Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer made headlines recently when she recalled all telecommuting employees to company headquarters. It’s a desperate move by an executive trying to rein in costs for a company that is losing the battle for Internet eyeballs from rivals Google, Facebook and Microsoft. Unfortunately, it’s a move that’s not likely to boost company morale. I can tell you from firsthand experience, as a teleworker for the past 12 years, I work longer hours and am more productive as a home office worker.
Mayer’s knee jerk reaction is misguided. Perhaps as a temporary measure it may be useful for a company struggling to survive, but for a CEO who installs a private nursery/day care for her own child…what about other employees..will they enjoy the same benefits?
Read this recent article form Fortune Magazine, and then tell me what you think?
20 thoughts on “Telecommuting”
I work from home 3-4 days a week as well, but I do agree with Mayer that face to face does the best to spark innovation. However, as the article suggests, there may have been some tactful issues around how the announcement was made. Since Yahoo is struggling, they probably do need some changes that really shakes things up and gets people’s attention. I would certainly hope they are implementing other work/life balance to help counteract the morale issues some employees may experience.
Kenny: I agree with your statement. I personally do not work from home, and although I consider myself a hard working and focused worker, I feel I am most productive working away from home.
However, in regards to what Yahoo has done, I think that it’s just a desperately made decision made by a struggling company. Its unfortunate that most likely the affects on their employees moral and work/life balance will be more significant and long-term.
Desperate was the word that came to my mind as well. I am not so sure that Yahoo truly believes that this tactic will be best for the company but they had to do something to change things up. This is just a step to try to recover, it’s not something that will work miracles.
I have to agree with Fortune magazine – this will be a temporary “fix” to the issues at hand for Yahoo. Over the longterm, telecommuting has become a highly productive way for many of us (including myself) to work! And I don’t think the Yahoo case is going to set a major precedent. I wrote a blog on the subject as well: http://offthemerry-go-round.com/2013/03/01/marissa-mayer-feminist-failure/
Although I understand Yahoo CEO recalled all telecommuting, we still have to face It is a trend to work at home, especially to people who has lots of business travelling as part of this job. These businessmen cannot always sitting in their offices and have face-to-face talking with their co-workers. Most time, they have to use telecommuting to connect with coworkers and employers. I think in this point it is more efficient among this group people.
I also don’t think recall telecommuting is the only solution. The company should adopt a better method to improve the company environment rather than forcing employees to stop using telecommuting.
I agree with your idea that the company should find the better method to improve employees work efficiency rather than forcing them to recall all telecommuting. Some employees can do a great job for telecommuting, they like to arrange their schedules and balance their work and life balance. It may increase their work efficiently. In addition, telecommuting is a trend that has benefits corporations by boosting productivity and lowering costs.
Last summer I worked a marketing position that allowed me the chance to work at home whenever I chose. At first I thought this was great because I could develop my own schedule and work from wherever I chose. I do very well with time management and found the freedom to be very productive. I actually got more done sitting in a coffee shop than I did in my own office. However, as time went on I felt very disconnected from my coworkers. No one was ever in one spot more than once a week. Being at least 10 years younger than everyone one else was already hard enough but not being able to create those personal bonds with coworkers halted our creative ability.
I definitely see the ups and downs of telecommuting. On a personal level I think it can work very well for certain people. On a group dynamic level I think it could be very harmful.
Allison: I really liked your insight into telecommuting, seeing as I’ve never done that. What you said about not being able to create personal bonds with your coworkers is definitely something that I think gets overlooked, however, its an integral part of a good work environment. I feel that it also may cause hostility amongst the other non-telecommuting workers, because they may see it as being unfair.
You guys both bring up interesting points about relationships between coworkers. I think there are definitely jobs that are well-suited to telecommuting, and other jobs where a combination of working in the office and telecommuting would be better. For example, I could see the value in allowing someone like a software programmer to work entirely from home.
