I’m tired of the debate on telecommuting. I’ve seen the data, and the answer is clear: Work-from-home employees are less efficient. It isn’t even close.
Here are just some of the things we found at Enkata when we analyzed workforce performance data:
People who come into the office just get more done. In one data set, office based workers were 50% more productive than people at home. Maybe they’re learning from their peers. Or maybe they just have a better idea of what is expected of them. Bottom line is more output per work hour.
Don’t blame water cooler chatter for distracting employees. Home based workers have distractions of their own. It shows up in their work. Enkata found that home based agents have 30% more idle time during their work hours than office based employees.
Amazingly, home workers take longer to get to the kitchen and back then office based workers take to get their lunches. Or, more accurately, what we found was that home based workers have a higher percentage of hours clocked out on breaks.
Another surprising part of the debate is that there is no discussion about the software tools that employers can use to track what their workers are doing. Marissa Mayer looked at the VPN logs to spot a problem. Really? That’s the data source a data driven executive would use. Even basic desktop analytics tools can help employers understand more than Marissa had. At Enkata, we’ve developed far more advanced tools than that.
But even though remote workers are less efficient, that doesn’t mean employers should shut down the telecommute option. In fact, Enkata has found a variety of things that impact remote worker productivity. Remote workers get hit with everything from slower VPN connections that make applications bog down, to an inability to get help when they get stuck. It’s hard for managers and workers to see and resolve these problems.
Besides, telecommuting has many advantages. It allows companies to save on office space, hire people in lower cost areas, and source candidates from a broader pool.
The problem is that many companies, Yahoo included, manage telecommuters exactly the same as they would manage people in the office. This doesn’t work. Managers need tools to help them understand what their workers are doing. Remote workers need better tools to understand how they fit in, and keep them engaged in their jobs.
Telecommuting is here to stay, and will continue to grow in popularity for many good reasons. But for the next phase of the debate, please talk about how to make telecommuting work, not if it can work.
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