Telecommuting: Dead or alive?

Moderated by Andrew Nusca | March 4, 2013 -- 07:00 GMT (23:00 PST)

Summary: Will Yahoo's 'no working from home' rule lead more of us back into the office? Should it?

Eileen Brown

Eileen Brown




Dan Kusnetzky

Dan Kusnetzky

Best Argument: Alive


Audience Favored: Alive (81%)

Closing Statements

Business requirements come first

Eileen Brown

Workers who occasionally work from home can benefit both the employee and the company. Having the flexibility to choose where you can do your best work is motivating and energising. Forcing your staff to work remotely can demoralise and demotivate individuals and teams – as can forcing workers to work in an office every day.

The key to success with occasional teleworking is to give workers the opportunity to work from home when they need to – as and when the business requirements allow.

Yahoo is comfortable with its workers working from home from time to time, but it wants its talent in the office to help it turn the company around and change corporate culture. Other organisations with workers that permanently work from home will be watching carefully. They will be watching how successful Yahoo becomes and might follow its lead – thereby changing the workplace for permanent telecommuters.

Distributed workforce makes sense

Dan Kusnetzky

It is clear that telework is neither a panacea nor the right choice for all. It is, however, a very good choice for staff involved in creative and independent work even if that work is part of a larger team. This approach can be used by forward-looking companies as a way to attract the best talent even though that talent might be located far away. It also demonstrates that a company understands that staff can perform well and contribute to the company even though they’re dealing with illness or other family problems.

Marissa Mayer, by implementing a policy of forcing remote worker to abandon their current homes, seek out and purchase a new home near Yahoo, and pay for a relocation out of pocket, is demonstrating that the company doesn’t live up to its word and doesn’t, unlike nearly every other competitor, have the internal systems or expertise to work with a distributed workforce.

The industry will get to watch what happens as Yahoo implements this grand experiment. Let’s all hope that the law of unintended consequences doesn’t use this and other of Marissa’s management decisions to drive Yahoo into an even worse position in the market.

Alive and well

Andrew Nusca

I'm glad we could explore the finer points of this debate, because as I said during the rebuttals phase, it's not a simple, black-or-white issue. Our debaters this week demonstrated that telecommuting can work for some (people, tasks, businesses) and not for others.

Whether it works for Yahoo or not isn't the point of this debate; it's whether telecommuting is dead or alive -- and how much Yahoo's decision will impact the industry at large. I think our debaters demonstrated this week that successful telework is far more impacted by task than edict, and while there are clearly pitfalls to avoid, it's not going anywhere fast. For this reason, I award Dan Kusnetzky with the win.


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  • Alive.


    Not every business will do it, but some will. So it's not dead.

    But it's not for every business, either.

    Sometimes I wonder if ZDNet bloggers truly understand the concept of "different businesses have different needs."

    "Will Yahoo's 'no working from home' rule lead more of us back into the office? Should it?"

    It shouldn't. A business should ALWAYS be making its own decisions independently. It should not be following a herd mentality of "do everything the same way as everybody else."
    Reply 10 Votes I'm Undecided
    • It's not what a lot of people think it is

      Telecommuting in the sense of business travel has changed drastically in the last 20-25 years. There were many times back in the 80's or 90's when we would fly all over for meetings but we do that a lot less now.

      As far as day to day work, telecommuting has its' place. I like working remotely once in a while but it helps to physically be around the team. Flexibility is an asset.
      Schoolboy Bob
      Reply Vote I'm Undecided
  • What a moronic question.

    Of course it's alive, the technology is only getting better. Just look at Google hangout, everything you need for a remote conference is there.
    Reply 1 Vote I'm for Alive
    • Broadband Required First

      No chance here only to remain stuck on dial-up BB speeds once Tony gets in come September...
      Reply Vote I'm Undecided
      • That's fine for you but

        The question is whether it is dead or alive, not whether or no some people still can't take advantage of it. Enough people have broadband for this to work for many corporations. If you can't use it, tough luck, that doesn't mean I won't be using it.

        Actually, if it snows in DC tomorrow I will be telecommuting to work. It's not dead for me or the large company I work for.
        Reply Vote I'm Undecided
    • Technology may be getting better

      but technology is usually better than some people will ever be.

      There are 3 kninds of workers. Those that can work remotely with minimal/no distractions. Those that work better closer to the team where closeness helps them focus. And those that need to be in the office with a hot poker in the back to keep them productive.

      I've worked in a cube for 13 years, 6 years on a technical bench and 12 years in a home office. If your boss thinks that you can be trusted, and earned it, fine. If not then prepare for the drive because you MAY have earned that too.
      Reply Vote I'm Undecided
    • Moronic Question?

      No, it's not. I have to admit there might be an attempt to paint the whole world the same color because in some cases it can work well and in other cases it's not practical while in yet others a mix of home/office works very well. You can't just make one blunt, irresponsible statement and expect to garner a readership from it.

      I often worked from home as Director of North America and Pac Rim offices and used the phone/emails for communications, depending on the immediacy of the situation. Working this way saved the company gobs of money in travel and even created some lasting relationships amongst the employees around the world.
      I still went to the offices for all meetiings, confidential work and large, world-wide conference calls to keep the foreign offices all up to date.

      It's meaningless, really, what the vote might be, as it is what it is and smart companies will manage it to their best advantage.
      Reply Vote I'm Undecided
  • Depends on the person and circumstances...

    If someone can prove they are responsible, can get work done, and still keep the lines of communication going, then they should be able to work from home.

    I still believe showing up at least 1-2x a week is good though, but cmon don't act like anybody dreams up great work ideas by talking at a watercooler. They are usually talking about their kids, or last night's tv show or sports game.
    Reply Vote I'm for Alive
  • Lazy

    I have to drive to work so why shouldn't everyone?

    People that "work" from home spend 80% of their time doing NOTHING productive
    Reply 1 Vote I'm for Dead
    • lazy?

      Sounds to me like you are the type who SHOULD be closely supervised.
      Jim Johnson
      Reply 4 Votes I'm Undecided