While traveling recently, I picked up a newspaper with a headline that screamed “Yahoo! Bans Telecommuting.” What a game-changer. Yahoo! was an early adopter of telecommuting. But trends in the workplace always come full circle, as is obvious with the new shift from working-at-home back to butts-in-chairs.
After reading the story, the first question I asked myself was, “How will this affect clients in our neck of the woods—Texas, Louisiana and Oklahoma?” My answer was, “Not much.” Few of our clients have embraced telecommuting with the same gusto as Silicon Valley tech firms. We’ve generally been a little slower to introduce trendy items like casual dress and pool tables in the break room.
Around here, business casual means not wearing a tie with your suit; to our California counterparts, it means leaving the flip flops at home for the day. Being a little slower to jump on the trend-band-wagon can be a good thing because it means there is less to “reverse” when the trends change.
So, in the face of Yahoo!’s announcement, firms that now want their workers to return to the mother ship, need to make sure the mother ship is someplace their workers want to be. Here are few things companies should consider:
• The key is flexibility. Today’s workforce includes many more single parents and working couples who are juggling child or elder care, PTA meetings, and soccer practice. Companies need to respond by being less rigid in defining an 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. work day. iPhones, Blackberries and iPads allow us to connect 24/7. These days, people tend to worry if you haven’t responded to an email within 30 minutes! So, as long as production rates are up, flexibility is key for CEOs to remember.
• The priority in telecommuting was reducing your real estate footprint—less people in the office meant less space to lease. But with thoughtful planning, there are better, more productive ways to minimize your space needs and provide your workers with the focus space and the flexibility they need in the workplace.
• The secret is people need people. We need places where we can come together and share ideas. No technology beats a face-to-face meeting.
• The differentiator is your culture. Your strength is your people and your culture. Getting everyone on the same page is hard to do when half are sitting at Starbuck’s or at home. But beyond just making make your employees physically come in to the office, you can make your workplace somewhere they want to be.
Let’s focus on creating a place that’s flexible enough to appeal to a modern workforce, but permanent enough to enhance your culture and brand.