Results V. Face-time

February 28, 2013 at 11:56 pm

telecommuteNo, the title of this article does not refer to some new video game or online competition. Rather I am alluding to the current debate that has resulted in the aftermath of Yahoo’s announcement earlier this week that it is ending its work-at-home policy.

This announcement has resulted in large-scale reactions in the press and online. There are a plethora of opinions on this matter, including the thought that this is simply a way for Marissa Mayer to “clean-house” by lowering headcount without the cost of severance packages.

There are, of course, many ways to think about working at home versus in an office but I believe it is wise to always remember that one size does not fit all. That being said, perhaps the underlying dilemma here is to determine how to best evaluate progress and results in an organization.

Yes, Yahoo has had more than its fair share of struggles, yet can anyone say with certainty what effect, if any, the fact that they allowed workers to telecommute has had on their results, or lack thereof? Furthermore, who knows, perhaps if they had not allowed workers to telecommute the company would be in far worse shape.

In the best-selling book “The 2020 Workplace” Jeanne C. Meister and Karie Willyerd state:

“In the year 2020, our office will be everywhere; our team members will live halfway around the world. How, where, when, and for whom we work will be up to us – as long as we produce results. By the year 2020, the rules of the employee-employer contract will have to be rewritten by the best employers if they are to compete for top talent”

Yes, face-time is necessary within an organization and relationships do need to be fostered but this can in fact be accomplished through periodic time spent in the office rather than all the time. Additionally, the very fundamentals of how relationships are cultivated is undergoing massive change in our new hyper-connected world. This “need-to-be around the water cooler to innovate” is an out-dated idea reminiscent of the work environment of Mad Men.

Given the turnaround that is required at Yahoo, Mayer may be correct in assuming that more team building and camaraderie is necessary but this broad-sweeping change may have the opposite effect. Rigidity and regimentation may stifle the creativity that is certainly imperative at the company.

Finally, and just to add another dimension to the issue, I will refer to the idea of working in “third-places.” First places are corporate offices, second places are home offices and third places are other locations where work gets done. The most familiar of these is your local Starbucks! “The 2020 Workplace” refers to research by Gartner Dataquest that estimates that “one-fifth of the nation’s workforce is part of the so-called Kinko’s Generation, spending a significant number of hours each month working outside a traditional office.”

Full disclosure, I spend most of my time working in second or third places!

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Entry filed under: Business.

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