Is Telecommuting a Failed Experiment?

By Ty Kiisel

Despite studies from Stanford, the University of Texas, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and others that suggest call centerLendio_UVBBImage_02272013 employees increased their performance by 13 percent working from home, most people who work from home add five to seven hours to their workweek compared to those who work exclusively at the office, fewer folks who work at home miss work, working from home increases retention and improves worker satisfaction, Yahoo’s CEO, Marissa Mayer, has decided that she wants her employees back in the office.

Mayer is likely more in sync with research published by the MIT Sloan Management Review that suggests bosses are roughly nine percent more likely to consider you dependable if you spend time at the office. I have to admit, I’m surprised to think this perception could be coming from the CEO of a company like Yahoo whose culture embraced the idea of working from home years ago.

“All in all,” reports the Huffington Post,” it appears working from home is a bit of a mixed bag for employee and employer alike. On the one hand, enhanced productivity, more work satisfaction, less turnover—all good things! On the other, longer hours, more weekend obligations, less chance of impressing the boss—not so good! Looks like Yahoo just took a big chance.”

Although I am in the office most days, I have to admit, I enjoy the days I work from my home office. There are fewer interruptions, it’s much quieter (we have a very open office space in the ‘office’), and depending on what I’m doing, I can usually get more done. However, we do spend a good amount of time collaborating on projects that working remotely could make problematic.

However, my desire to occasionally work from home is largely centered around a desire to shut the door and work in a quiet and distraction-free environment. I’m not convinced that open ‘collaborative’ work spaces divided up by cubicle walls (or no walls at all in many cases) are the best environments for people to be productive. Which might be why so many Yahoo employees might now be head screaming “Off with her head.”

I’ve also spoken to managers who don’t trust their subordinates to actually be working when at home, which has surprised me to hear such an antiquated, command-and-control perspective coming from the younger generation. If you’ve had employees who take advantage of the opportunity to work from home, it’s just as likely that they would be taking advantage of you and wasting time in the office. I’m convinced that wasting time is less a matter of where you’re working and more a matter of who you are.

I’ll be interested to see what happens at Yahoo over the coming months. I’d also be interested in hearing your perspective if you have people who work from home or split time between the two. Are they less or more productive at home?

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