Published by Securex, on 01/04/2013
Not so long ago, Yahoo must have had an intense board meeting. Someone of the board said that telework is undermining the company’s efficiency. There probably was a heavy debate between those in favour of flex work and those against. And so the latter group won. CEO Marissa Meyer announced the end of telework for Yahoo. And the big discussion broke loose. Should we invest in telework or not?
First of all, Mrs Meyer is right. Telework is not efficient. Neither is part-time working, sabbatical leave, maternity leave, holidays, illness, … The most efficient situation in the organization of work is when people are always present, at approximately the same time in the same place. So telework is disruptive.
But that’s not the point. Telework is a possible solution for problems like mobility, retention, improving the integration of work and private life, reducing stress, … What yahoo is telling to the world is that it doesn’t care about the issues society and individuals are struggling with. A company that puts its own efficiency above the well being of its people will become obsolete.
The challenge is to find a point of equilibrium between the various needs and expectations employees have and the organizational needs. Securex started two years ago with a program of flexible working, which exceeds telework. We try to find ways to make sure people can live successful lives. Today two thirds of our 1500 employees make use of the offer of work flexibility. However, they can only do this when there is no negative impact on customers or colleagues. They are responsible.
This is not easy. Not for them and not for their managers. It requires adjustment and training and it requires organization. Disadvantages of telework that managers dread can be compensated or neutralised by:
– Providing a clear framework of how telework can be organized
– Training managers on results-oriented and trust-based leadership
– Providing the necessary technology
– Restricting the number of days of telework to avoid isolation
The major issue is culture and trust. A company must be able and willing to let go a lot of issues. The decision of Yahoo to abolish the possibility of telework might be inspired by an objective of efficiency, but risks to backfire because it will be perceived as a manifestation of distrust or unwillingness to invest in people and society. And here Yahoo’s management misses an opportunity because there are ways to integrate the need for flexibility and the need for efficiency. Everyone knows there are no magical solutions. It takes a plan and it takes effort and perseverance.
One question comes to my head: how would Mrs Reses, Yahoo’s VP of People and Development feel about it? How did she leave that board meeting? Can you today have a decent people policy, without flexibility and personalization? To me Yahoo has taken a step towards the past. Maybe this step is a sign for what Yahoo will experience in the future?
(David Ducheyne, Chief People Officer Securex)
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