The recent decision by Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer to stop telecommuting has cast a negative light on this practice. After checking the company’s VPN log to see how many remote employees were logging in, she didn’t like what she saw. Effective June 2015, telecommuting is no longer an acceptable practice at Yahoo. The media excitement added fuel to the fire for those who think that employees working at home aren’t putting in an honest day’s work.
Mayer’s now-public memo talked about communication and collaboration. She thought the best way to make that happen is for people to be in one place. But that’s just one opinion.
There are many companies who use telecommuting practices very successfully. They also believe in communication and collaboration and use tools such as Google Hangout video chat service, GoToMeeting, Skype, WebEx and Campfire chat by 37signals to do just that. They support these tools with products such as Google’s Gmail and Calendar apps for business and Asana’s task management software, to name a few.
Telecommuters are often employees who live in other parts of the country or even in other countries, and other time zones. After trying several techniques to work with a remote team member, David Bloom, the CEO of tech start-up Ordr.in, now uses Google Hangout for daily virtual meetings. He says, “We have five employees, and four of us are in the same place, but we all log on separately. This allows us to have a face-to-face meeting where everyone’s equal. It’s not the four of us sitting in one place, with our colleague sitting somewhere else.” He finds this arrangement keeps everyone accountable for their work.
Josh Siler, CTO of HiringThing, a virtual company, says it’s all about your company culture. “We’re trust-based, and we don’t micromanage our employees. We judge everyone based on their output. Anyone can make their schedule flexible, as long as they meet their commitments to their coworkers,” he says. “Our employees know that their performance is what matters, and we talk about it on a regular basis.”
Bloom and Siler would tell you that telecommuting is successful when you have a culture of accountability and trust.