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Will Telecommuting Be A Thing of the Past?

April 2, 2013

There has been a lot of buzz in the media about telecommuting after Yahoo’s CEO, Marissa Mayer, recently made the decision to cancel all telecommuting arrangements for Yahoo employees. This CEO has a nursery set up in her office at work for her baby and claims that face time is the key to work productivity. She went so far as to say that “Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home.” So where do I weigh in on this issue? I couldn’t disagree more with Marissa Mayer.

When I reflect back on my career, I remember really appreciating when I was given the freedom to arrange my work schedule, including my location to telecommute, in order to get the job done to the best of my ability. The companies that empowered me the most were the ones I worked the hardest for as I felt they trusted me and I thrived in that environment. But, what about those people who take advantage of the system when telecommuting?

Well, I think when people are slacking off and when “speed and quality are an issue” as was the concern of Ms. Mayer, then I believe there is a performance issue. The people who are going to slack off at home are the same individuals who are slacking off in the office.

In the office, I know I don’t have time to watch staff all day long. The role of the boss is not to be a babysitter, regardless of where your employees work. Your number one job is to get the ‘right people on the bus’ when you hire them. These are the people that will work their best for the company in any situation, whether they are in the office, travelling for business or telecommuting.

I can tell you that within many industries in Canada, including the insurance industry which as a whole loses a staggering number of its female employees between the ages of 34 and 45, employers need to keep thinking of innovative ways to engage and maintain women in their childbearing/raising years. Many of these women are highly intelligent and great at their jobs. It would be a total loss to lose them. But, many women in that age group face the challenge of how to balance it all. If companies can help them by providing solutions like telecommuting or coaching focused on re-orienting them to their jobs while learning to balance life as a new Mom, this will help to grow and develop strong female leaders.

The issue of telecommuting isn’t just a ‘women’s issue.’ Men face these pressures too. We all face demands and sometimes we need some quiet time to focus. The Insurance Institute of Canada’s most recent workforce study shows more human resources professionals report (54 per cent in 2012 compared to 21 per cent in 2007) that accomodating work-life balance issues is an important factor impacting recruitment. I encourage companies to continue to reach out to their employees to learn new and innovative ways to attract and grow talent.

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