|Connecting and Collaborating in Today’s Wired Workforce|
|Monday, March 04 2013|
With the wired workforce of today, more employees are working remote out of home offices than ever before. According to a 2011 study by the Telework Research Network, a consulting and research firm focusing workplace flexibility, working remotely increased by 73% from 2005 to 2011 in the United States. Technology advancements have been a major contributor to this shift by enabling employees to securely connect to their companies' networks a few days a week or even full-time from virtually anywhere in the world with an Internet connection.
The opportunity to telecommute is appealing to many. First and foremost, the types of jobs being performed in the United States today have changed. While jobs in manufacturing and the service industry require a physical presence to perform work tasks, so-called "knowledge" workers that primarily rely on computers to do their jobs are becoming much more common. These types of employees can sometimes be more productive when they're not in a corporate office culture, and those with young children can benefit from having a lot more flexibility in raising them when working from home.
While many companies have embraced remote working, some like Google and Facebook prefer to limit telecommuting and have employees consistently come to the office. They believe it builds better interpersonal relationships, which stimulates collaboration and helps spur innovation. Steve Jobs, the former CEO of Apple and Pixar, famously designed Pixar's office headquarters to spur random encounters as employees traversed the hallways, something which Jobs' believed ignite creativity and innovation. His design for Apple's new headquarters in Cupertino, CA also reflects that belief.
The news over the past few weeks about Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer's decision to eliminate the company's work-from-home policy started a conversation in the media about the merits of remote working versus on-premise collaboration. Mayer positioned her decision as the right one to make the company more successful, stating that "to become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side," in her memo. It later came out that Mayer discovered that most remote employees weren't logging into the company's network with any regularity. She used that log data to help justify her decision to other Yahoo! executives.
While Mayer's decision made a lot of waves, she ultimately thought it was the best one for her specific company to help her meet the objectives she's set out to accomplish. After all, there are plenty of successful companies with a large distributed workforce; almost 90% of network technology provider Cisco's employees telecommute for part or all of their workweek. Furthermore, there are countless collaboration tools that distributed businesses use on a daily basis to help employees connect and meet their goals. The serendipity that Mayer and others try to create with their policies and cultures works well for them, but as long a remote workforce actually puts in the effort, it can match or exceed the effectiveness of an on-premise workforce.