Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer stirred a hornets’ nest of controversy when she announced in February that, henceforth, employees who had previously telecommuted must now return to their cubicles at the struggling company’s Sunnyvale, Calif., headquarters. Before long, electronics retailer Best Buy—long known as a company that champions its—followed suit. No more working from home! At least not without a manager’s specific approval.
Officials at both Yahoo and Best Buy say they have specific, business-related reasons for cracking down on flexible work arrangements such as telecommuting. At Yahoo, which values collaboration in the fast-moving web space, reviews of the company’s virtual private network that allows remote access to digital files, showed that telecommuters were rarely logged in.
Best Buy’s renowned “Results Only Work Environment” program bit the dust when new CEO Hubert Joly noted that the big-box chain faced extinction at the hands of online retail competitors like Amazon.com.
Yet research continues to show that workplace flexibility, when run properly, makes many workers more effective. A recent Stanford study calculated that call center employees were 13% more productive when working from home.
University of Texas researchers last year found that telecommuters “add five to seven hours to their workweek compared with those who work exclusively at the office.”
To lend perspective, HR consultancy Mercer ran some numbers on workplace flexibility’s state of practice. These charts show what they found.
What summer hours?
Few employers observe special summer hours—such as shortened workweeks or altered start and finish times.
Most employers offer flexible hours
Two-thirds of employers responding to Mercer’s 2012 Compensation Policies and Practices Survey said they offer flexible work hours.
Computers, phones … and not much else
When employees work from home, they can usually count on their employers to pick up the tab for laptops and cellphones. Just about everything else comes out of employees’ pockets. Equipment provided to teleworkers:
Most telecommuting is informal
When white-collar workers telecommute, it’s mostly with the informal agreement of their bosses. Formal policies are far less common.