Does Working From Home Kill Innovation?

by Guest


The U.S. Census Bureau reports that the number of people who work from home has risen steadily and is approaching 11 percent in 2013. The government supports it as a way to cut down on commuting, and reduce traffic, pollution and office space. The Society for Human Resource Management reports that its surveys show that 63 percent of employers offer telecommuting. So when Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer decided in February 2013 to eliminate work from home options for Yahoo employees, it drew a lot of criticism and concern from HR, recruiters, and tech industry insiders.

Why Marissa Killed Yahoo’s Telecommuting Option

Marissa Mayer inherited a company in distress when she accepted her CEO position at Yahoo. She’s a hard-working, dedicated executive who returned to her new post just two weeks after having a baby. With experience at Google and a history of data-based decision-making, she is on a mission to improve Yahoo and restore it to its place on Fortune’s 100 Best Companies list, where it was at number three in 2008. Part of that mission is to have “Yahoos” work collaboratively to foster innovation, which she feels is an important part of reviving the company, and she believes they need to be physically together to do that. As proof that this is an effective way to accomplish this, she points to Yahoo’s new weather app, the new @Yahoo mail app for tablets, Yahoo’s partnership with @Twitter and Yahoo’s acquisition of Tumblr, which all happened since she’s come on board. Ms. Mayer’s attitude toward collaborative work at the office may come from the recent partnership with Twitter, which also has a strong belief in the benefits of collaboration but offers some flexibility to remote work options.

Work from Home in the Tech Industry

Silicon Valley was one of the first and biggest industries to offer and embrace work from home and telecommuting practices, and still uses telecommuting benefits to attract and retain top talent. With Internet-connectivity, video conferencing and smartphones, tech and information workers achieve high productivity without the daily commute to the office. Business Journal surveyed Silicon Valley’s biggest employers to find out how they incorporate telecommuting in their workforce management and found that most of them allow and encourage their employees to work from home. Polycom in San Jose has 14 percent of its employees working from home, connected to the office daily by video calls. SmugMug in Mountain View has 50 percent of its employees working from home and RockYou in Redwood City has almost three quarters of its workforce working from home. Many tech companies have a combination of flexible work arrangements, of which working from home is just one option, and many don’t formally track their telecommuting employees, leaving the arrangements up to employees and their managers.

Telecommuting as Competitive Advantage

In a survey of Connecticut businesses, the Connecticut Business & Industry Association found many valuable benefits of offering telecommuting to employees. Benefits to employers include productivity gains, reduced turnover, less traffic in surrounding communities, employees more accessible during business hours, reduced overhead, increased profitability and lower energy costs. Although there are tangible cost savings from telecommuting, the systems available for employees to work productively from home may be quite expensive and are a factor for employers who aren’t as big or tech-connected as Google or Hewlett Packard. The 2011 Workplace Forecast by Society for Human Resource Management, a poll of 400 HR professionals, showed that almost half of HR professionals predict that workplace flexibility will be more important to business strategy beyond attracting talent. It has been a strategy that saved Deloitte LLP millions of dollars in reduced office space and energy expenses with 86 percent of its workforce working remotely.

Employers may want and need employees to collaborate and innovate, but it’s not totally clear whether it’s always necessary to be face-to-face under one roof to accomplish that. If you could create a competitive advantage in your company by reducing overhead and operating expenses, by MILLIONS of dollars, as offering telecommuting and work from home benefits to employees, why wouldn’t you do it?

What forces are disrupting the recruitment marketplace in 2013 and beyond? View this dynamic, high-energy session, where several of the RPO industry’s leaders discuss the recruiting and hiring trends and activities across a multitude of companies and industries. 

About the author: Andrew Greenberg has over 17 years of experience in Talent Acquisition. Industry-educated with a Master’s degree in Personnel Psychology, Andrew draws upon a background that is rich with experiences from both corporate and agency staffing environments. He is the founder and Managing Partner of The Recruiting Division, a leader in U.S. based RPO-style recruitment solutions. 


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