Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Telecommuting, Yahoo!-style

It is fair and easy to suggest that the whole Marissa Mayer incident at Yahoo! regarding telecommuting has touched a nerve about when, where and how we work.  Yahoo! has turned our attention to Telecommuting!

On the one hand, cool campuses have become du rigour for knowledge work.  For example, the New York Times recently ran a piece on Google's cool New York digs, which is an extension of Google's now famous reputation for being a great, physically attractive place to work.  The article reports that, "Craig Nevill-Manning, a New Zealand native and Google’s engineering director in Manhattan, was the impetus behind the company’s decision to hire a cadre of engineers in New York, and he led an exodus to Chelsea from what was a small outpost near Times Square. “I lobbied for this building,” he told me. “I love the neighborhood. You can live across the street. There are bars and restaurants.”  

Beginning with HP and Apple, and emulated by just about everyone, tech campuses are now legendary for their attractiveness and presumably their productivity as places to work.  Indeed, the benefits of Google culture is what Marissa Mayer no doubt wanted for Yahoo!

On the other hand, there are sensible alternatives to fighting traffic, contributing to global warming and generally giving up hours every day in non-productive commuting. For a summary of the benefits of teleworking, see the Minute MBA video on 'Why telecommuting is good for you and business,' developed by Amy Clark and colleagues at  Here is their informed take on the situation.

"Here are a handful of the benefits Yahoo will be missing out on by disallowing telecommuting:

1) Increased Productivity: One Stanford study shows call center employees increased their productivity 13% when allowed to work from home. A study from University of Texas Austin shows telecommuters work 5-7 hours more than their in-office counterparts. While it’s easy to think there are too many distractions for employees working from home, the truth is quite the contrary.

2) Reduced Turnover: The cost of turnover is relative to each company – but always considerable. By allowing telecommuting, employees will be happier and therefore less likely to quit. Studies show 73% of telecommuters reporting being happy with their employer compared to just 64% of commuters. Allowing employees to telecommute isn’t just about working in pajamas – it shows employees that their manager’s trust them, boosting esteem and motivation.

3) Improved Morale, Reduce Stress: Americans hate driving to work, and telecommuting reduces employees need to spend money on expensive clothes, fuel, and more. Plus, there is less stress in preparing for a day of work from home. A study from Pennsylvania State University shows telecommuters are regularly less stressed and happier than people working in office.

4) Saving the World: Alright, saving the world is a tall order, but the Consumer Electronics Association did a study that showed telecommuting saves enough energy to power 1 million homes in the United States for an entire year, making telecommuting just another way businesses can reduce their carbon footprint."  Source: Amy Clark,

Teleworking has been a technical option for decades, but the social and managerial resistance to it is still palpable. And that is where Yahoo!'s decision to herd their cats into a single corral has met with a mixture of disbelief and considerable conversation, not least of all because the flexibility offered by telecommuting can be extremely important to working women. How could Marissa have done such a thing?  Harvard's Lakshmi Ramarajan has commented on Mayer's decision and articulates some ways the situation may have been avoided.  See her comments on the HBS blog.

What we need is more research on 'work' as opposed to organizations and management, wherein we understand the shifts in where, when and how work gets done in a digital age.  My other post about telecommuting.

Nathan Zeldes provides an excellent commentary on the Marissa Mayer Yahoo! situation, including his comparison on why telecommuting works at Intel and key questions to determine if and how to implement teleworking.

For more on why the issue of when and how to work seems to be cropping so much lately, see the recent Harvard blog on who should be responsible for time management.

Thanks for reading this.  Now, get back to work.  :-)

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