Telecommuting – The Business Decision
I’m sure many of you have taken note of the recent flap over Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer’s edict that starting June 1st, all Yahoo employees that are currently telecommuting will have to come in the office to work.
The order to abandon kitchen tables and home offices for an actual office building has produced howls from people at Yahoo (and other companies) who work from home, and led to some poaching efforts in Silicon Valley from Yahoo’s tech competitors.
There is a lot of telecommuting in the tech industry, whether you’re in Portland, Seattle, San Francisco or Austin. Other industries and other places in the country, not so much.
Not only do most businesses NOT have foosball tables, free energy drinks, onsite fitness centers and the like for their employees, as many tech giants in Silicon Valley do, they also don’t offer telecommuting as an option, and, the whole idea is not even open to discussion.
Many, if not most, businesses operate on the assumption that if they can’t see their employees working, then they’re probably not working. Or, at least not working as hard as they would be if they were in the office.
Now, obviously, working remotely is not an option if you’re a roofer or your job is to make pizzas. But there are a great many jobs in other industries that could easily be done from a home office, whether that’s on a daily basis or only 2-3 days per week. There are certainly more than enough ways to be connected to your work colleagues these days, and more than enough ways to quickly exchange work documents, videos, slide shows, etc.
We don’t need to belabor the obvious advantages; the elimination of a long commute and the stress and cost that goes with it, flexible scheduling for those employees like parents of small children that need it, a more relaxed work environment, small savings like no dry cleaning costs, etc. And if you work at home, you can bring your dog to work every day.
But, still, there’s that point of view that people work harder if they’re in the office and they’re being monitored, along with their work – if only occasionally. Even if almost every study suggests otherwise.
Will the employers who have that point of view change their minds anytime soon? Doubtful. In fact, probably never, at least not until they start losing employees to other companies that allow some telecommuting, and that may never happen.
I know we have quite a few clients that work from home part of the week, or allow an employee to do so, but we have small businesses as clients, so office space tends to be more scarce, and flexibility from the owner’s and the employee’s perspective tends to be very important.
There is no doubt that it will be interesting to see how telecommuting pans out nationwide going forward, whether it will reach some low level of adoption and settle in at that percentage, or just keep slowly growing over the next decade.
From the perspective of Sareen and Associates, we’re all for whatever allows our small, nimble clients to compete effectively with the big boys.