As Long as the Work Gets Done: Telecommute-gate 2013

Earlier this week, Yahoo’s CEO, Marissa Mayer, said the company would end their telework program this June. This move from a technology giant has sparked the debate over “work from home.” Was she right in banning employees to telecommute and have flex time? Is teleworking a commuter benefit? Is it a managerial style? Does telework kill productivity or make it possible for people to work? teleworkcat

Here’s what I have to say, as both a telework candidate and a manager. My current office space, as many are these days, is an open floor concept.  That means everyone has access to you at all times unless you aren’t physically at your desk. Sure you can put in headphones, but if you’re in a work groove and someone is standing by your desk, it’s hard to ignore them. Add to that a gang of meetings and sometimes it feels like you didn’t even make a dent into your to-do list. On the flip side, I’ve seen what the “butts in seats” mentality gets you – employees that are physically there but planning their vacation time or counting down the hours until 5pm.

Being “physically together” doesn’t automatically mean increased productivity.

As a manager, I see the value of teleworking, and luckily, my company does as well.   So do these people – Richard Branson, NY Times, and Technorati. It is a part of my style to make sure that my team has the space and time to work uninterrupted, whether that’s at 9am or 3am. That’s what teleworking provides – the ability to focus on work to the best of your capabilities in the environment that fosters your best work.  That’s not always in a cube.

But here’s the big rub that people aren’t really talking about – teleworking reduces traffic and greenhouse gas emissions!  That’s what we’re all about here at GoTriangle. We want people’s commutes to be as sustainable as possible. Last year more than 71,000 people pledged to work from home at least one day during  Telework Week (March 4-8, 2013), which saved $5,651,890 on commuting costs, kept 3,453 tons of pollutants from the air and resulted in 6,413,006 fewer miles being driven, according to Mobile Work Exchange, the business that supports the effort.

Does this mean that people need to be remotely working the entire time? If that doesn’t work for them or the company, maybe not. There is something to gain from office musings and random brainstorming sessions. It comes down to having the option and making policies that work for your team or company. It shouldn’t be just black and white.

Next week, yes during Telework Week, I want Marissa to think about if being “physically together” is so important to Yahoo’s goals or should she embrace having some workplace flexibity? How she response to this outcry from employees and the public will decide if Yahoo will remain a major internet player or go the way of Netscape. 

Other articles of interest: 

Working from Home: The End of Productivity or The Future of Work? (NPR.com)

4 Reasons Marissa Mayer No-Work-At-Home Policy is an Epic Fail (Forbes.com)

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