Should Kiwi CEOs follow Marissa Mayer’s move?

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By now, just about everybody will have heard about Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer’s decision to can teleworking and order her staff back to the office.

The memo, which numerous employees leaked to media, states that the decision is based on a desire to improve communication and productivity. “Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings. Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home,” it reads. Even those wanting a half day at home to wait for the ‘cable guy’ will be looked at askance.

Many have lamented the injustice (and stupidity) of the decision, but the issue may not be as clear cut as their outrage suggests. “The benefits of teleworking – at least some of the time – for productivity and well-being are generally accepted, but more research on this subject is needed,” Tim Bentley, director at New Zealand Work Research Institute, Auckland University of Technology (AUT).

In order to investigate teleworking in Australasia, AUT, Melbourne University, and Cisco have joined forces on an unprecedented study: the Telework Productivity and Wellbeing Project. “The research will be the first major study of its kind to be undertaken in New Zealand and Australia and will examine the use of telework amongst thousands of employees,” according to a Cisco press release.

On the other hand, the results of last November’s inaugural Telework Week provided some insight into the benefits that could be reaped here. Employees from 35 different public and private sector organisations took part in the event, teleworking an average of two days. According to a press release on the event’s website, these workers collectively:

 

  • Gained 1,500 productive hours
  • Saved $34,591 in transport costs
  • Prevented 90.4kgs of emissions from being released

Over the course of a year, these same benefits would equate to a gain of 9,470 eight-hour work days, $1.8 million in transport costs saved, and 4.7 tonnes of emissions prevented.

Having the manager on board and the right policy in place is essential however, according to Bentley. “Certainly management attitudes to telework seem key and it is crucial to ensure a good fit between telework, the person, task, technology and environment if telework is to be successful,” Bentley said.

Telework Week organisers’ tips for successful teleworking:

 

  • Remember that not all roles are suitable for teleworking and identify those that aren’t in order to manage expectations.
  • Employees will take time to adapt to teleworking: “You can encourage take up by embedding it in your culture and adapting relevant work practices.”
  • Ensure that there is trust and open communication on both sides of the equation.
  • Managers may have to adapt more than employees, and will need to establish clear work objectives since they won’t directly supervise teleworkers.
  • People leaders need to be innovative in their performance management of their employees who telework.
  • Teleworkers should still visit the office regularly.
  • Learn how employment and health & safety legislation applies to your teleworking arrangements, e.g. a home office is not exempt from health and safety regulations.
  • Develop simple guidelines for teleworking and incorporate these into employee agreements.
  • Get the right technology to make teleworking effective for your people.
  • Consider the network security and commercial confidentiality implications of having people working outside of the office.

 

 

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