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Does telecommuting actually increase productivity?

Yahoo! CEO bans flexible work environments, although studies suggest flexible work environments benefit both corporations and individuals.

By Charyn Pfeuffer - MSN Living Editor Feb 27, 2013 12:01AM

Studies show that telecommuting is on the rise and the tangible benefits of a flexible work environment.

Some 30 million people work from a home office at least once a week. In the next five years, that number is expected to increase by 63 percent, according to a study by the Telework Research Network.

Since a memo leaked on Friday pulling the plug on Yahoo!'s work-at-home policy, the decision has come under fire from tech blogs, working mothers, and even Sir Richard Branson.  

Photo: Ken Wramton/Getty ImagesMany people believe this latest stunt from Marissa Mayer is the worst decision the world’s most famous working mother has made in her tenure as Yahoo! chief executive

“As an employer, restricting your hiring to a small geographic region means you’re not getting the best people you can,” writes David Heinemeier Hansson and Jason Fried, founders of 37signals and authors of “REMOTE: Office Not Required” (Crown, March 2013). “As an employee, restricting your job search to companies within a reasonable commute means you’re not working for the best company you can.”

Research out of Stanford University indicates that super-productive employees work their best from home, not in the office.

To study whether employees are more or less productive at home or in the office, the researchers created perhaps the first randomized study of remote work at Ctrip, a travel agency in Shanghai, China with 13,000 employees.

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In its coverage of the 9-month study, Wired found:

  • Those who worked at home had a 12 percent increase in productivity over their peers.
  • This group had a 50 percent drop in attrition and reported higher feelings of work satisfaction than those who reported to the office.
  • Of that (12 percent) increase, 8.5 percent came from working more hours (due to shorter breaks and fewer sick days).
  • 3.5 percent came from more performance per minute.

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“Work schedules are not always a one-size fits all type of approach so there are definitely benefits to workplace flexibility,” says Deborah Sweeney, CEO of MyCorporation.com. “Many positions necessitate a presence in the office, but you may actually get more out of your employees when they have more flexible schedules.”

Though they seem to be in the minority, some people believe Mayer is making the right call.

“For what it's worth, I support the no working from home rule. There's a ton of abuse of that at Yahoo. Something specific to the company,” a former Yahoo engineer told Business Insider.

Do you think those who work from home are more productive employees than those who put in time at the office?

Bing: The benefits of flexible workspaces

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Photo: Ken Wramton/Getty Images

22Comments
Mar 6, 2013 12:03AM
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Mrs. Yahoo can afford to have a nanny to watch her new baby.
Mar 4, 2013 4:39PM
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Just because you come into the office doesn't make you more productive.  Yahoo should prepare to see a bunch of employees leave for other companies.  Telecommuting is the way of the future, especially since gas is getting more expensive and there are more cars on the road.  Employee productivity should be the driving factor not facetime.  
Mar 1, 2013 7:01AM
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Huge mistake, Marissa......  Telecommuting is here to stay and the only thing missing to make it work properly is management.   

It is accurate that there are some who will take advantage of a good thing, but it is never an appropriate response to discipline the majority for the inappropriate behavior of the few.   The piece of the telecommuting puzzle that is missing is management.... a "working" manager, company-established goals and production software to monitor the staff.  It's not hard to determine if an employee is meeting or exceeding their goals if the goals are established and monitored.  

We must move away from the old-school, limited mentality that managers are just those who attend meetings.....  More time is wasted in meetings than on any other company expense.  Middle management should be an actual working manager with newly defined responsibilities that meet the needs to manage telecommuters.  

The many benefits of telecommuting, which include, but are not limited to, reduction of employee stress, reduction in sick time and healthcare costs, reallocation of wasted time commuting to family time, hundreds of dollars saved by the staff that ultimately will be spent on other necessities thus boosting the economy, major reduction of carbon footprint from gasoline emissions, elimination of foreign oil supply stronghold on the US, less fast food ingested and more home-cooked meals consumed with improvement in diet and weight, more time to exercise, and a possible reduction to one car per family, definitely outweigh the need for change in leadership and creative management in how to monitor and manage production.   Video conferencing can be used for meetings and to establish the face-to-face "team" spirit, but meetings also need to be reduced to the bare minimum necessary so the staff can actually "work."   As a sidebar... one thing I have seen that definitely increases staff stress to the max is the ridiculous amount of meetings required to attend and the anxiety that follows in how to get the actual work done within reasonable working hours; thus causing the staff to constantly work "unnecessary" and  "unpaid" overtime, stealing yet more time away from their precious family - their first priority.

Telecommuting gives employees a sense of ownership and control of their job, pride in their accomplishments, and allows them to have an office that meets their individual needs.  Every age group needs something different - whether it be noise reduction for concentration or rock and roll to peak creativity, climate control providing heat for the young and cooling for the more mature, standard chair or ergonomically designed chair to reduce chronic back pain, high desk, low desk, bright light, low light, no light, facing a widow or looking out the door - everyone needs something different to make them the most comfortable and the most productive.  I know all this to be true as my husband and I both work in the healthcare IT industry and work 100% from home and we have both worked in today's standard office setups of the noisy cubicles with uncomfortable climate control and chairs, bright glaring lights, and rude co-workers.   One item that should be banned from every office is the "speaker" phone!   With this said...... today, I would change jobs, leave my current company and work for another, to work 100% from home where I am in control of my life and my comfort.   So, Marissa, you might want to re-think that decision and determine the percentage of potential employees you just eliminated from your pool of options. The best talent are now working on their terms, not yours.  
Mar 1, 2013 6:57AM
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If you want to work for someone, your employer has the right to demand your presents where they want you to work at.  Get real people.
Mar 1, 2013 6:55AM
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she maybe CEO but she can be canned
she is a loser


Mar 1, 2013 6:47AM
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she gets daycare right next door. but the rests get **** ?


Mar 1, 2013 5:46AM
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I know several employees from my daughters school who work at home. I hear the bragging about doing 31/2 to 5 hours of work  instead of the required 8 in there contracts.I wonder how they do it and when they will get caught.
Mar 1, 2013 5:42AM
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You can kick it around all you want to; but the fact is that management of a company can run it any way they see fit  ... They can operate any way that legally realizes a profit or run the whole business straight into the ground if they so desire ... So then, what anyone thinks about the the way a company is run that is being legally operated is none of anyone's business ... The fact is she is in charge of running Yahoo, not you and all your opinions ... I believe she will sort through what it takes to run Yahoo ... Some decisions will soar and others will fall by the wayside ... Good luck to Yahoo... 
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