Recently, there have been a few companies making news about their stance on teleworking. Yahoo made a sweeping change to its policy, and said that all employees would have to show up at the office to work. Best Buy made changes as well, but did not go as far. They said that the decision to telecommute would shift from the employee to the manager. Requests to work from home would be handled on a case by case basis.
This article isn’t intended to be a discussion about whether telecommuting is effective or not. I suspect that it is situational. Some jobs are well suited to distance work, and some employees thrive in a flexible environment. It is worth noting that a quick Internet search leads to a wealth of data that appears to support this stance, at least in some cases.
The argument against telecommuting tends to focus on teamwork and relationships, but there is probably a bit of an unspoken view that some employees are not trustworthy enough to work without close supervision.
The pros and cons are a topic for a different time, though.
Today, the point I want to make is that I haven’t seen any public statement about facts and data to support the decision. The articles I saw were qualitative and vague in nature, focusing on things like collaboration and communication.
My hope is that there was also some behind the scenes analysis that went into the decision making process. I’d like to believe that Yahoo looked at the productivity and performance of employees working at home versus those working on campus. I want to have faith the Best Buy tested their plan on a small scale to see if they were making a good decision.
Unfortunately, there is no evidence to indicate that one way or the other, but I do tend to give management teams the benefit of the doubt until they prove otherwise. The big failing, though, is that if they didn’t present evidence to their teams, it will create a rift.
One final thought: Unilateral decisions such as these are sometimes necessary. I do, however find irony in the fact that the purpose of Yahoo’s move was ‘communication and collaboration’ but it appeared to take employees by surprise.
Now, I need you to bolster my faith in management. Tell me your stories about well-managed changes in which employees had a perk taken away, and ended up feeling OK about it.
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By Jeff Hajek
March 6th, 2013
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