Following the announcement of Yahoo’s CEO Marissa Mayer to rid the company of telecommuting altogether, let’s talk about valid reasons and circumstances in which working from home could be more productive and efficient than working at the office. Who benefits the most from telecommuting versus working in the office? Analyses at Best Buy, British Telecom, Dow Chemical and many other companies have found that teleworkers are 35% to 45% more productive. American Express found that its teleworkers produced 43% more than their office-based counterparts.

So which is better? The major debate about allowing workers to work from home versus in their office is based heavily on productivity levels. Most companies report higher levels of productivity from telecommuters, and recent surveys state that 66% of those who telecommute say they are more productive. We’ve come up with some pros and cons for the two workplace styles.

One of the major reasons for not allowing workers to telecommute is the decreased amount of collaboration between team members. As stated by Yahoo’s CEO, “To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side by side. That is why it is critical that we are all present in our offices. Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people and impromptu meetings.”

While this is looked at as one of the biggest cons for working from home, technology has made workplace collaboration just as easy. You miss out on the impromptu interaction with co-workers, but through cloud applications and brainstorming sessions, virtual collaboration is easy. Is collaboration one of the major cons to telecommuting or is that task completely covered in other forms?

Working from home has always been looked at as one of the best perks of a job. Being able to balance work and life at the same time is a major necessity for working moms and dads, or even for those who live far away from their actual headquarters. The best way to hire top talent is to find them anywhere in the world and allow them to work from wherever they’d like. A major benefit of hiring teleworkers is that you’re no longer constrained by geographical locations. If you’ve found the best candidate living in New York City, and your company is based in Los Angeles, you don’t want to miss out. Forcing employees to come into the office each day, where their interaction with co-workers may be limited to meetings, could end up costing your company more in decreased productivity. Instead, work from the cloud and when you need to chat, set up a call with the specific people who you need to talk with. And if the intangible benefits of in-person interaction are important to your business, you can always opt for a partial in-office schedule.

Employers benefit in other ways from allowing workers to work from home. When fewer workers are in the office, companies are saving money by having to provide less office space. Companies are no longer bound by high real estate costs. It was estimated that in 2011 companies saved over $170 billion dollars in real estate, according to the Telework Research Network. When workers are forced to move for any reason, companies are able to retain their top talent by allowing them to work in their new location. The Telework Research Network believes that 66% of offices will go completely virtual in the next three years. While there are cons to telecommuting, the numbers don’t lie. Telecommuting is a practice that will be around for the next several decades.

Remote working: the ability to work wherever you’d like. With the perks of saving time and money, plus greater productivity, why shouldn’t teleworking be one of the most popular employment trends? The decision of Marissa Meyer to take away teleworking at Yahoo might have been right for the struggling search giant, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s right for your company. In the past five years teleworking has increased by 75%. There must be some benefits if companies are moving towards the trend and not away from it.

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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR, is an author, speaker, Human Resources professional, and workplace social media expert who has a passion for recruiting, training, and all things social media. She is the president and CEO of Xceptional HR, and a leader in the HR community with more than 12 years of industry experience. The author of Tweet This! Twitter for Business, Jessica was named by HR Examiner as the second most influential recruiter on the Internet and the seventh most powerful woman on Twitter. She is a columnist for both SmartBrief and The Huffington Post, in addition to Blogging4Jobs and Human Resources One on One. Jessica has been interviewed for professional articles in CIO Magazine, Entrepreneur Magazine, SHRM’s HR Magazine, and on CBS. Jessica earned a Senior Professional in Human Resources designation in 2008, and holds a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology and Business from Kansas State University. Originally from a small town in Kansas, Jessica currently lives near Oklahoma City with her husband, Greg and daughter, Ryleigh.

5 Comments

  • Avatar Rose says:

    No matter how much better telework may seem it isn’t for everyone. To work remotely you need to be self-disciplined, otherwise you’ll get distracted and tasks will be left unaccomplished.

  • Avatar Andrew says:

    I agree, some people just need somebody to keep them focused in order to perform well. Not everyone is capable of coping with lots of freedom.

  • Avatar Susan Wartes says:

    Although some people may suffer from the lack of self-discipline and self-motivation, work still must be done and therefore more time will be spent. All-in-all those who value their time will start working properly.

  • Avatar Vera Belson says:

    I’ve worked at home for almost 5 years now and there’s no way I’m coming back to the office. The time I’ve got to spend with my family working remotely is very valuable!

  • Avatar Jason Hemsworth says:

    I’ve been telecommuting for about two years now and there are either ecstatic days where I feel blessed for my work setting or miserable ones where I desperately want a fast-paced office environment with colleagues around. But as you rightly highlighted how discipline has everything to do with the outcome, I can vouch for not-so-pleasant consequences if there are stretching slip-ups in that area.

    I guess you learn the art to telecommuting through the journey – setting a routine, getting all the required gadgets and technology, making sure you’re connected to reliable internet connection etc. And importantly, just like millions of professionals worldwide, you get to a point of realization at some point in time whether you’re made for it or not. I think I’m made for it, I’ve disciplined myself enough and hustled my way for a little clarity.

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