Beware the “Freedom” of Full-Time Telecommuting

Yahoo’s CEO, Marissa Mayer’s decision to end flexible working-from-home arrangements has made the pros and cons of telecommuting the hot topic this month. As a company made up of telecommuters and office workers, here is our take on the situation:

Telecommuting is not for everyone. Some people, such as our CEO Gerry Brimacombe, prefer to work remotely. He’d rather “get to work than go to work” because he defines work as stuff to do, not a place to be. Other people may enjoy working from home, but can’t buckle down and get work done with dirty dishes or the temptation of television in their face. Those with a solid work ethic may not enjoy telecommuting, as they could lack the technical literacy to problem-solve computer issues on their own and/or prefer to gather the input from their peers to make decisions.

Telecommuting is not a productivity booster for all types of tasks. Not all tasks can be completed away from the office. Denying the value of face-to-face conversation is foolish– like dumping a lover by text, some conversations obviously shouldn’t occur online. Idea telecommuting tasks require focus, minimal interruptions or complete silence. Collaborative tasks, such as meetings, can be surprisingly effective when presented or attended using web-conferencing tools. There will always be some tasks that benefit from casual water cooler chatter with colleagues, such as brainstorming blog post topics or out-of-the box solutions.

Beware the “freedom” of full-time telecommuting. Working from home all the time can be just as restrictive as having to come into the office every day. Our Operations Manager, Chris Stone, who must commute over mountain roads for an-hour-and-a-half every day, welcomes the odd day when he can get up and get to work off-site because the type of work at the top of his to-do list doesn’t require a trip to the office. Yet even he is glad that he doesn’t have to work from home all the time. Heading to the office is a welcome time to engage with colleagues and disengage from the everyday stresses of home.

The key to telecommuting success is flexibility. Ultimately, it is the flexibility of telecommuting that allows the worker to adapt their present workload to the realities of life – be it sick children, contagious coughs, insomnia, rush hour traffic, long commutes, accidents on the highway, bad weather, shoveling the snowy driveway, frantic “forgot-to-set-my-alarm-clock” mornings, inconvenient repair people appointments, flat tires, and more. Knowing the option to work from home is available reduces stress and shows staff that they are valued as people.

In summary, beware of full time telecommuting, but consider part-time telecommuting solutions. 

Created with content from Chris Stone, Operations Manager, Sector Learning Solutions.

-Kelly Marshall,
Director of Communications,
Sector Learning Solutions


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