Recent news from Yahoo and Best Buy about either banning or limiting telecommuting, the technical label for working from home, caught my attention. I have read some of the reasons behind these changes and they seem valid to me.
Yahoo Banned All Telecommuting
Yahoo’s CEO checked the VPN logs, which shows how often employees log in from home, and found they were not logging in enough so, based on that, and I suspect their productivity for the jobs they were responsible for doing, determined it would be best for them, at this time, to ban all telecommuting and, I assume, either bring all of the telecommuters back into an office in Sunnyvale, California or let some of them go. Bringing them back into any office will be an enormous expense to the company as office space, furniture, and equipment will have to be acquired unless they have an enormous unused space now. I am sure they considered this before the decision was made and announced.
My personal opinion is this seems drastic to me but I do not have all the facts and know sometimes drastic changes are necessary in order to bring about the change a company needs so I do believe the CEO made the decision she thinks is needed for Yahoo at this time. I do wish her well and hope they do bring the results she is looking for.
Best Buy Requires Telecommuters to Have Manager’s Approval
Best Buy will allow some if it’s 4000 telecommuters to work from home if they discuss it with their manager and get their approval, which, apparently has not been a requirement to date. That seem perfectly logical to me, a “duh” moment, as I would have expected this to have been happening all along. It doesn’t make any sense to me why it wasn’t.
Why would I care?
You might ask yourself why these stories would interest me or why would I care. It’s simple really. I have been a telecommuter for the last 10 years so if these type decisions do become a trend it could affect me. I cannot speak with any first-hand knowledge about Yahoo or Best Buy’s telecommuters but I can speak about my experience. I don’t really think many, if any, other companies will make this type of change just because others have but this may prompt them to look at their own telecommuter productivity and monitor that, as they should, to see if any adjustment are warranted.
Advantages of Telecommuting
Advantages of telecommuting are many. Some of these include less cost for the physical office, less sick time for the employees, more hours worked for employees who are not spending time commuting to an office, more productivity from the employee, and the employee theoretically, at least, can have a better life outside of work whether that be with family, friends, hobbies, or whatever interests they enjoy. For employees there is also less expense for clothes, fuel, food, and auto maintenance. In recent years with the cost of gasoline this advantage is huge for telecommuters. Some would consider a side benefit of this as being good for the environment as well.
Disadvantages of Telecommuting
Some jobs are best done with people meeting face to face in an office setting and some people need this interaction in order to reach their peak productivity level. If you are trying to climb the corporate ladder then you will probably need to be working in a physical office in order to get very far toward this goal. For some people, telecommuting does not fit their personality. They need the physical interaction with co-workers and that is hard to get over the phone.
For me, I can probably count on one hand the number of sick days I have taken over the past 10 years. There have been many days when I would not have gone into the office that I have been able to work from home. When I last drove to the office I had a one hour commute one way so two hours a day I was in the car not working and not spending time with my family. I had a co-worker in California who had a two hour commute one way on a good day so she regularly spent four hours in the car not working and not spending time with her family. If the company just got half of this commuting time back in hours worked it should mean a significant increase in productivity.
I have always tried to work more than I typically would have in the office just to eliminate any appearance that I was not carrying my weight and getting my job done working at home. I often go much too far overboard with this and it is hard to determine when work ends and when time off begins, one of the primary disadvantages of working from home.
I do not take this privilege for granted. I am thankful for my job as a Project Manager and developer and the challenges and rewards it provides. Based on my performance appraisals over these years my managers do believe I am doing a good job. If that changes I suspect my status as a telecommuter would be up for review as well.
However, these past two weeks I have seen my family much less than most traditional office workers likely would have as the project I am currently working on has required significant time above and beyond what would be considered as a normal work day. I don’t call this overtime because it is just what is required to get the job done from time to time and usually comes and goes in cycles.
My family is very understanding (they often go overboard with their understanding) but it does begin to wear on all of us when it continues for extended periods of time as this current project has. I do know this is time I will never get back and that is the hardest reality for me.
I have had this topic as one I would like to write about for some time but these past two weeks have prompted me to write this today. This is also the reason I did not get another blog post out this week, which is really insignificant in the grand scheme of things to say the least.
No Single Answer for All
Any news regarding telecommuting is always on my radar. Telecommuting is not for everyone but for those who can be productive and do not need the physical interaction with others in an office it is a very productive arrangement for both the employer and employee. It has been a very good arrangement for me so far. However, it is not as easy as some might think. It should be an agreement first from the company to allow workers to work from home and then a discussion and agreement between the manager and employee. That is the only way I see it working.
That is my perspective, peculiar or maybe not, and will not change even though I know I could be working in an office at some point in the future if my situation changes.
I would love to hear your thoughts so please do leave a comment if you would like to share them.
Until next time…
Originally published on Peculiar Perspective on 03/30/2013