Twitter and the blogosphere have been completely immersed in a fierce debate over the merits of telecommuting vs. coming into the office to work thanks to actions taken by Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer a couple of weeks ago. With the adoption of new technologies, including widespread use of smartphones, video conference software, and VoIP PBX phone systems, how important is it to come into the office every day? The answer is: we’re not really sure. There are too many entries in the debate to read through, but here are a couple of the main arguments from each side:
I can be just as productive at home
The core of this argument lies in the technology that most professionals have at their disposal these days out of necessity. Most people have access to a broadband internet connection at any given moment, whether it’s in their home or the café down the street. If a business invests in the proper IT, they can offer their employees a myriad of ways to connect to workers who are based at the office and fellow telecommuters. Thanks to unified communications tools in addition to even more advanced conferencing applications, employees can be “at the office” while in the comfort of their own home. This saves workers from being distracted by the day to day social goings on at the office, as well as the time suck that is the morning and evening commutes. With the addition of VoIP PBX phone systems that allow for “virtual” offices in any location, proponents of telecommuting see no real need to spend every day at the office.
Only an office can provide the collaborative atmosphere a business needs
Those on Mayer’s side think that even though there are these technologies available, nothing can replace the benefits of face-to-face interaction and socializing. Water cooler talk isn’t just about talking about last night’s football game. It’s also about brainstorming and hashing out strategies pertaining to the day’s projects. Working in the office is also about being able to have proper oversight when it comes to worker productivity. Bosses like Mayer want to foster a sense of community at the workplace so employees will feel like they’re a part of a team working towards a goal that everyone will benefit from.
It’s impossible to say who’s right. It comes down to management style and people’s individual personalities. Some people do their best work at home while others get hopelessly distracted. But with unified communications technology available, there’s no reason why people can’t alternate between the two. Working from home half the week and the office the other half might provide employees with the best of both worlds.