VOICE December 2015 - page 4

In a world where many organisations have expanded
globally, telecommuting can be an obvious route to
explore, especially when advancements in technology
mean it is now much easier to surpass geographical
restraints and allow a virtual presence within a work-
ing environment. In particular, those who commute a
large distance, working parents or those caring for
elderly relatives find the flexibility of telecommuting
an attractive reason to stay with an organisation; en-
couraged by the opportunity of blending both career
advancement with invaluable time spent with their
family. In addition to the benefits for the employee,
there are also significant benefits for the organisa-
tions they work for. For example, the flexibility of tele-
commuting will encourage talented employees to stay
and progress within the organisation; productivity is
likely to increase if an employee’s motivation for their
job is boosted;
women may be
encouraged back
into work follow-
ing
maternity
leave if given the
opportunity
to
work from home,
even if it’s part
time. There are
also benefits from
an environmental
perspective as there is significant research which sug-
gests more telecommuting would considerably reduce
greenhouse gases. In fact, according to research by
Global Workplace Analytics in 2012, 50 million em-
ployees in the USA had jobs that were telework-
compatible. Based on these figures, Global Workplace
Analytics claim that if all those employees were to
work from home 2.4 days a week for a year, the reduc-
tion in greenhouse gases would be around 51 million
tons and ‘would be equivalent to taking the entire
New York workforce off the roads’. From an economi-
cal perspective, the same report from Global Work-
place Analytics calculated that ‘a typical business
would save $11,000 per person per year’ and ‘the tele-
commuters would save between $2,000 and $7,000 a
year’. So the benefits for both employer and employee
are potentially considerable.
More and more organisations are recognising these
benefits and are taking advantage of telecommuting
and the technology that affords this option. Often
leading the way and inspiring other industries are
large technology or IT organisations who frequently
promote a “work-from-home policy”. One such organi-
sation is Automattic - best known for WordPress.com.
Whilst they have a handful of employees that work
from their San Francisco head office, the rest of their
employees telecommute from 170 cities worldwide.
Automattic’s CEO Matt Mullenweg says of this tele-
commuting policy, "It allows you to get the best and
brightest people in the world".
It was surprising then that, in 2013, Yahoo’s CEO
Marissa Mayer decided to end the Yahoo work-from-
home policy. What was perhaps unsurprising was that
she was met with wide-spread criticism. Most publi-
cally, criticism came from Richard Branson of Virgin
who commented, "This seems a backwards step in an
age when remote working is easier and more effective
than ever" – a
justified
re-
sponse when
you consider
he mostly man-
ages
Virgin
from his home
on Necker Is-
land in the Car-
ibbean.
Mayer justified
her decision by
stating, "people are more productive when they're
alone," whilst stressing "but they're more collabora-
tive and innovative when they're together.” If this is
true of Yahoo employees, Mayer’s decision to ban
working from home could well be her way of address-
ing insufficient collaboration and innovation with a
short term solution. However, it is worth exploring if
there are there ways to manage telecommuters in a
way that fosters innovation and collaboration without
the need for all team members to be physically pre-
sent in one office.
Based on our experience of managing telecommuting
employees successfully, we have identified three are-
as which, when managed effectively, can ensure you
get the most out of telecommuting employees:
Trust –
Team performance is built on the foundations
of mutual trust, respect and support (see Model 1).
For telecommuting to be successful there needs to be
a high level of trust between the telecommuter and
Managing Telecommuting
Employees
1,2,3 5,6,7
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