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Tag Archives: telecommuting

by Robin J. Ely and Irene Padavic

Flexible work arrangements are widely championed as remedies for the dearth of women in senior leadership positions. Women “opt-out” when the demands of work and family conflict, so letting them telecommute or work part time facilitates work-life balance, allowing them to stay on the career track. Or so the narrative goes.

In reality, the success of these “family-friendly” policies has been uneven. They are often underused — and for good reason. Research shows that employees who take advantage of “flex” policies are typically removed from the fast track, derailing their career progress. Moreover, these programs have not increased the number of women in senior leadership roles.

Perhaps this is because they do not solve the right problem.

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I could not resist adding my two cents to the outpouring of commentary on Yahoo’s new decision to ban telecommuting.  Bottom line:  a lot of people think the ban is a really bad idea, especially for working mothers and fathers.  Jennifer Glass offers great insight about the ban on this blog.  Only time will tell whether the telecommuting ban will increase innovation and quality at Yahoo.  And actually, we might not be able to tell that at all; the media attention brought on by this announcement may be enough to increase Yahoo’s profits!

My take on the matter is slightly different:  it’s about the scrutiny the public is placing on Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo.

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It’s About the Work, Not the Office

by Jennifer Glass

(This article was originally published in the New York Times. The original version can be read here.)

THE recent decision by Marissa Mayer, the chief executive of Yahoo, to eliminate telecommuting for all workers brings her company back in line with most of corporate America, where working from home is more illusion than reality. Although many — some estimate most — American jobs could successfully be performed at home, only roughly 16 percent of American employees actually telecommute in any given year. And that figure is reached only by using a very generous definition of telecommuting — working from home at least one hour per week.

The idea behind the Yahoo announcement, as well as a more limited announcement from Best Buy this week that will add restrictions to its telecommuting policy, was that bringing workers back to the office would lead to greater collaboration and innovation. This is despite numerous studies showing that telecommuting workers are more productive than those working on-site.

Yet a work force culture based on long hours at the office with little regard for family or community does not inevitably lead to strong productivity or innovation. Two outdated ideas seem to underlie the Yahoo decision: first, that tech companies can still operate like the small groups of 20-something engineers that founded them; and second, the most old-fashioned of all, that companies get the most out of their employees by limiting their autonomy.

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