Who's left to stand up for teleworking?

While Yahoo and Google have taken a stance against teleworking, Intel has come out in full support of giving employees freedom to work anywhere. So should businesses rethink their approach on allowing employees to work outside of the office?
Written by Spandas Lui, Contributor

As technology advancements make working away from the desk much easier, teleworking seems like the way of the future. But with technology juggernauts stepping out to say "nay" to teleworking, this future where employees can work wherever they please has been put into question.

Recently, I serendipitously found myself chatting to a woman who was an employee of Google in Australia. I probed her about working at one of the world's coolest companies, marvelling at the fact that Google caters lunch for staff every day at the office, only for her to dismiss the perk as one with an ulterior motive.

"They do it because they want to keep us in the office and at our desks," she said.

It was hard to believe that a company as progressive as Google would seemingly shun remote working. That was until Google CFO Patrick Pichette revealed to the Sydney Morning Herald last week that the company doesn't like the idea of teleworking.

According to Pichette, it is important for Google employees to be able to see each other in the office to share new and innovative ideas.

Yahoo's recent ban on teleworking also illustrates the fact that there is still a stigma attached to it, with staff that work away from the office being perceived as not as productive due to the lack of supervision.

A recent study by recruitment firm Ambition showed that many IT workers in Australia don't have flexible working conditions, such as remote working and negotiable work hours. Ambition's managing director for technology Andrew Cross said that IT employees are reluctant to let employees telework because they don't trust employees to work as hard when they're not in the office.

The Federal government has been a big supporter of teleworking. Even startups are getting together and working outdoors these days. Is freeing employees from their cubicle prisons really all that bad?

Intel's general manager of enterprise solutions Gordon Graylish stands against Google and Yahoo when it comes to teleworking.

With over 91,500 employees around the world and a robust bring-your-own-device (BYOD) program, Intel is a big supporter of remote working.

"All companies need to consider all of their employees," Graylish told ZDNet. "Frankly, the more we can accommodate for people's lifestyles, the better, and if we can provide them with tools to work effectively wherever they are, we will."

To complement its BYOD policy, Intel recently started rolling out company-issued Windows 8 touch devices to employees, to ensure that they have the right equipment to be as productive as possible, he said.

"I spend a lot of my time engaged with the company from different parts of the world, and Intel has made that really easy for me to do, whether it is through video conferencing or connecting to the corporate environment — the walls have sort of disappeared, and I think that's part of modern life," Graylish said. "We live in a world that is moving very quickly, and we need to enable people to operate in the most comfortable and effective fashion."

As for doubts about employee productivity while working away from the office, the Intel executive doesn't buy into that perception at all. According to Graylish, around 85 percent of Intel's staff work from a mobile device, be it notebooks or tablets.

"We expect people to get their jobs done, not that they need to be at a particularly place, or do it at a particular time," he said. "When you're looking at global organisations, finding ways to connect people so there is a sense of community among those people is really important.

"But at the same time, do people work harder because they are being watched? I don't think so."

Google and Yahoo's motivations to discourage teleworking are legitimate. Ideas can flourish in group environments, and having employees in the office means productivity is easier to measure. But being tied to a desk seems like such an archaic concept when mobile devices, complete with collaboration tools, are at the disposal of companies willing to trust their employees to work effectively from anywhere in the world.

What are your thoughts on remote working? Do you think Google and Yahoo are heading down the right direction in terms of shunning teleworking? Let us know in the comments section below.

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