Small Business Solutions: Working from Home vs. “Working” from Home

It goes without saying that many businesses, small and large, embrace telecommuting for a variety of reasons. Some companies offer the ability to work from home as a perk to help lure top talent. Others like promoting a green workplace by encouraging staff to drive fewer trips between home and office. Some like the cost savings they realize by reducing the amount of square footage required to accommodate their headcount. Many companies believe certain employees become more productive when they remove themselves from the office environment.

Whatever the rationale, it’s clear that workplace flexibility, and telecommuting in particular, is here to stay and will become even more prevalent.

However, there are many other companies that view employees’ requests to work from home as requests to be lazy. Perhaps some of them in the past had entrusted staff members to telecommute only to have that trust violated by individuals who either failed to maintain an acceptable level of productivity or who blatantly disregarded their responsibilities once beyond the confines of in-office oversight.

Obviously there are those employees who will take advantage of their newfound “freedom” by choosing to focus on things other than their professional duties. And if an employer gets burned too often, it’s understandable that they would discontinue their telecommuting policy.

In general, I think it’s safe to say the companies that allow and/or encourage their staff to work from home are viewed as innovative, whereas those that do not, especially those that operate the types of businesses that are conducive to flexible workplaces, are viewed as archaic.

Which is why I found a recent story on Wired.com regarding the decision to ban telecommuting by Yahoo’s relatively new CEO, Marissa Mayer, so interesting.

After all, Yahoo once was Silicon Valley’s poster child of innovation, and the fact that the company has encountered such hardship during the past decade is often attributed to its failure to stay innovative.

But as mentioned in the Wired.com article, “Some current and former Yahoo employees have reportedly said the new policy will separate out the truly productive workers from the stay-at-home slackers who abuse the system.”

There’s no doubt that Ms. Mayer rose to her current rank because she’s an incredibly sharp, progressive-minded woman. So I think it’s a safe bet that Yahoo’s new anti-telecommuting position was a calculated move; one that she believes will return the company to its position as a powerhouse of innovation, even if some employees decry the change as archaic.

I’m curious to know your opinions about the pros and cons of telecommuting, so please leave your comments below.

Thanks for reading.

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8 Comments

  1. Nicole February 27, 2013 - Reply

    I’ve done both: worked from home and worked full-time in an office. I can say honestly say I’m more productive at home, but happier in an office, given that the office is full of good people (which my current office is).

    That said, I will never understand the need to institute company-wide policy for a few bad apples. Are people abusing their flexibility? Have a talk with them, or fire them outright. Are they afraid of that kind of conflict? Do they not have a grasp on who the offenders are? If either of those are the case, they have bigger problems than lazy workers.

  2. Nathan Van Ness February 27, 2013 - Reply

    Thanks for your thoughtful commentary, Nicole. I couldn’t agree more with your last point: “Are they afraid of that kind of conflict? Do they not have a grasp on who the offenders are? If either of those are the case, they have bigger problems than lazy workers.” So very true.

  3. Emily February 27, 2013 - Reply

    Great post. Interested to see what happens to Yahoo under Mayer’s leadership, and this policy in particular.

  4. Gavin Coulter February 27, 2013 - Reply

    I have enjoyed the benefits of telecommuting for several years. I’m not distracted by the noise of my co-workers who work in the office, whose desks are very close to each other. Several people may be in one or more teleconferences or they might just be chatting, all of which can be heard by many. Between the telephone, instant messaging, and email, lines of communication are open. I believe I am more productive and I know I am happier. My team seems satisfied with my productivity. Plus, I can cook dinner during the time I would normally be driving home, so my family eats more healthfully and less expensively than if we ate out or ordered in on a regular basis.

  5. Nathan Van Ness February 27, 2013 - Reply

    Emily and Gavin, much thanks to both of you for taking time to post comments. Emily, I too am curious about Yahoo’s future. It appears as though they hired the right change agent, though time will tell. Gavin, you brought up many of the same benefits I experience when I’m able to work from home.

  6. Seth February 27, 2013 - Reply

    telecommuting works well when you have a passionate, driven workforce (the kind of people have been pouring out of yahoo for 10 years)

  7. Rajeev March 1, 2013 - Reply

    The technologies are developing so fast that in another few years there will be little difference between working from home and office. Add to this are the growing space, traffic, parking, etc problems. A big part of the working force do not generally require direct meetings with the co-workers to do their routine jobs. I think companies are forced to encourage work from home and those who are conservative will have a hard time for survival.

  8. Nathan Van Ness March 1, 2013 - Reply

    Rajeev, thank you for commenting. I agree that the companies that continue to ignore the growing trend toward widely instituted telecommuting will have difficulty staying relevant — especially in terms of whether potential employees will remain interested in working there without that “privilege.”

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