Earlier this year Yahoo! banned flexi-working across it’s workforce, new CEO Marissa Mayer keen to get employees back at their desks.
A former Google exec eager to address the company’s decline, she insisted that the best ideas and decisions came from communal workplaces with their ‘hallway and cafeteria discussions, and impromptu team meetings’.
Far from breaking convention, she seems to be following something of a tech trend, her previous employers, Google, another company that’s gone cold on flexi-working. When pushed on the matter, Patrick Pichette – Google’s chief financial officer – remarked that ‘as few as possible’ staff are allowed to telecommute.
Two Silicon Valley stalwarts associated with forward thinking, you would have thought that they would be at the forefront of the flexi-working movement. Instead they’re appearing rather anachronistic – 21st tech obscuring 20th century working practices.
We take a slightly different view, and we always let our employees work remotely where circumstances allow them to.
Our team are often out and about, and it’s important they can work from wherever they end up. We recently took a desk at Shoreditch’s amazing Google Campus to allow our new Affiliate Manager Cliff to come and go as he pleases, and our Web Editor Jon worked overseas for a month shortly before marrying his American partner. We’re shortly to be joined by a new Marketer who left her old job after struggling to manage the school run; she’ll be office-based most of the day, and work from home when her kids’ needs come first.
This isn’t to say flexible working is a cure-all. Some of our roles simply aren’t suitable for it – those in the Operations team for instance – but with the increasing wealth of technological innovations, staff simply aren’t as tied to their desks as they once were. Some of our team can work anywhere as long as they have a good internet connection and a laptop. Often just an iPad or a smartphone will do the job.
I recently took part in a roundtable discussion at the Institute of Directors on the subject of remote and flexible working. My fellow panel members (apart from the irrepressible Xenios of PeoplePerHour) were quick to dismiss the concept – I argued it can be done well, but should not be approached as a binary decision. There are shades of grey in the remote working argument, and I’m convinced it can work on some level within any organisation.
Of our entire team, I travel the most. I’ve endlessly tinkered and tweaked to get the right mobile working setup, and I can now run Crunch quite effectively with just my iPad. A few tracking apps let me monitor every key business metric, and a nifty VOIP app forwards my business line directly to my mobile devices when I’m out of the office.
Mayer is right in some regards; a presence in the workplace does carry benefits, but banning flexible working outright is a rather draconian approach, and potentially could achieve little more than alienating employees – especially those with children to look after.
A recent study by the RSA found that employees estimated they could gain around five extra working hours a week through flexi-working, this increased productivity translating into savings of £4,200 per year for their employers. This sizeable sum further reinforces flexible working as a mutually beneficial employment model.
Rather than viewing employees working from home with suspicion, I would encourage businesses to integrate flexi-working into their HR policies. Freelancers and contractors all work effectively outside the corporate cocoon – why shouldn’t full-time employees too?
There’s a lot to learn from the likes of Yahoo! and Google, but to my mind, they’ve called this one wrong. Far from being bad, flexible working can help build a better business and better employees – and it’s for this reason we’re embracing it at Crunch.
What do you think? Let me know your thoughts below!