The word “Yahoo” has become somewhat of a controversial name in the telework, telecommuting, mobile work and virtual office worlds lately. Adding insult to injury, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer defended her decision to ban telecommuting at the technology giant last week.
That spurred WorldatWork, a nonprofit human resources association that has been studying telework trends since 2001, to put together a list of myths and facts to help get the truth out about telecommuting from a virtual office. In today’s column, we’ll take a look at the first five myths and the facts that bust them.
MYTH#1: Yahoo and Best Buy announcements cancelling virtual office programs signal a backlash against workplace flexibility.
TRUTH: “The Yahoo and Best Buy decisions should be viewed as temporary exceptions to a global movement away from expensive bricks and mortar towards more virtually distributed work,” says Kathie Lingle, executive director of WorldatWork’s Alliance for Work-Life Progress. Today, more than half of surveyed employers around the world offer telework, according to the 2011 WorldatWork Survey on Workplace Flexibility.
MYTH #2: A typical teleworker is a work-from-home mom.
TRUTH: Today’s teleworkers are most often 40-year-old professional males with college degrees, according to telework 2011: A WorldatWork Special Report. What’s more, both men and women seek workplace flexibility options to help them manage their work and personal/family challenges, according to the men and work-life integration: A Global Study.
MYTH #3: Telework is a ploy used mostly by parents to get childcare on the cheap.
TRUTH: People who work from virtual offices (who happen to be parents) are required to arrange and pay for child care during their working hours regardless of their work location. Staying home to provide primary childcare is never an acceptable reason to approve a telework arrangement, according to Alliance for Work-Life Progress.
MYTH #4: People who telework from virtual offices are slackers.
TRUTH: Working from a virtual office requires above average organizational and communication skills and is actually more valued by top performers. Progressive organizations have learned over time that you need not offer virtual office work to everyone, but primarily to key talent that you can’t afford to lose who are in positions that can be done remotely.
“Telework is a highly effective tool for organizations who need to retain top talent,” says Rose Stanley, work-life practice leader for WorldatWork. “A common situation involves a valued employee who must relocate, as the result of a spouse accepting employment in another area, an aging parent demanding care and attention, or any number of things.”
MYTH #5: Negotiating and managing individual virtual office arrangements takes too much of a manager’s time and effort.
TRUTH: Granting a slew of individual accommodations is not how virtual office is done in today’s workplace. Flexibility is best practiced as a team sport, since most work today is done in work groups, many of which form and reform in response to different projects.
Nothing lasts forever, including virtual office arrangements. Properly constituted teams establish goals, enforce compliance, handle under-performance and take care of every member’s life events over the course of a project or a career. Applying flexibility as a business strategy requires training, according to Leslie A. Perlow at the Harvard Business Review.