While Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer didn’t made it fully clear as to why her company decided to ban its employees from working remotely in 2013, her few comments on the topic have suggested the work-from-home ban is to be a move towards increasing collaboration among employees, and thus raise the standard of work delivered at Yahoo’s offices around the world.
But putting a stop to telecommuting may not necessarily be the right way to go about this- after all, as Mayer herself has admitted, people are most productive when they work alone, and so, a company that forces remote employees to come into the office to work in a bid to improve their performance on the job may end up seeing an undesirable dip in the same. So, if the target is to see a better output from one’s remote employees, then a better way to achieve that could perhaps be by rethinking the strategies used to manage them. The focus should be on monitoring their work, as opposed to monitoring their presence at work- and this can be done by setting goals for remote employees that fit the SMART criteria, and then being clear on what the desired outcomes are.
Also, given the different kinds of technologies we have at our disposal today, building a collaborative work environment in a team doesn’t require all of its members to be in the same physical space anymore. For instance, face-to-face meetings can be virtually (and more easily) conducted over online chat applications like Skype and Google+ Hangouts. Similarly, enterprise social networks like Yammer and Socialcast allow for real-time interactions and collective conversations among employees over the Internet, no matter where they may be actually located. Keeping track of what employees are doing can also be enabled through daily status updates via a phone call or an email. In addition, research is indicating that Yahoo may be well off the mark when it says that “speed and quality are often sacrificed” when people work from home. A nine-month-long experiment conducted by Stanford University at a Chinese travel agency showed working from home lead to a 13% increase in performance, with home workers reporting improved work satisfaction as well.
If these results are any indication, then allowing employees to work from home is something that can work out extremely well for the company that employs them. However, the key to achieving success in this regard is to ensure the effective management of these remote employees, and therein lies the challenge for companies.