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BizReport : Trends & Ideas archives : April 23, 2013

Will recent u-turns on telecommuting policy reverse the trend?

The number of companies with employees working remotely has risen significantly in the last few years. Will recent policy change by two big firms, Yahoo and Best Buy, reverse that trend or are those companies simply responding to their own performance issues?

by Helen Leggatt

Figures from the Telework Research Network in the U.S. reveal that more than 3.1 million people (excluding self-employed or unpaid volunteers), work from home or consider home to be their primary place of work. That figure represents a 73% rise since 2005.

Working from home is seen as an attractive practice both from an employee and employer standpoint. According to a new survey of 1,000 business professionals by uSamp, working from home is both more productive (67%) and liberating (69%).

Working from home has a 'green' aspect, too. Provider of remote control and online meeting software, TeamViewer, found that those working from home are more proactive about taking steps to save the environment, more so than they would if they were in an office. Actions include:

• Turning lights off when not in a room - 74%
• Making lunch - 60%
• Keeping heating and air-conditioning low to save energy - 56%
• Printing minimal amounts of paper - 53%
• Powering down computer at night - 50%
• Recycling - 39%
• Avoiding bottled water - 34%.

Despite the obvious advantages to employers and employees of telecommuting, some companies have recently done a u-turn on their work from home policies. Most notably, Yahoo and Best Buy.

Yahoo's Marissa Mayer, who has only just revealed the company's reasoning behind the u-turn in telecommuting policy, believes the practice is "not what's right for Yahoo right now". While she acknowledges that employees are more productive working at home alone, she believes working with others promotes innovation and collaboration.

Best Buy's decision to scrap its Results Only Work Environment telecommute program came soon after Yahoo's announcement. Company CEO, Hubert Joly, believed that the policy was "fundamentally flawed from a leadership standpoint".

Is this the start of widespread company policy revision or is it, as Erin Kelly, associate professor at the University of Minnesota who has studied Best Buy's telecommute program suggests, companies blaming telecommuting initiatives for problems they may be facing in the broader market?

What do you think?

Image via Shutterstock

Tags: employment trends, human resources, remote working, telecommuting, trends

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  • Sara

    Yahoo! decided to halt telecommuting because their VPN logs showed very
    low activity. While a crude estimate, it did show a shocking lack of
    computer work by teleworkers.

    Many teleworkers use two computers, one that VPNs into the office and is
    subject to the firewall control, and a personal computer. There’s no way
    to know what that teleworker does on the personal computer and how much
    time they are spending on it because it’s not part of the VPN.

    The solution? Something like MySammy that
    measures computer activity and time using applications (Outlook,
    Powerpoint, Excel, etc.). Then as the author points out, the onus is
    back on management because they are without excuse; quantifiable data
    from their telecommuting employees means actionable results.

  • Hobbes4Prez

    Yahoo! is a failure of management and not of the practice of telecommuting.



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