Category Archives: Telecommuting

From the Archives: In support of Marissa Mayer and Jackie Reses

This was the most popular of my blog posts so far in 2013. I was one of few bloggers in the HR space supporting Marissa Mayer and Jackie Reses when they eliminated telecommuting at Yahoo! Well, it’s 7 months later and guess what? Yahoo! is performing better on a whole host of KPIs. The Workflex movement is still alive and Mayer was just named #1 on FORTUNE’s 40 Under 40 list. Hmmm…

 

Freud with cigarSometimes a cigar is just a cigar and sometimes a policy change is just a policy change.  And to attribute larger societal meaning is misguided and, well, you know, not smart.

Ending telecommuting at Yahoo! isn’t a new skirmish in the “mommy war” as USA Today proclaims.

Ending telecommuting at Yahoo! isn’t a frontal attack on GenX and GenY as countless bloggers are screaming.

Ending telecommuting at Yahoo! isn’t a stake in the heart of workplace flexibility as SHRM believes.

Ending telecommuting at Yahoo! is a bold decision by a bold CEO trying to turn her business around.

I’m a business leader.  I get it.

I get it that when you’re turning around a business you frequently have to make decisions that are unpopular.

I get it that when you make decisions to support your strategic plan others will assign meaning that was never intended.

I get it that you may have to make decisions that will change the culture in big ways.Yahoo!

I get the panic stress you feel when you decide to that cultural change is required and that decision will potentially put good people at risk.

I’m a business leader. I get it.

Turning around a business isn’t for sissies of either sex.  Ask Carly Fiorina and Mark Hurd and Meg Whitman.

The current brouhaha over Yahoo!’s decision to bring the field back home and end telecommuting is out of control.  The HR community, in particular, is totally wound around the crankshaft over this decision.  The cries of “foul!” are everywhere in the Twitterverse, the Blogosphere, old media and new media, radio and television.

And I understand the concern, although some of the hysteria is a little hard to take.  Workflex, as SHRM and the Families and Work Institute call it, is a boon for working mothers and fathers, a requirement – we’re told – for hiring and retaining GenX and GenY, and a central plank in improving engagement.  Their data is solid.  I get it.

Except when it isn’t working.  Except when management has lost line of sight into employee productivity.  Except when the culture of work and communication has gotten inefficient and lost its discipline and rigor. Except when out of sight truly is out of mind.

Marissa MayerI give Mayer and Reses big time credit for stepping up to the plate and swinging for the fences.  I saw the memo.  It said that the time for focusing on speed, communication, collaboration and quality is at hand. And in the CEO’s judgment, that means being physically together in hallways, work spaces and cafeterias.

They’re turning a business around, people!  And that’s intense work.  It requires all hands on deck.  I think Mayer and Reses Jackie Reseswant – and need – to harness the talent in Yahoo! in ways that keep the focus and intensity high.  In an environment where leaders can be hands-on and where communication isn’t delayed one second by distance and physical separation.

Say what you will about the value of engaging your workforce by allowing flexible work arrangements:  doing things the way you’ve always done them and expecting a different outcome is, well, you know, not smart.  And no one ever called Mayer that.

Saving a business isn’t about comfort and preferences. It’s about rolling up sleeves and doing whatever it takes to emerge triumphant.  And if that means some long-term, previously engaged colleagues decide that the new requirements don’t fit their lifestyle, then they’ll make other plans.  That’s tough, for sure.  But it’s how things work sometimes.  Everyone has choices to make and consequences to manage. I think Mayer is making tough choices and I think she’s prepared for the consequences.

Is this a referendum on workflex? No

Is this an assault on working parents? No

Is Mayer betraying her gender and her generation? No

Will this change the talent management landscape overnight and around the world? No

Is this one CEO and CHRO working together to change a culture’s priorities and save a business?  Yes

I get it.  So should you.

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Filed under China Gorman, Connecting Dots, Families and Work Institute, FORTUNE Magazine, Jackie Reses, Marissa Mayer, SHRM, Telecommuting, Yahoo!

Surprise! Telecommuting Isn’t So Great for Employees…

The June Monthly Labor Review published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (U.S. Department of Labor) had an interesting article about the surprising impacts of telecommuting in the U.S. workforce.  Surprising because the data analysis show that telecommuting hasn’t taken hold to any strong degree in the U.S.  And where it has taken hold, the impact isn’t positive:   from an employee perspective, the data suggest that the impact of telecommuting is negative from a work/life integration view!

Wait.  What? Isn’t telecommuting the perk that allows employees more flexibility and balance between work and personal life?  Well, no.  The data suggest not so much.

The Hard Truth About Telecommuting, by Noonan and Glass, says:  “telecommuting appears, instead, to have become instrumental in the general expansion of work hours, facilitating workers’ needs for additional work time beyond the standard workweek and/or the ability of employers to increase or intensify work demands among their salaried employees.”

The average number of hours worked per week from home by telecommuters is small.  And hasn’t been growing to any great degree since the mid-1990’s.  What is interesting is that most of telecommuting hours are overtime hours – they aren’t replacing office hours, they appear to be growing overtime hours.  So while more and more employers tout their “work-flex” telecommuting policies, the percentage of workers who telecommute isn’t growing.

Also surprising, is that younger workers are not telecommuting any more often than more mature workers and parents aren’t telecommuting more than the population as a whole!

The big value of telecommuting, according to this report, appears to accrue to a very few higher level professional employees.  For the rest, it actually appears to encourage longer work weeks.  As the report surmises, being available to telecommute may actually allow employers to increase expectation for work availability during evenings and weekends encouraging longer workdays and workweeks – the exact opposite of the intent.

It might be interesting to take a look at your organization’s use of telecommuting and determine whether this “flexible” approach is creating more or less stress, more or the same hours, more or the same productivity – and if it’s being utilized effectively.  In other words, is it an ineffective perk that feels good to offer and merely looks great on the “best” lists or is it a productivity and engagement tool that is actually producing value for your workforce?

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Filed under Bureau of Labor Statistics, China Gorman, Engagement, HR Data, Monthly Labor Review, Telecommuting, U.S. Department of Labor