Thursday, March 7, 2013

Telecommuting Is Here to Stay

Recently the new CEO of Yahoo!, Marissa Mayer, put out an internal memo banning employees from the right to work remotely.  Mayer's decision to do this was based on the desire to increase company productivity and have better communications.  I agree that there is a benefit to working closely with other software developers.  The ability to bounce ideas off of one another and help inspire and teach each other is highly rewarding, both to the company and to the employee as a professional.  It's also true that developers sometimes need to better communicate with each other and with customers.  However, I disagree in the way that Mayer chose to orchestrate these changes.

According to the memo issued by Jackie Reses, the head of HR at Yahoo!, she states that:
Beginning in June, we’re asking all employees with work-from-home arrangements to work in Yahoo! offices. If this impacts you, your management has already been in touch with next steps.
This means that everyone who works remotely, stay-at-home mothers, people who live offsite, etc., all need to report to a Yahoo! office.  This seems to be a quick-fix type of solution to a cultural issue at Yahoo! with communication and productivity.  The company obviously has issues with people taking advantage of the right to work from home.  Many companies do.

Just the other day I had an issue with an employee who didn't want to show up for a meeting.  Instead this person wanted to call in.  Under usual circumstances of the person being out of town on business or at home with a sick daughter (which I had to do on Tuesday) I understand the need to work remotely.  However, this person was literally 15 minutes away from the office, at their home.

Taking away an entire company's right to work remotely should be a last resort.  And perhaps it was Yahoo!'s last resort, but it should have been a issue discussed with the employees instead of a top-down command from an executive.  Employees are a company's most valuable asset.  Treat them as such.  Talk with them over social media - Facebook, Google+, etc. instead of issuing a 20th century memo.

Regardless of what's going on at Yahoo! telecommuting is here to stay.  Here's why...

According to Global Workplace Analytics, who has aggregated data from over 500 studies, here are the main reasons for companies to pursue or keep work from home programs:

  • National productivity would increase by $334 billion to $467 billion a year through telecommuting.  Based on the average teleworker salary, the increase would add up to over 6 million man years of work.  Cost savings could bring back many jobs that have been lost to foreign labor.
  • Telecommuting reduces traffic jams.  Traffic jams ob the U.S. economy of $78 billion/year on productivity.
  • Telecommuting reduces our foreign oil dependence by saving 281 million barrels of oil worth $22 billion in oil imports while slowing global warming.
  • Telecommuting takes pressure off our crumbling transportation infrastructure.  New roads are being built based on the needs of 10-20 years ago.  Less that 6% of our cities have kept the pace with demand over the past decade.
  • Employees are happier with telecommuting.  79% of people want to work from home and 36% would choose it over a pay raise.  80% of employees consider it a job perk.
  • Telecommuting reduces attrition.  14% of Americans have changed jobs to shorten their commute.  46% of companies that allow telecommuting say it has reduced attrition.

They also list the fallacies of telecommuting, but the list of pros far exceeds the list of cons.

Ultimately the decision to allow employees to work from home must be done on a case by case basis.  Not all employees are self-directed enough to get things done and ignore home distractions.  But there is a strong case with plenty of evidence to conclude that telecommuting is good for both employees and the company.  I'm certainly in favor of it and I hope managers of other companies see it's value.

No comments:

Post a Comment