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The Alternative Board Blog

Should You Allow Telecommuting? It's a Complex Issue

Feb. 26, 2013 | Posted by The Alternative Board

It boils down to a matter of trust.

Did you see the story about Yahoo saying "no more telecommuting?"

When the Yahoo staff heard Marissa Mayer from Google was taking over the helm of Yahoo, they probably didn't see that coming. Mayer has brought in other perks such as free lunches and covering mobile phone costs. No more telecommuting is a surprise to everyone. For an Internet firm, Yahoo is starting to seem like an old, stodgy, conservative business. They finally have a new look to the website. So you would think taking away telecommuting would be counter to trying to reestablish a perception as a dynamic company.

There are a couple of ways to view this move.

First is that they view the benefits of team collaboration as a cornerstone to innovation - and telecommuting works counter to this. Yahoo needs to get innovation back into their culture. As we blogged here before, Bell Labs innovated the office space model that leads to collaboration and innovation. (Ironically, Bell Labs also innovated most of the technology forming the basis of telecommuting.) Yahoo may feel that having a bunch of disconnected employees sitting in their PJs working away is not the best way to jump-start the business.

Secondly, there is speculation that this is a calculated move to cause intentional attrition without having to announce the dreaded layoff - so soon after Mayer has taken the helm.

Telecommuting is a complex issue. In deciding whether to support telecommuting, there is also a trust factor. Do you trust your employees enough to allow them to work from home? You may trust most of them but not all of them. Do you setup a policy to prevent the few from taking advantage of you? Or do you provide a perk for the majority that you trust? It's a complex issue.

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With the proliferation of technology, even employees working on site can abuse their jobs. There was a recent story about the Verizon employee who outsourced his entire job of software development to an individual in China. There was also a story about J.C. Penney employees watching 5 million YouTube videos during working hours in January 2012.

Do you currently telecommute, or offer it as an option to your staff? Certainly they have reactions to this announcement whether they trek in daily or not. What kind of feedback are you receiving or offering?

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Written by The Alternative Board

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