My current job allows me to telecommute for the most part, but it is common that as staff we work together 2-3 times per month for staff and client meetings or events. I have had other jobs where telecommuting is paired with a minimal in-office schedule, and it worked very well. That type of work structure allows coworkers to build relationships that can foster understanding, which is critical when dealing with a lot of written communication, as required with telecommuting.
I just recently finished an internship that was entirely done by telecommute. I really enjoyed the work I did and I learned a lot from it, but I spent more than the recommended weekly amount of hours working on it. I had never met my supervisors or fellow interns in person because they lived in a different state and we communicated entirely through Skype, Facebook, email, and other websites/social networks. I was constantly checking my email and my Facebook because we had a Facebook group and numerous people from different timezones posted to it, so there was always something new to read and respond to. The convenience of telecommuting was that I could do the work in my pajamas if I wanted to, at whatever hour I chose, and I didn’t have to commute anywhere, but the downside was losing that face-to-face interaction. If my superior wrote me an instant message or email to tell me I had made a mistake, I couldn’t gauge her facial expression or tone of voice, like I could if we were speaking in person, to know how serious it was. Not being able to have that face to face interaction does result in a bit of miscommunication, if your entire job is telecommute, and you never even meet your superiors in person at all.
I just recently finished an internship that was entirely done by telecommute. I really enjoyed the work I did and I learned a lot from it, but I spent more than the recommended weekly amount of hours working on it. I had never met my supervisors or fellow interns in person because they lived in a different state and we communicated entirely through Skype, Facebook, email, and other websites/social networks. I was constantly checking my email and my Facebook because we had a Facebook group and numerous people from different timezones posted to it, so there was always something new to read and respond to. The convenience of telecommuting was that I could do the work in my pajamas if I wanted to, at whatever hour I chose, and I didn’t have to commute anywhere, but the downside was losing that face-to-face interaction. There were some miscommunications that resulted from the loss of face-to-face interaction by the very nature of an entirely telecommute position in which I never met my bosses or coworkers.
This is a tricky situation because it all depends on how inconvenienced Yahoo! employees are by this new arrangement. It’s obvious from the the responses of my classmates that telecommuting isn’t the best solution in all circumstances. Having interaction with co-workers face to face can be helpful in generating new ideas and having instant feedback. However, the office can get uninspiring, people don’t always come up with their best ideas while on the clock. That being said it is also a function of intrapersonal motivation and personal work preferences.
For instance, I am able to get a lot more work done when I am in a setting other than my house, so I tend to do hw at a coffee shop in order to be productive. I feel like telecommuting can be motivating if it’s balanced and the employee is not distanced from the company in such a way that they lose sight of company goals. I don’t think what Mayer did was irrational or sensational. It’s a fact that telecommuting costs a company less money, I think Mayer wants to set the direction of the company with all employees present to be a part of it. At this crucial time in Yahoo’s history they need to think of a compelling strategy for them to stay in business and they need everyone’s commitment.
I agree Oksana, that Mayer “wants to set the direction of the company with all employees present to be a part of it”. I have no idea what all Yahoo employees must do, but given that they work for a major internet portal it is logical to assume the majority of employees telecommute, and that some don’t even understand the current company mission and values. I think with what Yahoo is going through, ending the telecommuting policy was one of, if not the only, way to “reboot” the company in hopes of success.
I think that working from home should be a personal preference regarding the employee’s circumstance and situation. However having said that if its the companies policy that employees are not permitted to work from home then this may be a an issue. However employees may have other circumstances such as commute, family etc which may prevent them from coming in to the office. For me personally I think that physically working in an office environment is more beneficial than working from home. Theres nothing like getting the real world experience when working in an office environment and developing relationships with co-workers, managers, supervisors, boss’s. From working in an office environment helps one learn allot more about the corporate world, and the do’s and dont’s of the company. However on the flip side employees must behave ethically when working from home and personal matters need to be handled well in advance.
