A great deal of discussion arose last week thanks to Yahoo’s decision to end their telecommuting jobs policy allowing employees to work from home. Specifically, Marissa Mayer took the brunt of negative press. Mayer is the current CEO who left Google to reinvigorate the lagging Internet search destination.
Hold all your horses before applauding or criticizing the move. Every decision needs facts to influence the outcome. Let’s consider Yahoo’s.
- Yahoo informed all 11,500 employees last week that they must report to work at a Yahoo office by June.
- Insider reports still dispute the finer details, so it’s not clear if the move will affect all of the thousands of employees or just a smaller group of full time commuters.
- Since yahoo won’t comment on inside matters, we don’t know if the reports greatly exaggerated a small change or underscored a major shift in company culture.
For now, we consider the issue and the prevailing opinions that seem to swirl around the blogospheres. Supporters claim the move will increase productivity, collaboration and creativity from a fully interacting workforce. Detractors believe the move will actually reduce productivity and lead to a more melancholy group of workers. They assert that many employees will be forced to quit as they cannot cope with long commutes or relocation.
But Is It The Right Decision For Yahoo?
Arguments can easily fight for either side. Those who argue that only results matter can point to all sorts of studies and data to back up their beliefs.
“People working from home spend more hours actually working!” They’ll passionately exclaim. “People want to be around their families.”
All the while, the other side of the fence will simply reverse the statements and hedge their opinions even more.
Only time will tell if Yahoo made the right decision. An in-house team could be just what the once-dominant search site needed. For now though, Mayer appears enthusiastic about the changes occurring under her leadership. Oh, and the market seems to agree with her.
Stocks have shot up nearly 50% since she took the reigns in summer.
So Is It The Right Decision For You?
We can’t read palms or predict the future, but Yahoo’s situation did inspire us to think about telecommuting jobs and their value (or downside). Conversations probably sound the same everywhere that considers it.
“It could work.”
“People would goof around more.”
“I’d get more done!”
The argument could easily run in circles for hours, or worse, simply deteriorate into personal feelings. Each side of the dispute has its convincing points. Consider telecommuting:
- If people can work from anywhere, you have a considerably larger applicant pool to hire since commutes and relocation become irrelevant.
- Telecommuting overhead costs compare favorably to a typical workplace because you don’t have to pay for the usual supplies, office space and associated utilities.
- You are more likely to evaluate an employee’s work based off results and not time.
- Office distraction and agitation, like pointless meetings and annoying coworkers, no longer ties up your day.
- An employee has greater flexibility to balance family, a home life and work responsibilities
- You have less control of tasks, duties, daily chores, and employee activity (if you feel the need for such control).
- Employees lose a certain ease of communication. Yes, even in the age of constant digital communication, something is still lost by not easily poking your head up to yell over a desk.
- You could very well lose productivity in your employees. However, it’s worth noting that most studies suggest that this result is far less about where someone works , and much more about what that person does. Busy work is busy work no matter where you do it. If you hire unmotivated people, they’ll take that slack everywhere they go.
- A lack of brainstorming and innovation could potentially come from not engaging in group discussions. Face to face communication and bouncing ideas off each other oftentimes can lead to those, “ah hah!” moments of clarity. You could easily lose that if nobody interacts.
A rather odd con exists that doesn’t get as much attention as the others. However, you should seriously consider its effect.
- The inability for employees to “stop” working is a real threat to watch. Many at-home employees slip into “workaholicism” by turning their homes into offices. The lack of distinction leads to the real problem of them never unplugging, which leads to a huge life imbalance.
A shortsighted manager may exclaim, “That’s great! More productivity!” Be careful though. How valuable is a burnt out, miserable and frustrated employee? Much merit lies in the balance of work and life.
Don’t Be Afraid To Ask
So we saw a few valid arguments for and against telecommuting jobs, but everything still comes down to individual cases. You must ask a few honest questions of your employees and company as a whole. You may learn that your company could happily support telecommuting jobs after all. Or, you may reinforce your belief that it would doom your business like Yahoo.
- Can the work be done at home, realistically and without tremendous difficulty?
- Do people even want it?
- Is there a balance that exists between full time on both ends?
- Will it improve the workplace?
- Will employees be happier with more choice (this is a usual yes, but now always)?
- Will it improve productivity in general?
- Are there legal issues?
Yahoo, Telecommuting Jobs, You, Decisions
Did you answer with a bunch of yes’s? Maybe you don’t need to follow the Yahoo decision and a classic office mentality. Lots of “no’s?” Then a physical workplace isn’t so bad after all. You shouldn’t feel a terrible obligation either way, and that’s the point.
Simply approach the scenario with an open mind. Many ways exist to promote employee happiness and work productivity. Find the right one for you.
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