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March 18, 2013

Telecommuting Not a Crucial Retention Tool, Says Harris Allied Survey

By Jacqueline Lee, Contributing Writer

Since Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer started weaning her workforce off of telecommuting, many voices have weighed in about whether her decision was right or wrong.

FlexJobs, a website connecting workers with telecommuting jobs, offered 50 percent discounts on subscription services and touted a Stanford study claiming that telecommuting increased worker productivity by 15 percent.

On the other side of the aisle, Michael Schrage, an MIT (News - Alert) research fellow writing for the Harvard Business Review, said that Mayer’s job was to uproot practices that just weren’t working for the company.

“The logical inference to draw from Mayer's action is that she strongly believes Yahoo's current ‘stay@home’ telecommuting crowd would be significantly more valuable to the company — organizationally, operationally and culturally — if they came to work,” Schrage wrote.

“The crueler inference is that both the real and opportunity costs imposed by Yahoo's ‘work@homes’ greatly exceeded their technical and economic contributions.”

In light of this, a survey just released by Harris Allied found that most executives view professional development opportunities and career advancement as far more important for retention than telecommuting.

“Despite recent buzz about telecommuting and its impact on the workforce, technology professionals that are agents of change within an organization or considered stars within their field place far more value on their future professional development, as well as how much a company values their contributions, over work-life issues,” said Kathy Harris, who is Harris Allied’s managing director.

Harris says that feeling appreciated by one’s company trumps work-life balance; however, in a recent New York Times op-ed, former Lehman Brothers (News - Alert) CFO Erin Callan encourages women to think about what they lose when they throw themselves completely into their jobs.

“I did have relationships — a spouse, friends and family — and none of them got the best version of me,” Callan wrote. “They got what was left over.”

Whether or not telecommuting makes the workforce more productive, some employers think allowing telecommuting is worthwhile just to keep employees happy.

“Taking 10 minutes during the workday to provide your child a snack is not a drain. Allowing workers to break from e-mail to switch the laundry can be an energy boost,” Pamela Hawley, CEO of UniversalGiving, wrote in an article for Fast Company.

“If people are enthusiastic about their work and devoted to the company, that should outweigh any efficiency. The people who don't want to work full hours really aren't the people we want to keep anyway.”

Edited by Allison Boccamazzo
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