Happy employees are very important to the overall performance of a company. One of the most beneficial contributors to morale is flexible working conditions/hours. This was so short-sighted on the CEO’s behalf. W. Edwards Demming explains that if a manager focuses directly on lowering operation costs, the quality of the product/service will go down and costs will eventually rise again. But if a CEO obliquely targets costs by focusing on the maintenance of quality, this will lead to lowered costs and a more sustainable organization.
I just built myself the most incredible home office last night. I am dying to find a company that would allow me to work from home any amount of the days during the week. There is no doubt that I would take advantage of this and use the hours that I should be at work, and I would maintain my cell phone in a manner that would make me look like I was working during these hours, but likely I would be doing my own hobbies. Where this would benefit is that I would own this job as if it were mine, and I would apply the hours that I needed to, most likely exceeding requirements.
Being able to work from homes lets you settle on your unsympathetic nerve system. You don’t have to deal with the daily issues of fight or flight that resides in the work place. It allows you to work at your own pace, and nurture the creative thoughts that it takes to complete intellectually sound proposals and strategies.
This is an interesting management technique that draws my attention because of my fascination with psychology. I believe that this would be either technique to stop the bleeding, or to make the bleeding hurt worse. Either way, I cannot say that I would personally use the technique with my work force, but it is intriguing, and I do believe that it is fit to be published.
It is an interesting move from the then new CEO. I agree with the post that she hasn’t appeared to give much thought as to the productivity consequences of here actions. She seems more intent on drawing a line in the sand and flexing her muscles. In this instance I think these actions would do more harm than good, and good cause resentment towards her. Shes not there to make friends, but she certainly needs her staff to be with her and believe in her. I don’t think these actions would achieve that.
This is a very interesting article. I can see both sides of the argument. I have never worked from home as I haven’t had any type of job that hasn’t been a student job on campus. However, I see the effects that working in the office vs. at home can bring about. While I was in high school my dad would work from usually 2 days a week. This was during the recession when gas was expensive and so he would work from home usually two days a week to not have to commute the 50 minutes to and from work. On days that he would work from home he got easily distracted especially in the summer when I was around and we would go do things for a couple hours of the day. Granted he doesn’t have a home office and would work from our kitchen table until my mom got home. When he worked in the office and had a stressful day of work he would come home in a better mood then when he worked from home because he had that hour commute to relax and destress from the day. So I believe that working in the office can create a better home life for people and then also have employees be more productive throughout the day.
I’m sure there are plenty of telecommuters who end up being less productive when working from home. Mainly due to the amount of distractions such as TV, laundry, pets, children, to name a few. In which case, I can see the reasoning in this decision as a way to possibly weed out lazy employees, as mentioned in the article. There are other benefits to having employees work in the office. Having face to face dialog with a colleague can be extremely important, especially when it comes to sharing knowledge and learning from each other. I feel as though building a face to face relationship is important for that. This includes meetings where employees can share their thoughts and work off of each other’s ideas. I feel as though it’s not quite as beneficial to have the same type of meeting over the phone with your colleagues. Many of these scenarios also depend on the type of job and line of business of course.
However, even if temporary, I feel as though it would not help with expenses, since allowing workers to telecommute can cut a lot of expenses for a business. (I’m sure their books say otherwise.) I believe that there would be other approaches to cutting costs for the company without risking the employees to lose their morale.
I’m actually beginning to see more and more organizations who have zero rules on time spent in-office. Employees are encouraged to work in whatever way fits their lifestyle.
This is true at my favorite non-profit: charity: water. charity: water is located in New York and a number of my friends work there. Employees have particular work they need to get done, but as long as they get it done, they can come and go as they please. Some employees never leave home. Some employees only come into the office at night. Some employees spend every other week traveling, working from hotel rooms around the world. As long as employees make it to their Monday organizational meetings (in person or via telephone), they are encouraged to do whatever makes them feel comfortable.
I love the thought process behind this: Trust and respect your employees enough to let them do what they want and they’ll feel trusted and respected. That’s a good work environment. And that’s a good work environment that motivates employees to work hard.
I hope to see more trust and respect being built into employee-employer relationships.