As the pressure on struggling Silicon Valley companies Yahoo, and now Hewlett-Packard have increased, the pressure on telecommuting has increased. Now, Meg Whitman, CEO of Hewlett-Packard has joined Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer in calling HP’s telecommuting employees back to work. The problem seems to be that telecommuting employees are now being perceived like recipients of food stamps and welfare: freeloaders taking advantage of corporations, being less productive and costing corporations more than they are worth. The Marissa Mayer Yahoo decision sparked a debate on these issues as well as the benefits and disadvantages of telecommuting. My cut on this is that the benefits of employees who see themselves as consummate professionals, who are essentially “on duty” 24/7 is incalculable, and is part of Silicon Valley culture.
I am both bemused and respectful of the predominant Canadian business culture that seems to dictate that business is in a state of complete suspension during evenings and weekends. It is considered an invasion of privacy to continue pursuing business during weekends in Canada. By contrast, I explain to people that Silicon Valley is 24/7 and no one thinks anything about it. That is the way it is. When I tell my students and colleagues that I am available pretty much anytime, anywhere to discuss business, they are flabbergasted. It has also never been abused. If I choose not to be available I simply do not respond, or explain when I will be available.
I think that the Yahoo and Hewlett-Packard tightening of telecommuting policy will ultimately backfire, if they do not recognize that real Silicon Valley professionals work 24/7 unlike those in Canada.
No more working at home for Hewlett-Packard employees
In the early days of the digital revolution, the idea that anyone could workanywhere was enough to entice workers everywhere to request telecommuting options. But when Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer announced a ban on working from home in February, it ruffled feathers in the corporate world. Critics slammed the decision saying it was inflexible, hurting long commuters and working mothers, among others.
Now Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman is following in a similar fashion. Although she hasn’t put into place a outright ban, she announced that she wants everyone to work at the office saying, “During this critical turnaround period, HP needs all hands on deck.”
“But that doesn’t necessarily translate into across the board, stamp of approval on telecommuting, at every moment, in every industry, for every company,” she says.
Supporters of the ban on telecommuting would be happy to know that since Mayer’s annoucement, Yahoo’s stock has shot up. Koehn says that although it’s hard to demonstrate an exact correlation, there are some positive changes at Yahoo that are hard to ignore.
“Not all work is meant to be done alone,” she says. “A lot of work — the best work, often — is done with others in serious pursuit, and often in a place where everyone meets to do it.”