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Less-Is-More Blog by Pierre Khawand

Yahoo and the Work-from-Home Debate: Is Remote Work Bad for Productivity?

Posted by Pierre Khawand on Wed, Feb 27, 2013 @ 03:26 PM

describe the imageBy Pi Wen Looi, Ph.D.

Dr. Pi Wen Looi and Dr. James Ware will be presenting at our complimentary Lunch & Learn Webinar, Leveraging Mobile Work to Engage Your Employees, Thursday, March 7 at noon PT. Register now for this free information session on the latest remote work findings. 

The recent Yahoo internal memo that requests employees to work in their offices has stirred up quite a lot of discussion on the Internet. And it’s no wonder—most knowledge workers and Gen Y employees are accustomed to the flexibility of working from home sometimes. People are increasingly working on-the-go. The boundaries of office, workspace, home, and third-places are increasingly blurred. Enabled by the latest mobile devices, tablets, and easy access to the Internet, work is more about what you do or accomplish, not where you get it done.

Numerous studies have shown that people working away from their offices are more productive because they are less likely to be interrupted by coworkers who drop by their cubicles, take fewer sick days, and save time on their long commute. These positive results extend to call center employees, as well. People who telecommute are also more satisfied with their work/life balance as they are better able to control their workflow during the day.

So why is Yahoo requiring their employees to return to work in offices?

describe the imageIt is hard to say what’s the ultimate goal of the new policy. Based on discussions on the Internet and blogosphere, it seems that some Yahoo employees have taken advantage of their telecommuting policy and are not performing at their jobs. The memo points to the benefits of having better communication and collaboration when people work side-by-side, and increased insights, speed, and quality when employees work in the same physical locations.

Regardless of the tone of the memo and how it’s communicated with Yahoo employees, let’s take a look at the key issues Yahoo raised:  productivity, communication, and collaboration.

Productivity. By now, many studies have shown that doing work remotely or telecommuting does, in fact, increase workers’ productivity. The issue at Yahoo seems like a performance issue, not a telecommuting issue. If Yahoo employees abuse their telecommuting policy, it’s imperative that managers/leaders take action to hold employees accountable, recognize their performance, and follow-up with employees who do not perform. Perhaps this new policy is the first step Yahoo leaders are taking to hold employees accountable for their performance.

Communication. While it is true that the serendipity that happens at cafeterias, hallways, or water-coolers can lead to great insights, there are many technologies that facilitate effective communications, from smart-phone to online meeting tools. Regardless of whether you work in the office or in a remote location, there are ways to communicate with coworkers. The key is to ensure that access to the company intranet, relevant technology, and the speed of connection are not barriers to remote workers.

Collaboration. Similar to communication, there are many online collaboration tools that enable employees to work together while they are physically apart. Work is increasingly distributed. For companies that have dispersed geographical locations, it is impossible to require a team of employees to always work side-by-side in a conference room. There are stages of collaboration. Sometimes your team will need to work together to ideate, confirm objectives and strategies. Other times your team members will need to go off to do solo work or have quiet time to think before they get together and collaborate on ideas. Solo work and thinking may best be accomplished while working from home or in a space without constant interruptions.

The bottom line:  remote work is here to stay. It’s the employees’ responsibility to earn trust from their managers, be accountable for their performance, and accomplish what they set out to do. It’s the management’s responsibility to have relevant people practices that facilitate remote work, hold employees accountable, and have clear consequences when employees do not perform. Last but not least, employees should have easy access to the information and resources they need, either in the cloud or on company servers, to enable productive work from anywhere.

What do you think? Is remote work a peril to productivity? How would you address the issues highlighted by the Yahoo memo? Please share your thoughts and comments below.

Join Dr. Looi and Dr. Ware at our free Lunch & Learn Webinar, Thursday, March 7 at noon PT:  Leveraging Mobile Work to Engage Your Employees. Space is limited. Reserve your webinar seat now!

Pi Wen Looi, Ph.D., is the founder and principal of Novacrea Research Consulting. For more information, please visit www.NovacreaResearch.com.

Topics: generations in the workplace, virtual teams, productivity, Lunch & Learn Webinars, webinars

Can Baby Boomers learn a thing or two from Gen Y? Yes they can!

Posted by Pierre Khawand on Fri, May 06, 2011 @ 09:06 PM

learn from Gen YI belong to this organization (its name to remain anonymous) and it was time to renew my membership recently. I was asked to fill out the membership application again (same application that we filled out last year). Being the productivity and efficiency evangelist that I am, I couldn’t “digest” that request very well. So I objected and questioned why we would be asked to submit the same information again! Shouldn’t we all be focused on doing work that has some purpose after all?

This didn’t stop here! When the application was not received in time, our company profile was deleted from the organization’s website and it seems it was not stored in any other backend database. Now we have to fill out an application that we already filled out previously, and re-submit the profile information that we have submitted previously!

This didn’t stop here either. I got a lengthy response from the baby boomer in charge, explaining the logic behind the “illogical” process!

Let us learn something from Gen Y. And that is having things be practical and doing only things that make sense! Not to mention that Gen Y can’t learn a thing or two from Baby Boomers—I will point that out at the next opportunity as I continue to promote a multi-generational workplace where we all learn from each other! What can you learn from other generations? Your turn!

