Much ink has been spilled about Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer's
decision to bring her workforce back to within the walls of the
company's brick-and-mortar offices. It's a controversial
decision and no doubt there are many jumping to praise Mayer for
her willingness to shake things up. I'm not one of them.
The main reason: flexibility. A worker with a flexible working
arrangement is a happy worker. A happy worker is a productive
worker. And a productive worker is good for the bottom line,
regardless of whether they are humming away in a cubicle or
cranking out emails from their kitchen table.
"But having creative employees collaborate in the same room
spurns forward thinking and big ideas."
Not necessarily. Creativity and loyalty toward the employer are
derived in large part from a worker's satisfaction with their
job, and creative people can and will do creative things no matter
where they are.
If that creative space is in an office building, so be it, but why
prevent them from letting those creative juices flow from other
locales? If a worker needs to collaborate with a colleague, he or
she can come into the office that day, or pick up the phone. Or
better yet, give Skype a try; it's very easy to use.
In 2013, I struggle to comprehend any business' ambivalence
about telecommuting. That is, setting aside the costs of
telecommuting technology and recognizing that telecommuting is not
for all industry sectors and jobs, why not embrace the notion that
we are a mobile society and most basic job functions can be
performed from anywhere as long as the worker has an Internet
connection and working telephone?
"But employees who work from home are not as
Show me the proof. I would submit, and studies have shown, that
productivity actually increases when telecommuting. Take out the
time and anxiety of a driving commute, and you're already one
step ahead of your office mates. Add in the quiet comforts of a
home office (no constant ringing of phones or distracting office
stop and chats) and you're well on your way to a productive
week. Bothered by a troubling email or voice message or
experiencing writer's block? Instead of stewing about it at
your desk for 20 minutes, go take Fido for a walk to ease your mind
or blow off some steam at your local gym to regroup. I could go on,
but you get the point.
From a legal standpoint
After Yahoo's decision went public, much of the outrage came
from working moms, frustrated that the move set them back and
presented a bad example for other companies. Yet telecommuting has
benefits for every worker, not just mothers who want to have a
Employers that promote agile and mobile workforces are more
attractive to a younger generation of workers who are used to the
trappings of modern technology. And that's not even accounting
for the environmental benefits of telecommuting, like reducing
carbon emissions and allowing people to spread out from dense urban
environments, or the reductions in an employer's overhead
expenses, like costs related to operating large office
From a legal standpoint, much of the same concerns of a
brick-and-mortar office carry over to the remote workforce. There
are no glaring legal risks in allowing workers to telecommute. But
if a business has a telecommuting policy in place, extra care
should be taken that the policy is being enforced consistently, and
that certain employees are not facing adverse consequences for
working from home.
This is not meant to convince you that telecommuting is for
everyone. I'm not even saying that workers should telecommute
five days a week. The point is that an outright ban on
telecommuting is an extreme and unnecessary measure. If
telecommuting is the wave of the future (and there's little
doubt that it is), then why not embrace it? If it works for the
likes of Cisco, Unilever, Oracle, Best Buy, and IBM, companies that
manage enormous multi-national workforces, it can work for most
Time will tell whether Mayer's decision will give her company
the needed boost to catch up to her competitors in big tech or
cause her top talent to flee and send the company scrambling again.
In any event, New Hampshire businesses considering a shift to
telecommuting should be commended. Those looking to follow in
Yahoo's footsteps to ban the practice should think twice, or
else risk alienating themselves from a growing contingent of young
workers who view a flexible working environment as a prerequisite
for any new job.
This article reflects one person's opinion. Nothing above
should be construed as the platform of my employer or anyone
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