Forward-thinking companies are set on how best to serve an increasingly international workforce. They want to maintain productivity, yet also maintain high levels of employee happiness.
We recruit strong people and we want to keep them. So even if we prefer someone to be in the office, telecommuting is often a perk we’re willing to bestow. Some studies say it provides work-life balance. Some say it helps retain women. You can also save costs by cutting off some aspects of office politics and "water cooler" dialogues, which can't happen from home.
Here’s the key question: If it keeps a good employee happy, should you do it even if, at times, it results in reduced productivity?
With people we want to keep, yes. Taking 10 minutes during the workday to provide your child a snack is not a drain. Allowing workers to break from email to switch the laundry can be an energy boost. If people are enthusiastic about their work and devoted to the company, that should outweigh any efficiency. The people who don't want to work full hours really aren't the people we want to keep anyway.
And yet major fears surface. Will it be harder to advance in my job or attain a promotion?
It can also make more work for the manager. She is reviewing 16 back and forth responses on email, trying to get to a decision and attain input. In the office, she can instead walk over, have a discussion, and corral 2-3 other key people to move the business forward.
Further, many conversations are sensitive, meriting frequent in-person conversations regarding a product launch, an employee issue, or team building. Phones or email won't always work for these types of discussion, nor should they be encouraged.
So what is the global trend in telecommuting, and is Marissa Mayer following it? Should your company?
Twenty percent of global workers telecommute. Another 20% say it isn't possible for them, because they need to be present to ensure the work was accomplished. 65% of people said it would allow them to be most productive, while 62% said they found it socially isolating.
In Singapore, 27.5% of companies are pro-telecommuting; in Hong Kong, it's 23%. Yet these countries also have a strong U.S. influence and U.S. companies operating out of these hubs. In India, more than half of workers are telecommuting. Thirty percent of people in the Scandinavian countries are telecommuting, and this number is growing.
So Marissa Mayer bucked the global trend. She has a right to do so. Each company has a different culture, and different needs. Maybe her decision is temporary as she turns around Yahoo!; perhaps not.
If you believe you need your team in office to make it happen, then you’re not following the global trend in telecommuting—but most likely, it's for good reason.
What solutions has your company created for telecommuting? Tell us about it in the comments.
[Image: Flickr user Rob Holland]