Was Marissa Mayer Right or Wrong About Remote Workers?

When Marissa Mayer discontinued the telecommuting option for Yahoo! employees over a year ago, the media and employment experts had a heyday. Mayer was putting Yahoo! at a disadvantage against other tech companies trying to recruit talent in a competitive market. 

But as the dust has settled and recent news of “working from home” abuse has been reported, people are wondering: was Mayer right? Should you allow or encourage, your employees to work from home, or, is it more important to have employees connected to one another through office interactions? Is telecommuting the future of work, or simply an option that works better for some people than others?

Deciding to let your IT employees work from home or asking that they work from the office is a difficult decision and shouldn’t be taken lightly. We’ve put together some pros and cons of both options so you can decide for yourself what’s right for your bottom line. 

Allowing Your Employees to Work Remotely…

Pro #1: Boosts Employee Satisfaction
Most IT professionals can do their work from anywhere, and being able to work from home is high up on many of their “work perks” lists. Happy employees are more likely to stick with your company, promote their work place to others, and care about doing quality work. Giving your employees the option to work from home is not just making things convenient for them, it also shows them that you trust them, which boosts their confidence and work satisfaction as well.

Pro #2: Saves Time and Money
Distance collaboration is easier than ever with technology. Without commuting time, employees can get started earlier in the day, and will sometimes work more hours.  There are also fewer interruptions from coworkers so employees working from home are able to focus on the task at hand.  As an employer, you get the additional cost saving benefits of not needing to provide an office for this employee or pay for electricity usage.

Cons: Interacting Face-to-Face Has Value
Brainstorming and innovation can be stalled because remote working does not generate new ideas in the same way an in-office session can.  Some problems or conversations can only be handled in person and performance analysis is more difficult with remote workers as supervisors are rarely seeing the individual’s daily work.  Additionally, employees who work remotely often struggle with feeling engaged with their coworkers. This not only affects those individuals, but the whole team.

Requiring Your Employees to Work In the Office…

Pro #1: Is Better for Problem Solving and Innovation
While collaboration tools are better than ever, physically seeing and interacting with a person face-to-face is still the most effective— and sometimes necessary element—when troubleshooting problems.  Whether your tech team has implemented a new network structure or a developer is updating the website, some concerns can only be handled as a group. Creativity and innovation happen through interactions and collaboration. Having your employees work together in the office can foster innovative ideas and teamwork.

Pro #2: Keeps Your Rock Stars From Slipping Through the Cracks
When employees work at the office you are better able to analyze performance, give feedback, and even know who should receive promotions.  Employees who only work from home are 50% less likely to receive a promotion.  Great managers could be slipping through the promotion process because you never see them.  Your best programmer might look for employment elsewhere because her hard work is never recognized. In addition, when your potential leaders are in the office they are more able and available to mentor other members of your team and lead by example, something that gets lost if they are working remotely.

Cons: Office Interactions Can Have Negative Side Effects
Innovation is fostered in conversations and brainstorming sessions, but so many conversations, interruptions, and small project derailments can mean delays.  The majority of employees say the flexibility offered by being able to work remotely increases their employment satisfaction. The reverse is true when that option is not offered to them. Lastly, operational expenses are higher when more employees are working in the office.
As with most workplace decisions, evaluating the pros and cons of working remotely is difficult.  Do you value innovation or efficiency, and which plan will help you get what you want? Using a dual approach can help you capture the benefits of both, while minimizing the negatives.  Give your employees the option to work from home or the office in a way tailored to your company’s particular needs. 

If innovation is a major component of your company, create a collaborative workspace for your employees to brainstorm, but allow them to work from home and put together the product. If efficiency is the name of the game, schedule one or two days a week for meetings and check-ins, but allow your employees to work from home the rest of the week if they choose. 

Utilize the perks of productivity at home and collaboration in the office by creating a hybrid model that works best for your company.  Who knows what your employees will be able to achieve when you customize their work experience.