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Is removing telework a morale crushing mistake? DorobekINSIDER’s Telework Week

All week the DorobekINSIDER will be talking telework. Last month Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer outlawed telework at her company. The reaction to the news was swift on both sides. With some opponents calling the decision an attack on working mothers or a real push for innovation.

Yesterday we talked with San Francisco State University Professor John Sullivan who said innovation and telework don’t mix.

But Suzanne McGee has a slightly different take. McGee is a columnist for Fiscal Times. She told Chris Dorobek that, “American workers are feeling pressure for tight budgets, job insecurity and higher demands. So for some, the only benefit that is left is flexibility. Sometimes innovation requires you to not be part of the game.”

“The Mayer decision ties directly back into how everyone thinks of the work/life balance,” said McGee. “Job flexibility helps reconcile people to some of the current pressures (low salaries, job insecurity, heightened demands). And what Mayer has said in the eyes of those people is, ‘you know what I don’t really care,’ so for many workers this move is the last straw.”

Professor Sullivan says Innovation can’t thrive with telework. Do you agree?

“Mayer has a very difficult job ahead of her. She is running a company that is trying to reinvent itself. I wouldn’t want to second guess her judgement about what is necessary to do. What I quibble with is the idea that innovation requires people to be in constant close communication. I would argue a slightly different perspective. I think innovation requires the ability and willingness to communicate and share ideas in an ad hoc way but it equally requires people to have blocks of time where they can think their own thoughts. Time where they are not being shaped by popular consensus around the watercooler,” said McGee.

Does a no telework policy bring down employee morale?

“Mayer’s job is to produce the maximum return for her shareholders investment. Her job isn’t to make it easier for her employees to balance their home and life issues. However, in order to retain or attract top talent she is going to have to walk a very narrow line. She can’t do anything to significantly erode morale at the company. And often times employee morale comes down to issues like flexibility,” said McGee.

Can technology facilitate collaboration?

“Conference calls or google plus hangouts or any of those devices can really aide the process. The calls can feel very free floating. It is a touch more artificial feeling, but you can fulfill the same objectives,” said McGee.

You can find all our telework week stories by searching key word: Telework Week.

  • John Sullivan: Impossible to Innovate and Telework? One Professor says YES. Find out why?
  • Jennifer Glass: It’s about the work, not the office.
  • Tom Fox: PTO Does Telework Right, Can Your Agency Copy It?
  • Jack Nilles: Is Traditional Office Space Dysfunctional?

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