Should you follow the Yahoo telecommute policy?

Telecommuting is all about work-life balance, higher productivity

When Marisa Mayers, Yahoo’s CEO, declared that telecommuting is ‘dead,’ and that it’s time to ‘get employees back to Yahoo’s campus’, she sparked quite the national debate amongst human resources professionals and CEOs about the values and benefits of telecommuting.

In the age of cloud computing, broadband, and bring your own device supporting the government in the Washington region, where both the federal government and support contractors deal with the daily commute and the everlasting struggle to find a work-life balance, as they come to a halt on (pick your stoppage point on Rt. 66, I-295, I-395, or I-495), Yahoo’s CEO’s words fall short of addressing the core reasons of why telecommuting is a great tool for human capital and workforce development. 

If your organization is considering a policy change, here are three key strategic considerations that every government technology contractor should be asking and evaluating.

1. Is telecommuting right for your government contracting setup?

Allowing employees to telework, whether on a routine schedule or episodic basis, leads to greater productivity, and a more engaged employee. Teleworking has many advantages to the employee, as well as to the company values. Benefits can include reducing travel time and the stress of commuting, and it provides great flexibility for employees to balance personal and professional responsibilities. As a result of our telework program, we make an impact on our clients, employees, organization, and our community.

At Intellidyne, our mission is to enable our clients to experience above and beyond service.  By enabling our staff to telework, we can provide mission-critical service at any time from any location.  By leveraging technology outside of the office, we can provide immediate response with the same quality service that clients enjoy from in-office staff. Our workplace flexibility program creates the greatest impact because it improves employees’ overall health and well-being. 

By providing the flexibility and work-life balance, they are able to meet their personal responsibilities and family obligations, as well as pursue their professional and educational goals.  In addition, teleworkers will experience a financial savings associated with a reduction in cost for commuting, dry-cleaning, and clothing. In our 2012 employee survey, 90 percent of employees indicated that they are able to satisfy their responsibilities both at home and work, and 91 percent of our employees indicated that IntelliDyne allows them to have work life balance.

I personally have been able to focus on analysis-intensive projects without the interruptions that can accompany working in the office; however, this can be a challenge in the federal contracting space, as employees need to be in close proximity with the client. At the end of the day, we are judged on high-quality productive work, not on “being seen.”

2. What are the qualifiers and disqualifiers for having an effective telecommuting HR policy? 

Some of these factors include: whether the job task is easily quantifiable and/or primarily project-oriented; whether an employee’s participation in the telework program will adversely affect the workload of other employees or clients; the level of job contact with other employees and clients, and whether that level of contact is predictable and can be accommodated; would the employee have the access to technology and equipment needed to perform the full scope of duties offsite? Can the employee’s materials be transported from the workplace, considering that classified materials cannot be removed from the worksite?

3. What impact will telecommuting have on the future of recruiting Millennials and next gen of recruits in IT?

It is going to be interesting to see how companies adjust to hiring Millennials and beyond. Millennials want exciting work, without someone looking over their shoulder. They are excellent at multi-tasking. I have witnessed this first hand – they’re doing homework, playing Xbox or PlayStation, and texting with friends, while engaging in a conversation on why they are not distracted. They definitely prefer to communicate electronically versus face-to-face. They don’t even use the phone for its original purpose, talking. It is primarily for texting and social media. In my opinion, they will definitely not want to come into the traditional brick and mortar offices.

From an HR perspective, it’s important to meet the expectations of Millennials, as they will be a significant component to our workforce going forward. We have to maintain our award winning position as one of the region’s best places to work. By enabling these employees to work outside their central work location, we can reduce costs associated with recruitment, retention, training and real estate, and even enable our business to maintain continuity during emergency situations.  The benefits of telecommuting will enable us to increase employee productivity, accommodate identified disabilities and allow for greater flexibility in work schedules – not only for Millennials, but for all members of the IntelliDyne team, at all levels. In addition, we all know how bad traffic can be in our area. Our community can enjoy fewer cars on the road, which will result in a reduction of dependence on oil and a cleaner and healthier environment.

About the Author

Shirl L. Jenkins is the vice president of human resources management and operations at IntelliDyne LLC. She is a former vice president of human resources at SRA International.

Reader Comments

Fri, Mar 22, 2013

I can only support telework if there are very specific metrics to be captured to evaluate performance across all employees. I've recently spoken with retirees who were 'teleworking' during the latter part of their career. In all honesty they advised they were 'working' probably less than 50% of the time they should have been. The reason; they weren't given enough work to do. So no assignments, no metrics, pay for no work.

Thu, Mar 21, 2013 Edward Yang Los Angeles

It's odd that in this day and age, a tech company like Yahoo! would still rely on archaic VPN login info to determine if remote workers were really working. There are other tools that can help quantify this that I saw at the HR Tech Show in Chicago last October, including the MySammy productivity measurement solution (http://www.mysammy.com), an iPhone virtual time card app to clock in and out from wherever you are, and some other innovative products. These would all help immensely govt contracting setups that rely on remote workers.

Thu, Mar 21, 2013 T. Bell Maryland

Great article, Mrs. Jenkins! I couldn't imagine revoking our corporate decision to implement and stand behind our telecommuting policy. In part, the feedback came directly from our staff via employee satisfaction surveys; their voice was heard and meaningful work is still being accomplished. With the right metrics in place, an employee's 'remote' contributions are measurable if that's an overall concern for employers. As with any opportunity for improvement, they should be handled directly versus penalizing the masses for the infractions of a few. Hooray to Ms. Jenkins and IntelliDyne for recognizing the importance of providing flexibility and work-life balance opportunities!

Thu, Mar 21, 2013 Joe S Arlington

As the leader of a small creative group in his early 30s that supports business development and marketing, telecommuting is a huge obstacle to the creative process. You can point to many historically great ideas and they were formed in a collaborative environment when people got together to bounce ideas off each other. This usually happens when people spit ball when around the water cooler, in the hallway, etc. This why think tanks emerged - accomplishing great things over distance simple does not work, no matter the tech. Also, I'm not sure how you measure productivity but i assure you, having witnessed it first hand from peers who have that option, very few people are putting the 8-10 hour days at home. The response is , "well, i get my work done." but in an age when you need to get 1.5 times of the effort out of people, that is not enough.

Thu, Mar 21, 2013 tjs fairfax va

With so many varying work atmosphere's, one size will never fir all. But "work at homers" seem more happy than , those of us who slog it out in the corporate enviornment.

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