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BofA to cut back at-home workers
[December 04, 2012]

BofA to cut back at-home workers

Dec 04, 2012 (The Charlotte Observer - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Bank of America is preparing to add more restrictions to its popular work-from-home program, meaning more employees across the company will be sent back to the office more often, the bank told the Observer Tuesday.

The program, known as "My Work," had grown significantly since it was introduced in 2005 and was widely touted as a cost-saver. It also has proved popular with employees who say it saves on commuting costs and helps them balance work and family.

Now the bank has asked department managers to determine which job categories would better serve the bank by having workers come into the office, a bank spokeswoman said.

Specific changes will vary depending on the line of business, the Charlotte bank said. Some new employees may be told they are not eligible to work from home until they've worked at the bank for a year. Others may lose the ability to work remotely altogether.

Workers who will be affected are being notified over the next several weeks. Several thousand employees in Charlotte are a part of the program.

Bank of America said nothing specific precipitated the review. But a person familiar with the matter said it is part of Project New BAC, the bank's broad-based program to cut costs and improve efficiency. The bank has said it is cutting $8 billion in annual costs, and laying off about 30,000 employees.

The bank also intends to curtail the practice of informally allowing employees to keep an office at a bank location while spending much of their time working remotely, this person said. Those employees are being told they must sign up for "My Work." The review of the work-at-home options comes less than three months after the bank said it would shut down its child care centers around the country, including its location in Charlotte. In recent years, the bank's family-friendly employee policies like day care and flexible work schedules had been cited by Working Mother magazine in naming the bank as one of the best companies to work for.

A number of Charlotte employees who work from home are anxious about the pending changes.

One worker, who asked not to be named in order to speak freely about her job, told the Observer she and her co-workers were worried about the potential added costs of a long commute and the disruption to family schedules.

"My Work" allows employees in some business lines to work from home or another location rather than a cubicle, and was aimed at retaining talented employees who wanted a more flexible work schedule.

In addition to working from home, employees in the program work at satellite offices around the country, including in Ballantyne and Huntersville. The program also provides employees at home and in satellite offices with computers and secure Internet connections, and reimburses them for office expenditures.

In 2008, more than 2,000 bank employees in Charlotte were part of the program.

By 2010, more than 15,000 workers in 42 states were using "My Work," according to a presentation given by a Bank of America executive on the program's success. At that point, the bank envisioned more than 33,000 employees ultimately becoming a part of it. That would be more than 10 percent of the company's workforce.

Bank of America estimated that "My Work" saved the company $6,000 per year per employee in real estate and office costs. The program also boosted employee satisfaction and cut down on vehicle emissions from commuting, according to a promotional video.

Kenny Colbert, president of The Employers Association human resources consulting firm in Charlotte, said he is not aware of any trend in corporate America away from work-from-home or telecommuting options.

In the company's most recent survey, 37 percent of Charlotte-area companies said they allowed some employees to work outside of the office. Among larger companies -- having 100 or more employees -- the figure was 85 percent.

Telecommuting by workers at for-profit companies jumped 63 percent between 2005 and 2011, according to workplace research firm Global Workplace Analytics.

Many of Charlotte's uptown employers allow workers to telecommute. Duke Energy has a flexible policy that varies by department depending on work function, spokesman David Scanzoni said.

Dunn: 704-358-5235 Twitter: @andrew_dunn ___ (c)2012 The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, N.C.) Visit The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, N.C.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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