Several weeks ago, Marissa Mayer’s decision to send a memo to all Yahoo! employees letting them know that effective June, 2013, there would be no more telecommuting allowed set off an Internet fire storm.
A barrage of articles hit the web arguing everything from the fact that this memo would not be an issue if Mayer was a man instead of a woman with a young child to the fact that this decision could spell the beginning of the end for Mayer’s career and Yahoo!.
Now that the dust has settled, so to speak, and emotions have cooled, it’s time to take an objective look at the decision.
Is Telecommuting Beneficial to a Company?
On the surface, it appears that telecommuting isn’t really beneficial to a business.
Having everyone working in the same building where they can be watched and where they can interact with one another seems best, which is Mayer’s argument. But is it best?
There are three distinct advantages for companies that allow their employees to work from home at least part of the time:
According to a Stanford study, “telecommuting led to a 13% performance increase, of which about 9% was from working more minutes per shift” (MarketWatch). While it seems contrary, many employees can concentrate better at home, in a quieter environment than they can with colleagues coming in and out to “chat”. In addition, there is no commute time, so employees can spend more time actually working, which is important in areas of the country where a worker’s commute may be 40 minutes or longer each way.
Fewer sick days
Those who work from home take fewer sick days. While you may not feel well enough to get dressed, drive to the office, and put in a full day, you may feel well enough to get up, sit in bed and do your work on the computer.
Better retention rates
Part of why telecommuting is an issue is because we now routinely see both parents working full time, and there are more single parents who must attend to the needs of their children. Allowing scheduling flexibility lets these employees better juggle their work and family responsibilities. The Stanford study also revealed that, “the percentage of workers who quit was halved to 25% from 50% among those who worked from home” (MarketWatch).
Is Telecommuting Beneficial to an Employee?
While there are some employees who are probably not suited to working from home (think those who are easily distracted or who miss the camaraderie of the office), there are plenty more who are enjoying the benefits.
Some argue that those who work from home receive fewer promotions, but that is not necessarily true. In fact, a study by psychologists who examined 20 years of data determined, “‘that telecommuting has an overall beneficial effect because the arrangement provides employees with more control over how they do their work’ said lead author Ravi S. Gajendran. ‘Autonomy is a major factor in worker satisfaction and this rings true in our analysis. We found that telecommuters reported more job satisfaction, less motivation to leave the company, less stress, improved work-family balance, and higher performance ratings by supervisors” (APA).
The authors go on to argue, “contrary to expectations in both academic and practitioner literatures, telecommuting has no straightforward, damaging effects on the quality of workplace relationships or perceived career prospects” (APA).
Is Mayer’s Decision the Right One?
Many feared that if Mayer’s decision to end telecommuting is a success, other companies will follow suit. However, telecommuting is firmly entrenched in our workplace now, so it probably won’t disappear.
Many others expect that Mayer will quickly reverse course.
Chris Schroeder of Schroeder Public Relations (a company that encourages telecommuting) says of Mayer’s decision to ban telecommuting, “I think a lot of board rooms will look at this move and discuss it within the confines of their own boardrooms, but I think very few will follow suit, and I predict that she will reverse her decision” (USA Today).
Only Mayer and Yahoo! know if this is the right decision for their company, and as CEO, she is free to make the decisions she feels are right for the company.
Likewise, the many Yahoo! employees who telecommute are free to find other companies to work for, including many other companies who embrace telecommuting and support helping their employees find work/family balance.