Technology continues to change the way America works. Still, some big employers are putting the brakes on telecommuting.
It’s no secret that we here at Meditec are big fans of working from home. For nearly 20 years, we’ve been helping people get Internet-based training for telecommuting careers in medical coding, insurance customer service, legal transcription and more. So it’s no surprise that we don’t necessarily agree with companies that are requiring their employees to punch a clock at the cube farm.
In June, Yahoo ended its policy of allowing some workers to work some or all of their schedules from home. The decision has reignited a debate with some saying a traditional office is best, while others sing the praises of telecommuting.
About one in every 10 employees in the United States works from home at least one day a week. And why wouldn’t they? With commute times averaging 45 minutes one-way, that’s an hour and a half per day that could be spend working instead of sitting in traffic! Business owners see a benefit in a reduction of overhead costs, from the electric bill to the cost of computer equipment.
Companies reigning in the work from home trend say they need “all hands on deck.” For some places, that’s probably the best way to do business. For others, the old arguments against working from home simply no longer apply. Here are four of the biggest:
“You need to be in the office to stay focused on work.”
A recent Slate article asserts that employees need a clearly-defined barrier between their work and home lives. Yes, some people have difficulty getting in “work mode” when their couch, slippers and TV set are all in the same room. Still, others at the office are a little too “at home” when they’re supposed to be working (I’m looking at YOU, lady with the fingernail clippers).
Working from home is a responsibility. And we’re not going to deny that some people simply can’t handle that kind of responsibility. But ambitious young moms, for example, have plenty of practice staying organized and focused, because they multitask every single day. The kind of person who is able to work from home is able to stay focused and remain committed to the tasks at hand.
“You have fewer distractions at the office.”
This one depends on the office. I’ve been in offices that sound like college football games during playoffs. Of course, the home office can be just as bad, especially if you add noisy kids, unforeseen home emergencies, and the temptation of television or the phone. Again, it takes the right kind of person to be able to put on the blinders and adhere to a work schedule at home.
I suggest keeping a rigid schedule that makes time for uninterrupted work projects and deadlines. Check email and voicemail at specific times, not throughout the day. Take the time you need for your “home” work (like taking care of the kids), but don’t let that time cut in to the time you’ve promised to set aside for your job.
“Employees need ‘face time’ to feel like they’re part of the team.”
It’s true that a company can be seen as a team, and if everyone is just looking out for number one, the teamwork doesn’t happen. That’s why a lot of companies mix it up, letting workers work some days at home but requiring them to be at the office for meetings and group planning sessions.
The trick for companies to learn is that managing at-home workers isn’t the same as managing workers at the office. Just because you can’t walk over to an employee’s cube to ask them a question doesn’t mean you can’t keep them engaged during work hours. Those same questions can be asked via Google Hangouts, Skype, email or phone.
“At-home workers just aren’t motivated and ambitious.”
We hear this one a lot, but it just isn’t true. In fact, statistics show people with more ambition and more professional training are more likely to make good at-home workers. Women, especially, are more likely to get ahead in flexible work environments. 83 percent of women who had the option to telecommute have their sights set on executive-level positions, compared to 54 percent of women who don’t have the option to telecommute.
By the way, some industry observers say Yahoo has a secret reason for putting an end to telecommuting. The company isn’t doing well, so it needs to reduce its workforce but doesn’t want to scare shareholders with the ugliness of layoffs. Therefore, Yahoo may have implemented the policy knowing full well that some workers will quit.
After all, a lot of Yahoo’s employees agreed to work there because of the flexible schedules. Now that the rules have changed, some of them are no doubt dusting off their resumes and looking elsewhere. How would you feel if you were hired under one set of rules, only to have those rules change when the CEO decides she doesn’t like them?
We encourage Yahoo employees to consider professional certification programs from Meditec. They could help them find a better job in the future—one that allows them to work from the “home office.”