Yahoo cancels telecommuting – But is that the answer?

Trending all over the web and in business magazines is the decision by Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer to recall all Yahoo workers to the office. According to the articles, her reasoning is that communication and collaboration are important and people need to be working side by side. She also reasons that speed and quality are often sacrificed when employees work from home. Some of the articles I read even suggested that Yahoo employees were taking advantage of telecommuting with some going AWOL.Mayer’s move is a controversial and interesting one, especially coming from a working mother who many believed would champion flexible arrangements

Mayer’s move is a controversial and interesting one, especially coming from a working mother who many believed would champion flexible arrangements.

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There are many advantages and pitfalls to telecommuting, so how do you manage working from home arrangements?

Tips for employers:

1 – Have a clear policy in place.

2 – Have clear accountabilities, target and measures and actively manage your telecommuter in the same way you would if they were in the office. Weekly “how is the project going” meetings keep things on track.

3 – Make arrangements for regular catch ups both manager / employee and with the whole team. These could be face to face, by Skype or phone.

4 – Just because someone works from home, don’t forget to invite them to meetings and social events. It is easy to become isolated when out of the office. Be clear about what is mandatory to attend and what is optional. Team strategy days are mandatory, the afternoon tea for the CEO’s birthday maybe not.

5 – Accept that flexible working arrangements may involve working outside of “normal” business hours. As long as you have clear and realistic deliverables (see point 2) does it really matter if the work is going on at 4pm or 4 am?

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6 – Technology is awesome, so use it. These days everyone is online 24/7 so don’t feel that people need to be physically together to collaborate. Set up team wikis, messaging groups, intranet chat rooms, web conferencing, document sharing etc.

Tips for employees wanting to work from home:

1 – Make sure your performance is up to scratch first. It isn’t a good look if you have had several warnings about your performance and then you ask to work from home. It is often a leap of faith for managers to approve telecommuting, so make the decision easier for the boss. Come up with a clear plan for how the arrangements will work.

2 – Think about your own motivation. Are you a self-starter? Good at setting deadlines? What about handling distractions? It is easy working from home to get side tracked and find yourself still not started on that important paper when the deadline is looming.

3 – Think about your need for interaction. Some people thrive on the peace and quiet, some go stir crazy. Some people need other people to bounce ideas off and others do their best thinking alone. If you are the interactive type, maybe you need to go into the office a couple of days a week.

4 – Be safe. Take your environment seriously. Get a proper adjustable chair and desk, get an ergonomic assessment and work at your desk. Slumping over the laptop on the couch is great for an afternoon, but not for the rest of your working life.

5 – Don’t forget the office politics. It is a fact of life that not being physically around can impact your career. Don’t disappear. Ensure you keep in the loop about important issues, make time to go to critical meetings and work your networks and contacts.

6 – Keep your boss in the loop. Don’t go AWOL, keep the communication flowing. Not a blow by blow account of your day, but regular checking in can help allay the fears of a manager who is nervous about letting people telecommute. Show you are delivering and that you can be trusted to get the work done without being physically present.

Tip for both manager and employee:

7 – If it isn’t working for you, be honest, talk about it and find a solution that works. Cancelling the arrangement isn’t necessarily the answer.

Rosalind Cardinal is the Principal Consultant of Shaping Change, a Hobart based consultancy, specialising in improving business outcomes by developing individuals, teams and organisations.

Ros is a solutions and results oriented facilitator and coach, with a career in the Human Resources and Organisational Development field spanning more than 20 years. Ros brings an energetic and proactive approach combined with a wealth of knowledge and experience. Her expertise spans leadership development, organisational culture, team building, change and transition management, organisational behaviour, employee engagement and motivation, strategic direction and management.

2 replies on “Yahoo cancels telecommuting – But is that the answer?

  • Anna Danes

    Thanks for this great article! Your last point “7-If it isn’t working for you, be honest, talk about it and find a solution that works. Cancelling the arrangement isn’t necessarily the answer.” made me smile. I have been working for 4 years with virtual workers and in so many cases we have been able to keep people just being flexible and listening to their needs. I would say that vworking with virtual workers follows the same basic rules as normal office jobs but the manager’s actions need to be multiplied by 10. :-)

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