To Telecommute or Not to Telecommute

Posted on Monday, February 25th, 2013 by Print This Post Print This Post

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The email started benign enough

– subject line “You Are Not Alone”.  The article attached hit on a particular sore spot that we have struggled with for years:  telecommuting.  When I joined The Search Agency, work from home Fridays, for most employees, were the norm.  The criteria for taking advantage of this perk had blurred over time and the “LA traffic-avoidance” foundation had eroded.  Over time, the policy (not entitlement) has continued to evolve.  As a start-up, it was easy to keep track of those working from home.  There was more accountability, fewer people to track down.  As the organization grew, however, it felt like the policy – which we touted during the interview process and was engrained in our culture – had gotten out of hand.  Response times slowed, productivity suffered and it felt as if we had gone to a 4-day work week without making a conscious decision to do so.

As I read Yahoo! HR’s memo calling all telecommuters to start working from the office – the reasons resonated with me.  I believe that work does takes place in the hallways, the break room and in spontaneous moments.  While I no longer doubt the productivity of those working from home (we have significantly reduced the pool of staff that don’t come in on a regular basis), I do believe they – and the office at large – are missing out on their being present.

The studies cited are worth note.  Distractions at the office can make telecommuting more productive overall and lead to job satisfaction for those that are able take advantage of it.  No water cooler chat, no extended lunch break, no commute time.  All powerful ways to extend the day for staff that doesn’t work within the office’s four walls.  But that is the benefit of the one, to the detriment of the many.  Those in the office hesitate to involve someone working from home as freely as they would grabbing a co-worker in the hallway.  Interactions need to be more scheduled in order to include the telecommuter.

So we are in good company – and indeed I am not alone.  In a society where ‘always on’ has become the norm, it is hard to argue that with a smartphone, laptop, tablet, you aren’t available or accessible wherever you are.  But it isn’t just the technology that makes you a productive employee.   When your core values include collaboration and teamwork, you have to question what is lost as you sit alone in your home office.

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4 Responses to “To Telecommute or Not to Telecommute”

  1. David says:

    THere is no question that daily interaction and the ability to see people reduces the time and effort to communicate significantly. While email, phone, webex, etc. can all help, in person still gets things done better and more efficiently in the long run. Thank you for posting.

  2. David G. says:

    It makes sense to tow the line and encourage in-person team building and collaboration. It’s also great to have a 80/20 rule much like Google and Yahoo! do. 20% to help individuals and teams take a step back out of their busy week in the weeds to collaborate, develop new ideas and strategies, or take a breath of fresh air and prepare for the week ahead.

    • Barbara says:

      I think in the ever changing world – all ideas should be open to consideration. It no longer has to be all or nothing. I like the idea of scheduling your own time – whether that time be to catch up, think about something new and not tied to current business, professional development, etc. Worth exploring on an individual level as to what would you do if you gained 1/2 day in your week to continuously improve.

  3. Barbara says:

    Follow up. This news has not been taken lightly and in this piece on the Today Show http://www.today.com/id/3041440/vp/50970692#50970692
    the move is viewed as antiquated and a step back for women in particular who use telecommuting to afford balance in their lives. They raise the same point of technology overcoming physical distance. The struggle continues…

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