More Resources

Review recordings of the following lunch & learn webinars at the "Accomplishing more with less" Facebook group:

  • Gen Y in Action by Jenny Blake
  • Gen X in Action by Adam Christensen
  • Baby Boomers in Action by Peggy Wolf
  • Seniors in Action by Bill Denyer
  • Generational Panel Discussion


Topics: generations in the workplace, business results, productivity, collaboration

3 steps to help bridge the gap between generations in the workplace, by Jenny Blake

Posted by Pierre Khawand on Sat, Oct 23, 2010 @ 05:09 PM

Gen Y in the workplaceIf you have been part of our community and participated in our lunch and learn webinars, you probably heard some of Jenny’s exceptional presentations on a variety of workplace issues. If you are new to our community or unexpectedly stumbled on this article, check out the recordings of Jenny’s presentations at the "Accomplishing more with less" group on Facebook:

You probably guessed it by now; Jenny is Gen Y! And no surprise that the above is only one facet of what Jenny does. She is also the author of the upcoming book, Life After College: The Complete Guide to Getting What You Want (Running Press, 2011) and she blogs at LifeAfterCollege.org, where she provides simple, practical tips about life, work, money, happiness and personal growth. Her goal is to help people focus on the BIG picture of their lives, not just the details. And by the way, I don’t think I mentioned that she also works at Google, and has been there for almost five years, currently as a Career Development Program Manager and internal coach. And there is more, but we will leave it for future articles!

One of the questions that came up in the Generations in the Workplace Panel Discussion, in which Jenny represented Gen Y, was about bridging the gap between generations and what can generations learn about each other and from each other. As a follow-up to that discussion, and continuing the effort of bridging the gap between generations, Jenny volunteered some additional insights about how best to manage Gen Y in the workplace. 

Tips for Managing Gen Y by Jenny Blake

1. Deliver feedback consistently. Generation Y thrives on feedback. Many of us grew up playing sports, and we are used to getting regular, specific tips about how to improve. Many members of our generation genuinely want to perform at our best and meet (if not far exceed) managers' expectations. Help us contribute as much as we can to the organization by giving us regular, timely feedback. One suggestion for doing this is to put "feedback" as a standing agenda item for your 1:1 meetings so that it becomes a regular, natural part of the communication cycle between managers and employees. Feedback can go in both directions (feedback for the manager should be part of the process) and should include both positive and constructive items as they come up -- no need to force either one. 

2. Set clear expectations. Generation Y grew up completely engaged with (if not often distracted by) technology. It is true that we are constantly being pulled in a number of directions - text messaging, emails, IMs, Twitter, Facebook, the list goes on. Instead of focusing on how we spend (or split) our attention, focus on setting clear performance expectations, then let us get there in a way that makes sense for each individual. Set aggressive deadlines and be specific about the deliverables -- if we meet them, hopefully it will matter less if we are tweeting or texting during the day, as long as we are also getting our work done in an exceptional manner.

3. Set us up to work collaboratively. Generation Y is a social generation who grew up highly involved in after-school sports, clubs and activities. Most of us love to work as a team -- we have better ideas, we hold each other accountable, and we thrive on the idea of learning with others. I, for one, far prefer working with a team (or even directly with my manager) on projects rather than working alone feeling like I am in a vaccum. Set Millennials up for success by giving them projects that encourage collaboration and team work. Although having more people involved sometimes slows things down, it can just as easily work to speed things up and improve the end product.

Visit LifeAfterCollege.org for more tips from Jenny and follow her on Twitter @jenny_blake

Topics: generations in the workplace

Baby Boomers at work: Elderly care, healthcare, retirement, knowledge transfer, and cross generational issues

Posted by Pierre Khawand on Sun, Apr 11, 2010 @ 10:50 AM

baby boomersThe setting was our weekly Lunch & Learn Webinars, the topic was "Generations in the Workplace: Baby Boomers in Action", and our guest speaker was Peggy Wolf, who in addition to being a Baby Boomer herself, is also Senior Manager of Communications for the Services Division of Cisco Systems, and has been focusing for the past 3 years on Cisco's inclusion and diversity initiatives, and led the creation of a Multicultural, Multigenerational Toolkit for Cisco worldwide. 

The discussion covered a variety of topics and didn't stop at Baby Boomers, but got into cross generational issues. I enjoyed talking to Peggy and hearing her insights on this timely topic. Here are some extracts from Peggy's talk and stay tuned for the full recording of the interview to be posted at the "Accomplishing more with less" group on Facebook soon:

  • First: Baby Boomers have a whole new range of issues to deal with, more so than other generations, including aging parents that need care, own health issues that they need to mange, and therefore the additional need for flexibility and balance.
  • Second: Baby Boomers hold valuable knowledge and experience (Intellectual Property as Peggy called it) that need to be retained as this generation gets ready to retire. This brought up the bigger issue of what retirement looks like for Baby Boomers and which according to Peggy seems to have taken a whole new meaning. Retirement is no longer a clear cut transition but potentially a gradual and flexible hybrid approach which makes room for continued significant contributions to work related activities.
  • Third: Having the different generations in the workplace together presents some unique challenges and opportunities, especially with Baby Boomers and Gen Y who represent the largest percentages of the workforce, and have very different work styles and approaches--and a lot to learn from each other.

Let us hear your comments about Baby Boomers in the workplace below! And hope you join us in future lunch & learn webinars including the panel where we hope to have Peggy (Baby Boomer), Jenny Blake (Gen Y), and Adam Christensen (Gen X), join a cross-generational panel discussion.

Additional Resources

Topics: generations in the workplace, Lunch & Learn Webinars