Yahoo has reportedly banned its employees from telecommuting, and Best Buy has reduced its telecommuting program, but this hasn’t stopped, or even slowed, other companies from offering this perk to their employees.
Some huge misconceptions about telecommuting is that employees don’t come into the office, that they don’t develop a personal relationship with others in the office, that they don’t work as hard as others who come into the office everyday, and that the relationship is too difficult to maintain. Telecommuting doesn’t mean that the employee never comes into the office or never has interaction with others in the company. In fact, this is contrary to what most telecommuters do these days. Occasional visits to the office, phone and video conference calls allow the necessary interaction between employees.
My company has several outer-office employees who come into the office maybe once a year because of where they are located in the U.S. We also have employees who work remotely, but come in once a week, or once every other week as necessary and as permitted by travel time and work load. I have a great relationship with our entire team regardless if I see them once a week or once a year. Managing the relationship is only slightly different from managing relationships with my peers who are in the office five days a week.
Allowing employees to telecommute when necessary, or because of the nature of the job, is rewarding and is an overall good and effective management strategy to retain employees. Here are a few reasons why:
- Telecommuting allows employees to have a healthy work-life balance.
- Reduces time and money spent on commuting.
- Increases the health of the employee by reducing stress from commuting.
- Environmental and energy conservation from fewer commuters on the road.
- Ability for employees to offer an employer greater flexibility in their hours.
- Decrease in real estate and other expenses for the company.
- Increased loyalty from the employee.
- Increased creativity and productivity.
While these are all great reasons why a company should create and implement a telecommuting program, the company must ensure the employee is also a good fit for the program. Someone who is going to telecommute must not be a procrastinator, must be able to self-motivate and self-manage his or her own projects / tasks, and must be disciplined to actually complete his or her work (rather than going and playing in the pool or with the dogs).
Just like ensuring the employee is a good fit for the program, the manager must also be a good fit for the program. The manager of a telecommuting employee must allow to the employee to work on his or her own, but also verify that specific work has been completed, and must have excellent communication skills to communicate with the employee via phone or video calls, email, phone, or text.
In addition to ensuring the employee and manager are a good fit for a program like this, the company must also ensure that the employees work is able to be conducted remotely. Can the employee connect to the company’s network if necessary? Is the work being performed by the employee the type of work that can be completed outside of the office environment? It also really does depend on the type of work to be performed and if it’s work that can be conducted on an individual basis or through a group process.
While some larger companies may be eliminating the ability for employees to benefit from a telecommuting program, other employers are still on board, including most of Fortune magazines 100 Best Companies to Work For. Yahoo stated in an interview that it wasn’t the fact that the company doesn’t like telecommuting, but that there was abuse of the ability to telecommute that helped them make their decision. It sounds to me like they needed employees and managers that were a better fit for the program.
The type of telecommuting program is solely up to the employer. Programs can be individualized based on the needs of the company and/or employee and the need for group work to be performed. Not all programs must be an all-or-nothing program for all employees.