Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

February 27 2013

The Pros and Cons of Telecommuting

By Carolyn Clark, Vice President, Marketing & Communications and David McMillin, PCMA Staff writer

Have you been enjoying the perks of telecommuting? If you've convinced your boss to let you stay home and complete your responsibilities without making actual face-to-face contact on a daily basis, he or she may start rethinking the decision.

Telecommuting has been making quite a few headlines recently thanks to Marissa Mayer, the new CEO of Yahoo!. Beginning in June, Mayer will no longer give Yahoo! employees the option to work from home. News outlets have been covering a leaked internal memo from Jacqueline Reses, executive vice president, people and development, Yahoo!.

“Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home. We need to be one Yahoo!, and that starts with physically being together,” Reses writes in the memo.

Here at PCMA, we decided to do a bit of Crossfire on the topic.

PRO - Carolyn Clark, Vice President, Marketing & Communications

As a former “work-from-homer” I agree with Mayer to bring the troops back to the office. While I enjoyed the perks of working in my pajamas and not showering until 4pm, I now sincerely appreciate the consistent opportunities to collaborate with my office colleagues face-to-face. It’s powerful! I gain more from a personal exchange than reading a one-sided email or text where I have to interpret the other’s true investment in the topic.

Maggie Warrell, the author of
Playing it Safe, a new business bible that encourages readers to rethink risk recently commented on Mayer’s “get yourself into the office” decision in Forbes magazine. In it, she details three reasons why this decision is a smart move for Yahoo!.

1.  Personal connections optimize collaboration.

2.  Water cooler conversations foster synergies that emails don’t.

3.  Distance can damage trust and be a cop-out for crucial conversations.

When I read the third reason here, I honestly uttered “nailed it” out loud. Trust in the workplace is imperative for maximum productivity, creative innovation and morale. When we are not face-to-face with our colleagues, it is so easy to avoid meaningful conversations and question every move from behind the shield of a computer screen. I believe just our daily passing of each other in the office hallways prompts us to be more invested in our relationship, play less politics and ultimately, better perform for PCMA.

CON - David McMillin, PCMA Staff writer

I've worked remotely in many positions throughout my career as a writer, typer and creative. It’s given me the freedom to accomplish my work without the distraction of sitting in meetings when it might be more useful for me to be completing work. While Reses’ memo indicates that working from home may lead to slower work, I feel the opposite. I’ve been in plenty of settings where teams are guilty of having meetings just to have meetings.

That being said, I don’t think that all employees should live behind screens and phone calls. Even for those who do telecommute, I think it’s important to make the actual commute on a consistent basis to establish real relationships with your coworkers. With the right balance of virtual and face-to-face work, I think each person on the other end of the line recognizes that both parties are working hard - - regardless of where they are.

Here are my recommendations for how to strike that balance:

1.  Schedule face-to-face time on a regular basis.

That time doesn't necessarily need to be a business meeting, either. The synergy that comes from those water cooler conversations can also occur over coffee and, of course, cocktails. If you work in another city, be sure to determine how to connect with your colleagues on a monthly basis. If you work relatively close, I recommend weekly check-ins.

2.  Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone.

I do think that telecommuting has been evolving into e-commuting. While email is a useful tool, there is also too much of it. When working remotely, I think it’s important to actually hear the tone of a real voice rather than wonder if a short email was due to frustration on the sender’s end.

3.  Treat your home like an office.

I can’t do the conference-call-in-pajamas approach, and I do think there is a lot of value in waking up and treating your day exactly the way you would in a real office environment.

However, I realize my opinion is under fire after the Yahoo! announcement, and perhaps people are questioning it with good reason. Read recent meetings industry research that indicates that face-to-face collaboration fuels more ideas.

1 Comment

  1. 1 Kristin Mirabal 01 Mar
    Carolyn and David,
    Thanks for taking on this topic. Love the crossfire. Carolyn, I have never looked at working in my PJs and showering at 4pm as one of the perks of telecommuting (I have telecommuted now full time for almost 13 years). I don't believe that this is what CEO Mayer used as an argument for the change of policy. This is the myth of telecommuting that I've tried to debunk for many years. I get dressed for work daily and commute to my office, a big perk is that my commute is much shorter than most. 

    I've done a lot of reading on the topic and it's about engagement. The key to a successful telecommuting arrangement is accessibility, engagement and contact. Being aware that appearances are important, face to face meetings (this is our industry afterall) are important and frequent interaction with your team members and those outside of your workgroup beyond the email is the key. Yahoo employess seemed to have failed in this effort.

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