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It can work if you stay home

Marissa Mayer, the boss of Yahoo, set a cat among the pigeons recently by banning telecommuting. Yahoo’s telecommuting ban suggests that location takes precedence over productivity. The edict has unleashed a furious debate.

india Updated: Mar 10, 2013 20:56 IST
Hindustan Times

Marissa Mayer, the boss of Yahoo, set a cat among the pigeons recently by banning telecommuting. The edict unleashed a furious debate: many saw it as necessary for putting the ailing technology firm back on track, while critics targeted the management for its primitive attitude towards the workplace and employees, many of whom may have pressing personal reasons for taking this option.

Ms Mayer, who had a nursery built next to her corner office for her infant son, may have had her own Yahoo-specific issues while banning telecommuting but across the world the ‘work-from-home’ option is gaining popularity.

A 2012 poll conducted among 11,383 online connected employees from 24 countries by global research company Ipsos found that one in five (17%) employees who can be connected online to their workplace reported that they ‘telecommute’ on a ‘frequent basis’; seven said they work everyday from home while another 10% say they do so on a very consistent basis like on evenings and weekends.

Interestingly, the Ipsos report says, telecommuting is more popular in emerging markets: those working in West Asia and Africa (27%), Latin America (25%) and Asia-Pacific (24%) are more likely than those in North America (9%) and Europe (9%) to telecommute on a frequent basis. More specifically, employees in India (56%), Indonesia (34%), Mexico (30%), Argentina (29%), South Africa (28%) and Turkey (27%) are most likely to opt for this.

A strong majority of employees in 24 countries ‘agree’ equally on why telecommuting is important: it will keep talented women in the workforce instead of them leaving temporarily or completely to raise children and that telecommuters have less stress due to less time spent in getting to their workplace.

Anyone who stays in an Indian metro will agree that much of our lives are spent shuttling between workplaces and homes. In fact, those in the Ipsos report, also said that telecommuters are seen as good performers. And it’s good news for the environment too: less cars mean less usage of those dirty fossil fuels.

The Yahoo memo that was sent out said that some of the “best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions” and that “speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home”.

It is true that there could be some slackers among the people who work from home, but on the flipside there are also many who come to work but are not productive. It is up to the organisation to ensure the spirit of innovation among employees, whether they are at home or office. But, Yahoo or no Yahoo, telecommuting is here to stay.

It should not be seen as a perk, but an accepted way of life that can ensure a better work-life balance for employees. And happy employees can mean better productivity.

First Published: Mar 10, 2013 20:50 IST