Archive for the ‘Telecommuting’ Category

Service of Telecommuting [II] & Teams, Old as the Hills

Thursday, July 13th, 2017


In spring 2013 I wrote “Service of Telecommuting” after Yahoo’s HR director, Jackie Reses, had sent a memo to all staff telling them that if they worked at home they had until June of that year to report, fulltime, to a desk at a Yahoo office. According to a recent article on, “The Rise and Fall of Working from Home–The permanent telecommuter is going extinct,” the approach continues to unravel.

In the article, brought to my attention by CG who has contributed to this blog, Rebecca Greenfield reported that earlier this year IBM “told 2,000 U.S. workers they could no longer work from home and about the same number of employees that they had to commute into offices more often. Facing 20 consecutive quarters of falling revenue, IBM hopes that bringing people back together will lead to faster, more productive, and more creative workers.”

The last straw

Small companies have also tried the concept and have rejected it. Greenfield described a PR agency whose staff didn’t act like the grownups the boss had expected them to be. Too many took advantage of the situation so he cancelled the option after less than a year. In addition to not answering the phone when home and being incommunicado for full days, “The last straw…was when someone refused to come in for a meeting because she had plans to go to the Hamptons,” the owner told Greenfield.

She wrote: “More than 60 percent of organizations surveyed by the Society of Human Resource Management this year said they allow some type of telecommuting, up from 20 percent in 1996. But telecommuting comes in many flavors, and 77 percent of organizations don’t let people work from home on a full-time basis. Most employers allow ad-hoc remote work for the person who needs to stay home for the plumber or wait for a package.”


You might not remember who French journalist Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr is [1808-1890], but you’ll remember the saying he penned: “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.” I am thinking of the big deal made these days about teams when in my experience they have existed all along.

Regardless, I’m not convinced that the increase of teams in the workplace that Greenfield noted has accelerated the demise of telecommuting. “At the same time, work has also become more team-based. Only 38 percent of companies are ‘functionally’ organized today with workers grouped together by job type, a 2016 Deloitte survey found. Most comprise collaborative groups that shift depending on the work.”

In my opinion, collaboration and face-to-face communication help any enterprise that consists of more than one person. People who prefer to work alone, at home, shouldn’t get jobs in a company. Obviously there are exceptions for temporary periods—sick family members and anticipated nasty travel glitches for example—but as a routine option, I think what telecommuting saves in real estate—space to house an employee–is lost in lackluster productivity. Do you agree? Do you think that IBM will find that its policy change will help turn around its period of sluggish performance and creativity?


Service of Telecommuting

Thursday, March 28th, 2013


Since I read about Yahoo’s HR director, Jackie Reses’ memo to all staff telling them that if they work at home they have until June to report to a desk at a Yahoo office fulltime, it’s been in the back of my mind.

Kara Swisher quoted Reses’ entire memo in her coverage on All Things D, “‘Physically Together’: Here’s the Internal Yahoo No-Work-From-Home Memo for Remote Workers and Maybe More.” An excerpt of that memo:

meeting“To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side. That is why it is critical that we are all present in our offices. Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings. Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home. We need to be one Yahoo!, and that starts with physically being together.”

Moving back to the office affects several hundred who currently work at home fulltime and Swisher reported that many others work remotely one or two days a week.

Playing SolitaireI try to attend board and committee meetings in person because I often discover helpful tidbits and back stories. When we all call in, or when I am forced to, I am distracted especially if someone drones on so I play solitaire; read emails or make “to do” lists.

There are exceptions such as weekly or monthly telephone conference calls with clients headquartered across town or country, a convenient way to update them, pose questions, propose solutions to challenges and most important to a consultant, hear about changes and plans—information some clients don’t otherwise have time to share.

During one of these calls the client casually referred to a product launch we were about to release to the press. He used an unfamiliar name for the line. None of us on the call knew that he’d changed its name and all of the approved press releases and photo captions with the original one were ready to go.

Some friends and colleagues who love working from home pass on job opportunities in which they must appear at an office. Others get to stay home with their babies one day a week—though they must have someone else to watch the child according to many employment agreements.

Telecommuting was once the Holy Grail, a paean to flexibility and squeezing the best out of staff and at the same time saving on the cost of office space. So why is the bloom off the rose–especially when you consider the numbers of easy and inexpensive ways there are of communicating and even seeing staff on screen in their at-home outposts?

Do you think people work better face-to-face and under one roof or doesn’t it matter?

Face to face

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