more productive workplace, distinguished by open communication, corporate loyalty and job satisfaction.
In today’s rapidly changing market, many companies find themselves in survival mode. Therefore, we are finding a rise in small businesses, telecommuters and contract employees working from home. There is a great deal of discipline in order to draw the line between home and work and while you may no longer be physically going to a corporate office, there are important issues to consider so your home office will work for you. This being said, I have a few suggestions to make your home office both functional and inspiring.

1. Designate Space- It is important to designate space for your home office. If you are fortunate enough to have a basement, lofted area, or extra room perfect! If not do not despair; you do not need a large footprint all it takes is a little rearranging in order to create a nook that is specifically for your work. Think outside the box with this; can a closet become your home office?

2. Keep it Professional-Remember this is your place of work. Stay organized; keep it clean/ clutter free, and comfortable. Take pride in this space.

3. Ergonomics- More often than not ergonomics come into play only when there is a problem (back/carpal tunnel syndrome). Think of ergonomics as preventative medicine. So here are a few things to keep in mind when creating your space.

• Your desk or work surface should be deep enough to place your monitor approximately 20”away from your eyes (30” deep will accommodate this)
• Desk height should be elbow height when seated (29” above finished floor is typical)
• Keyboard and mouse at elbow height
• Top of screen should be at or just below eye level
• Chair should be easily adjustable, provide support, front edge of seat pan should be rounded in waterfall fashion, forward and backward tilt, and adjustable/removable arms. Think of your chair as an investment and purchase the best quality product you can afford. Call a furniture dealer and you can often find refurbished chairs (and desks) at some decent prices and there is always craigslist.

4. Have some fun- Aesthetically your space should be inspiring and energizing and do not be afraid to add some personal touches in order to achieve this. This can be achieved in many different ways; choose a paint color that you are drawn to, inspiration/pin-up board, artwork, mix up finishes, etc.
Remember you are your own brand- What is it you want to say?

(Photo courtesy Apartment Therapy)