The Telecommuting Backlash

urlThis week, Yahoo CEO Marissa Meyer issued an internal memo prohibiting employees from telecommuting.  As if the shaky dotcom dynamo needed any more proof they are internet dinosaurs.  Apparently, Meyer feels employees need to be a part of the exciting energy of the workplace to be efficient and successful.  Me?  I call bullshit.

I’ve been a telecommuter for 4 years now, and have blissfully noted an uptick in the following kickass traits: efficiency, productivity, and happiness.  My employers would echo these results, as I’ve never heard a complaint about not getting the work done.  And my exuberance is uber-evident.

Let’s do the math – for obvious reasons, telecommuters often report that working from home just makes life easier.  No insane car commute through traffic and smog, no massive food bills for restaurant lunches, no needless water cooler talk with that guy that gives you the heebies – the list goes on.  Telecommuting, for those that do it well, is a huge blessing.  More time with the family, more opportunities to get up and stretch and keep the blood running, and less pressure that big brother is watching.  And there is the rub.  Employers feel like they can’t control telecommuters as well as the cube-bound office peons, and this brings up their every trust issue.  I also tell future telecommuting bosses that the proof is in the pudding – they obviously will not have to take my word that I am an excellent at-home worker; my results will confirm or deny.

I do understand the backlash to a certain extent – managing remote workers is no easy task.  The actual hiring process has to be modified, because it takes a different kind of person to rock a telecommuting gig over a stellar office performer.  One must be highly disciplined, and oozing with integrity.  Without that dynamic duo, they will indeed be a dud, even with a bundle o’ talent.  And as managers, we can’t be slackers when it comes to our remote employees.  Because the personal connection is lacking, it’s up to US to engender a sense of belonging for the team, to communicate like a fiend, and to be proactive about issues, expectations and frustrations.  It is a lot to ask for the management teams, but the rewards are plenty.  A happier, more productive, more loyal team – so worth it!

Thankfully, Yahoo’s recent ignorance is not the industry trend.  IT companies worldwide are opening up their talent pools and their chances at huge success by saying yes to remote employees.  Some companies have actually gone entirely virtual.  In fact, March 4-8 has been set aside as Telework Week – it’s a full on celebration of at-home-ness!  There will always be old timers who whine about a lack of personal connecting in the digital sphere, but again, it’s up to us to create the brave new world.  Communication tools do indeed make it possible to connect with any one, any where – and the depth of which this is achieved relies entirely on the parties connecting.

I am so freaking happy to be working in an age when home-based brilliance is welcomed by many employers.  I spent 15 years in the office world, and while I can sing those praises too, a remote life makes this heart so much happier.  I’ll just tick off Yahoo from the list of possible future employers, and all is still right with the world.

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