We’ve been following the Marissa Mayer-driven discussion over telecommuting. Here's a follow up.
This morning in The New Yorker James Surowiecki explains the advantages a company gains when employees show up in the office:
The fundamental point is that much of the value that gets created in a company comes from the ways in which workers teach and learn from each other. If telecommuters do less of that, the organization will be weaker. On top of this, there’s evidence that telecommuting can make it hard to foster trust and solidarity—an issue that matters a lot to Yahoo right now. Face time is still the easiest way to build connections, and non-telecommuters are sometimes jealous of their colleagues at home. One study of virtual teams found that if team members simply met in person before working together they trusted each other more and performed better. And studies show that managers often view telecommuters, accurately or not, as uncommitted.
At a struggling company, these problems can reinforce each other: distrust and lack of focus lead people to disengage, which leads to more distrust, and so on. This may explain why Mayer reportedly found that many full-time telecommuters weren’t logging in to the company’s network enough, and why the company’s offices were virtually empty on Fridays. In a company that has floundered for years, it’s natural for workers to look out only for themselves. In that sense, the ban on telecommuting isn’t just about productivity. “It’s demoralizing to come to the office when no one’s there,” Waber said. “Just changing that is valuable.”