Freedom For Workers Means, Productivity For Companies (News)
Feb 27 2013, 10:40 AM, updated 7y ago
Joined: Apr 2010
Work is not one-size-fits-all—and forcing it to be may put your company on the road to extinction.
Today, for example, it’s not unreasonable to imagine that your best developer is nocturnal, your all-star customer support director lives 1,500 miles away and your most brilliant product manager needs to be home at 4:30 every day to pick up her kids from school.
In the Information Age, the norm is flexible work, breaking the barriers that once required everyone to work at the same time, in the same place. Forcing talented employees into cubicles, set schedules or any sort of work ‘box’ is a good way to lose them, and trying to do so only limits a company’s productivity on one side and workers’ freedom on the other. It has never been easier to work with people across different time zones, schedules or work environments—which explains why approximately 30 million Americans currently work from home at least one day a week, according to the Telework Research Network, and why regular telecommuters will number 4.9 million by 2016, representing a 69% increase from today’s level.
This is why we were surprised to learn that Marissa Mayer has revoked Yahoo’s telecommuting privileges, banning working from home and requiring remote workers to relocate to a physical office.
The future of work is flexible, and policies like this are essentially swimming against the tide, making it more difficult for them to compete for talent. Work is increasingly distributed and “customizable,” from entirely virtual companies at one end of the spectrum (even companies as large and successful as WordPress creator Automattic), to those with work-from-home policies or blended teams of in-person and remote workers. According to Telework Research Network’s data, regular telecommuting grew by 73% between 2005 and 2011—exponentially more than the 4.3% growth rate of the overall workforce.
Meanwhile, in 2012, 35 million hours were worked in oDesk’s online workplace—these are hours worked entirely remotely, by independent professionals who typically never set foot in their clients’ offices. This represents an 8x increase in hours worked on oDesk since 2009, showing the rise of the “work anywhere” trend. We believe this is just the beginning—by 2020, 1 in 3 people will be hired to work online, from anywhere they want.
At our company, we have 250 full-time-equivalent contractors around the world who work remotely for us, compared to 120 employees based in our headquarters. We also have a policy that employees in our Silicon Valley offices can work from home (or wherever they like) every Tuesday. We think this improves productivity, rather than diminishing it. It’s a day for people to put their heads down and focus on projects that might be more difficult to do with the interruptions of an office.
“A lot of modern workplaces aren’t conducive to productivity, especially for creative roles like developers or designers,” our director of product management—and former Yahoo staffer—Shane Kinder observes. “If you look at the productivity curve of a developer or designer, as the hours go by they get more and more productive. They’re thinking on a deeper level. So constant context switching is unproductive. You can’t get in the zone in 15-minute stretches. At big companies where there are a lot of meetings and distractions, this can be a problem. All our good code updates used to happen between 8pm and midnight, because that’s when developers were most productive.”
Businesses want to increase productivity, and workers want freedom. Flexibility is a win from both perspectives. Here are the benefits:
Thousands of dollars in cost savings, for both companies and employees
Improved productivity and creativity
Sustainability and environmental benefits
Better ability to recruit talent, especially from younger generations
In addition to increasing a company’s ability to attract star employees, allowing employees to work remotely also expands companies’ candidate pools beyond commuting radius—which is especially important given today‘s “talent war.” This enables companies to focus on finding the absolute best person, not just the one who is available nearby.
Companies need to resist the urge to stick their heads in the sand and ignore the changing reality of today’s workforce. The most competitive companies of tomorrow won’t shy away from this uncertainty—they will experiment and innovate, and pioneer new ways of working.
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Time is now: 24th February 2020 - 02:19 PM