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Telecommuting Isn’t the Villain: Making Remote Workforces Work

by Greg Harper

The recent move by Yahoo to ban telecommuting has stirred quite a debate with support seemingly coming mostly from those inside or closest to the company.  Much has been written that this is driven by an empty parking lot and low amount of remote VPN time logged by employees.
On the other hand, such a big change of the rules so suddenly has many who measure workplace engagement betting on a negative outcome. Time will tell if this is the right move, as Yahoo’s leadership is certain that this move was the right for this company at this time. Reigning in remote employees might be the fastest way to re-establish a culture of productivity. 
Being specialists in workforce mobility for 80 years has afforded Runzheimer International a unique perspective of monitoring trends over time and we don’t think that the emphasis here, nor the villain, should be telecommuting. All of the criticism over ending telecommuting seems to cite evidence that points to productivity gains in telecommuting workforces. We have followed the trend that correlates workforce flexibility with productivity, trust, and…growth.
The Fortune “100 Best Companies to Work For” list for 2012 has the top 10 telecommuting companies showing a 9.8% average growth in jobs.  Our own 2012 Total Employee Mobility survey showed that 67% of respondents included telecommuting in their workforce strategy and companies who grew 10% or more invested 58% more in worker mobility than those remaining flat. According to the Society for Human Resource Management’s 2012 “State of Employee Benefits in the Workplace”, 71% of companies plan to increase flexible working benefits to attract top talent and 84 of Fortune’s 2013 list of “100 Best Companies to Work For” has a telecommuting policy.  
Lots of data points to the effectiveness, productivity gains, engagement uplift and organizational growth of employee mobility; but another critical correlation, especially with high percentage mobile workforces, is having an organization that is all pointing in the right direction, rowing with the same effort, and wanting to see the team succeed.
It boils down to creating an objectives-centered organization with clear expectations and understanding of the goals of the company – goals shared by everyone. If each individual contributor, manager and executive clearly knows how and where he or she contributes to company success, wants to contribute and cares about the company’s success, it’s hard to have ships drifting in different directions. Having clearly established expectations and objectives paves the way for everyone being on the same page. Problems are spotted earlier and corrected, and cultures of high productivity can be created. Add the dimension of a more agile, mobile workforce with a closer connection to the market that allows for more face-to-face meetings with clients leading to product refinement ideas and feedback. It’s hard not to imagine the growth possibilities.
What’s your take on the remote worker debate? Leave a comment below.

Posted 3/4/2013 4:11:19 PM | 0 comments
Tags: remote workforce, telecommuting, workforce mobility


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