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Good Question: Is Telecommuting A Failure?

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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – It came as a surprise from the new CEO of Yahoo.

Marissa Mayer reportedly ordered all the company’s employees who are working full-time outside of the office to report to the office.

Best Buy is also reevaluating its Results Only Work Environment program, according to this Star Tribune report.

So with these high-profile steps away from allowing workers to be at home, is telecommuting a failure?

“I, a lot of times, want to be [at work]. The people I work closely with…are here, my family is home,” said Justin Dessonville, a software tester for Clockwork Active Media in Minneapolis.

Dessonville is at a flexible workplace, where employees have the choice to work off-site, as long as they come back to work for meetings and major project deadlines.

“I work typically Mondays from home now,” said coworker Whitney Shaw, who said she chooses to be home one day a week. Soon she’ll move out of state, and telecommute full-time.

But will she miss the collaborative environment of being at work?

“Yeah, especially here at Clockwork, because we’re such a collaborative environment,” she said.

Researchers are not saying that telecommuting is a failure. In fact, a Forester Research report projects that 43 percent of Americans will work off-site at least one day a week by 2016.

“Employees who telecommute are more satisfied with their jobs, they experience less stress, they tend to be better performers,” said Lisa Leslie, a Carlson School of Management researcher who is writing on flexible work environments.

She and a fellow researcher looked at survey data from 482 employees and 366 managers at a Fortune 500 organization. They found that when managers thought that employees wanted to work off-site in order to be more productive, those employees were valued and rewarded.

“It allows me to get more training documents written, because I don’t have so many people coming by my desk,” Shaw said.

“For me, a big key to success for working remotely was being accountable for my time,” said Tim Dachtera of Cottage Grove. “We track our time based on tasks and projects.”

Dachtera has a separate home office away from distractions like a TV set.

“If you allow two days a week, there’s no negative only positive,” said Leslie.

She added: “When you do allow them to go beyond two days a week there can be negative effects like their relationship with their coworkers.”

Reaction has been swift online about Yahoo’s decision.

But most experts don’t think telecommuting is going anywhere, rather they expect it to be deployed in a more targeted way.

“I believe Target is about to go to a system where they allow any employee to telecommute two days a week without asking for special permission,” Leslie said.

The reasons for this are because: workers want it, companies use it to recruit, and there are savings in companies where workspace is at a premium.

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