DPA / MCT
Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer’s opposition to telework puts her in the minority, according to many experts.
Work/life experts say that announcements cancelling telecommuting programs by high-profile companies Yahoo and Best Buy are one-off events that do not represent a backlash against workplace flexibility by top U.S. or Canadian employers.
As widely reported in the media, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer announced in late February that the company’s 27,000 employees will no longer be permitted to work from home. Several weeks later, Best Buy cancelled their “results-oriented work environment,” (ROWE) program and ordered most corporate staff back to the office.
Kathie Lingle, leader of WorldatWork’s Alliance for Work-Life Progress says Yahoo and Best Buy are in trouble, and their new leaders are following a familiar pattern. “They are trying to wrest control over what appear to be deteriorating situations.”
“The reality is that people have already left the building,” says Kate Lister, the San Diego-based president of the Telework Research Network. “For every company like Yahoo and Best Buy, I can give examples of 100 companies moving in the opposite direction.”
In response to reports that many Yahoo employees were slacking off instead of working the required hours, Lister suggests that the real problem was lack of management training and oversight.
Lingle agrees, and describes telecommuting as ‘the flexible work arrangement power tool.’ She says, “If you give employees and their managers a powerful new tool without training and safety guides, the result can be more harm than good.”
Many studies have documented the growth of telework and how it benefits both employers and their employees.
For example, WorldatWork’s international Survey on Workforce Flexibility reported early in 2011 that telework on a regular weekly or monthly schedule was offered by more than half of the companies surveyed. Thirty-seven per cent of survey participants offered full-time telework to some or all employees.
A subsequent study conducted by the Telework Research Network for WORKShift Calgary calculated that part-time telecommuting by the 4.3 million Canadians with compatible jobs and a desire to work from home could save employers over $10,000 per employee. When employee and community savings were factored in, a company with 250 employees could realize shared annual savings in excess of $3 million.
Canadian organizations have done the math. They also know that workplace flexibility can mean happy, more productive employees. At companies of all sizes recognized on the 2013 list of Canada’s Top 100 Employers, telecommuting and other flexible work options are the norm.
A recent survey commissioned by social networking website LinkedIn for International Women’s Day showed that Canadian women’s definition of professional success has changed in the last five or 10 years with work/life balance more highly valued than salary and position.
Almost two-thirds of Canadian working women said they want greater workplace flexibility and 80 per cent identified flexibility as the most important catalyst for success of the next generation of professional women.
Lister is not surprised. But she says the demand for telework and other flexible work options crosses gender boundaries. “It’s the No. 1 benefit men and women of all ages are looking for. Companies that do not offer it in the future are not going to be able to compete for talent.”