Is Telecommuting to be considered or banned?

telecommutingYahoo has banned its staff from “remote” working. After years of many predicting working from home as the future for everybody, why is it not the norm?

When a memo from human resources dropped into the inbox of Yahoo staff banning them from working from home it prompted anger from many of its recipients.

“Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings,” the memo said. “Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home.”

The move to get staff back into the office is thought to have been driven by new chief executive Marissa Mayer, who herself returned to work weeks after giving birth.

Telecommuting may seem like a win-win situation for both employers and employees, especially in situations where an employee’s presence in the office is not required for the employee to effectively perform his or her job.

Employers may seize on the opportunity of allowing telecommuting to cut down on the amount of office space they need or to channel the time employees would otherwise spend commuting into business-productive work.

Employees may be attracted to telecommuting to cut commuting time, be available for child-care responsibilities, or continue working during a period of recuperation from illness or injury.

office_homeLost in employers’ decision-making processes are the inherent risks of encouraging or allowing telecommuting, including

  • the employer’s inability to accurately track employees’ hours of work,
  • the loss of confidentiality regarding business-related matters,
  • the potential for workers’ compensation claims for home injuries,
  • the inability of an employer to monitor employee behavior, particularly alcohol and substance abuse,
  • the difficulty of an employer meeting OSHA standards for in-home work, and
  • setting a precedent which may be difficult to control.

Last year, according to Mobile Work Exchange, 71% of the organisations that participated saw an increase in productivity during the week and 75% of participating individuals said they were able to accomplish more.

Marissa Mayer might take issue with those stats. Business Insider is reporting that the Yahoo chief used information from the company’s VPN records to show that people claiming to telecommute were not really working, and that is why Mayer shut the program down. Now, Best Buy is the latest struggling company to rein in workers. Recently, the electronics giant scaled back its well-known telecommuting program, saying the company needs more collaboration. Some employees can still work from home, but only with an okay from their direct manager.

There are signs that the number of people working from home is on the increase in the UK, according to the CBI. A total of 59% of employers who responded to a survey in 2011 were offering teleworking, up from 13% in 2006.

In the US, 24% of employed people report working from home at least some hours each week, according to the Bureau of Labour Statistics. But only 2.5% of the workforce (3.1 million people, not including the self employed or unpaid volunteers) consider home their primary place of work, says the Telework Research Network.

Clearly telecommuting is not something that can be implemented without oversight and thought. If you are considering allowing your employees to telecommute either full-time or part-time, here are 5 questions to ask yourself.

1. Am I the kind of manager that can judge performance on results only?

2. Can the work be, reasonably, done from home?

3. Are your employees already doing a considerable amount of work from home?

4. Do they have a desire to work from home?

5. Will you be able to meet all legal requirements?

Take a look at the situation in your office and decide if it’s a possibility. You can start slow allowing people to work one day a week from home and see how it works out. If it does not work, you can always cancel the policy. But, you may find out that it increases your productivity and your employee happiness!

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