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My Two Cents on the Working From Home Debate – What’s Left Out of the Yahoo Debate.

By: Scott Fiore, TriStarr Staffing

Big news from the CEO of Yahoo, Marissa Mayer.  In a nutshell, she wants to bring all employees with working from home arrangements in house.

Here’s a quote from her leaked memo that drew my focus:  “Yahoo isn’t just about your day-to-day job, it is about the interactions and experiences that are only possible in our offices.”

She’s taking heat from most, and being lavished by some.  While I’m sure that there are many reasons for her decision, and while I’ve read several articles making guesses at her motives, I thought I’d chime in.  Why not…?  There is a side to the issue of telecommuting that is not being discussed, and that’s individual personality.

In my job I get to see and talk with all kinds of business owners, managers and employees which allows me a somewhat unique perspective as I get to see what works for various companies, and what doesn’t.  And in some cases precisely what works for one company or employee does not work for another.

Technology gains have made it actually easier and quicker for me to email or text one of my team here at TriStarr than it would be to get up and take the 8 to 24 steps (and yes I just stood up and counted) to have a conversation.  Sometimes the TASK at hand warrants the text or email, but other times the ISSUE at hand is best handled with a short conversation where I can hear tone of voice, pick up on non-verbal ques etc.

Certain tasks can certainly be performed remotely these days.  I feel strongly that allowing (here’s the key word) great employees the flexibility to telecommute occasionally, adds value.  Two real simple examples – sick days and poor weather.  When one of our team is sick the last thing I want is for them spreading their germs to everyone else.  If they can perform some functions of their job at home, and avoid a PTO day – we both win.  If we get a snow storm, and our employees are able to work remotely, why brave the roads and risk injury or a fender bender?

Now, can I get a pulse of my business every day from an email update?  Sure.  But is it the same as the pulse I get from our daily huddles, or by walking around (as you’ve seen it’s not so many steps that I’m losing weight) and talking with our team?  No way.  Personal interactions allow for so much more.  And when it comes to strategy discussions, product or service development etc., those are best handled face to face.

The other side of the coin here, and the one not being addressed in the articles I’ve been reading, involves personality.  Specifically, some people have personalities that allow for, or actually require face to face interaction, while others are the opposite; personal interaction can actually be a hinderance to productivity.  I’ve studied personality and organizational dynamics for many years, and it’s amazingly clear how personalities can affect interaction and communication.  There are personality profiles that fit very well to telecommuting arrangements, while there are others that are a recipe for disaster.  Any company can create a flexible work schedule, but not any employee can fit comfortably into a flexible work culture.

The companies who link individual personality traits into their telecommuting culture are the most successful.  In the end, in my opinion at least, companies can incorporate flexibility into their working arrangements.  Those that do increase their candidate pool, and retain workers longer than those that do not, or cannot.

I’ve consulted many companies on personality and organizational dynamics.  If you’re interested in hearing more feel free to email me – scott@tristarrjobs.com.

Scott

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