Two weeks ago the IP community was shocked to read that the new CEO of Yahoo, Marissa Mayer, announced the desire to eliminate remote or telecommuting workers. Her specific rational for this was “…communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side…Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home.” I disagree with both her statements and course of action. But, before explaining why, perhaps I should justify why this topic is of interest to me.
In previous blogs regarding worker productivity, I pointed out that just by having dual monitors worker productivity was increased by 44% for text tasks and 29% for spreadsheet tasks (Monitor Size and Aspect Ratio Productivity Research - University of Utah).
I also referenced an essay that curiously contradicted the assumed benefits of collaboration by Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. Cain shares research that solitude improves productivity and creativity. Moreover, it is learned that groupthink does not promote the full participation or creativity of its members. People actually tend to develop fuller ideas in solitude rather than collaborative settings, as they are then not influence by the opinions of dominant or more forceful individuals. Clearly, this contradicts Mayer’s point of people needing to work “side-by-side”.
But even that is not why I am addressing this today. We, as members of the IP community, promote by our products (SIP Trunking, VoIP, Unified Communications, etc) the use of the Internet as an improved and more effective way of developing products, services and collaboration. For Yahoo, a pioneer in the space, to reject the distribution of knowledge on a national or global basis is so contradictory to our premise it undercuts our efforts.
I agree that telecommuting workers should schedule time in the office to personally engage co-workers. At ANPI, we believe this is important in maintaining a desired corporate culture and developing a sense of inclusion. Mayer’s efforts would have been better served establishing a set of practices for Yahoo’s telecommuting workers. Here I can assist:
- Establish a defined space for work separate from home activity. This means that when in the “office” children, dogs, delivery personnel and the home phone are not acknowledged unless there is an emergency
- Dress to go to work even at home (no PJs)
- Telecommuting workers should have company provided equipment and telecom services
- Establish set work hours and follow them
- Use the phone, IM or Skype to seek or convey information. Avoid using only email.
- Have managers schedule weekly or periodic individual and group conference calls to update on work efforts and company activity
- Schedule regular time in the office to meet and interact with co-workers
I have used these rules in the past and suggest you apply them to any telecommuters in your business.
Finally, multiple companies reported improvement in worker productivity ranging from 13.5% to 40% for telecommuting workers. That is one heck of a benefit! Those of you at Yahoo are free to share this with Marissa.