Now that Marissa Mayer and Yahoo have shown a spotlight on the downsides of telecommuting, a lot of organizations are starting to ask themselves how managing the whole process could be improved.
In the case of Yahoo trying to figure out who might be actually be working at any given time, it meant manually combing through the logs of virtual private networking (VPN) software to see who was accessing the corporate network. That may be indicative of who is working, but in an era where people routinely see better performance using their own applications on their own home network, it doesn’t necessarily mean people are not working because they are not logged into the corporate network. In fact, more often than not, they may be using their own mobile computing device that the company has no visibility into at all.
Regardless of the method of work, the real issue is that most organizations don’t have a holistic approach to managing users inside and out of the office. Accomplishing that goal will require new tools and processes for managing IT, which is something that many organizations have been reluctant to invest in during the downturn.
Sean Donahue, senior director for global alliance marketing for RES Software, a provider of software that unifies the work experience around a virtual device that can be deployed on any device, says all the attention being paid to telecommuting in the wake of the Yahoo controversy will probably be a good thing. Most of the issues that Mayer is trying to address are unique to the culture and business circumstances that Yahoo finds itself in. But the fact remains that organizations need to improve the telecommuting experience not only for productivity reasons, but also to make sure it’s possible to hold people accountable.
That said, there’s definitely room for improvement when it comes to managing remote workers. Many of those workers are among a company’s most productive because they don’t tend to spend much time getting caught up in corporate politics. At the same time, they can be easily distracted or find themselves working on projects that have nothing to do with the company that pays their wages. The real challenge is finding a way to maintain the productivity benefits of telecommuting without cutting the organization’s nose off in the name of accountability.
Obviously, telecommuting is as much a personnel management issue as it is an IT issue. But unless the latter gets addressed, there really is no hope for succeeding with the former.