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Making cents out of teleworking

Sarah Putt | March 26, 2013
Teleworking, like every aspect of business, should be measured by how much it contributes to the bottom line

When it comes to important national business I don't suppose a report on teleworking is high priority.

Even so, it was promised on the website that at the conclusion of New Zealand's official Telework Week, launched by ICT Minister Amy Adams in November last year, that a report would be released on how businesses who participated fared.

It's March 2013, so where is the report? After phone calls to Adams' office, Crown Fibre Holdings, and then a Telework Week sponsor Cisco, I found it.

Not a report, but a press release with the actual findings taking up just three paragraphs:

"New Zealand's inaugural Telework Week closed with participants gaining nearly 1500 productive hours by working flexibly during 12 -- 16 November.

"Summary data from the week shows that employees from 35 different public and private sector organisations participated in the week, 60 percent of which were drawn from local government and technology sector organisations.

"Participants teleworked an average of 2 days during the week and collectively saved $34,591 in transport costs and prevented 90.4 kgs of emissions from going into the environment."

The release had been dutifully issued about a fortnight after the official week. But I was prompted to track it down now for some local information about teleworking, after Yahoo CEO Melissa Mayer's now famous edict that from June Yahoo employees can no longer work from home.

According to US news reports, Mayer banned teleworking after checking the VPN logs and finding that some employees weren't logging in enough. Her logic appears to be that if they aren't logging in, they aren't working. And that's got to have an effect on the company's performance.

Yahoo is not top dog in its sector, it lost the number one spot to Mayer's former employers, Google (she famously joined as employee number 20) and, as many Telecom customers whose Yahoo/Xtra accounts were hacked will know, it has a long way to go to get back on top.

Mayer clearly believes that getting everyone working in the same environment is a good start to turning the company's fortunes around. "Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu meetings," she wrote in an internal memo leaked to the press.

Since Mayer's email went public, there's been a lot of talk from analysts about the impact that banning teleworking will have on employee morale and that elusive thing called "company culture". But this kind of HR-speak doesn't explain how teleworking can return money to shareholders and, at the end of the day, that is the primary reason why a company exists.


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