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Does Telecommuting Have Value?

A recent March 2013 article in the National Post has reopened the debate on value of telecommuting to the organization, resurrecting company concerns (productivity and collaboration), client engagement (client service and quick response) and the employee satisfaction (work/life balance) as the usual players in the debate.

Does Telecommuting Have Value?In the National Post article, Marissa Mayer, Yahoo’s new CEO, has mandated Yahoo’s staff to come [back] into the office to work, or quit”1. Ms. Mayer’s rationale, based on an internal leaked memo noted that – “To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side – Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home.”1

It’s a concern that is front-of-mind when deploying a telecommuting or telework strategy. Though the benefits seem obvious, managers often have nagging concerns about workday efficiency, client interaction, and, ultimately, revenue and customer satisfaction.

Despite this traditional view, the value of telecommuting is substantial. When properly deployed, telework a significant tool in extending the reach of the organization. In fact, the right employee, working remotely actually works longer that someone in the office and there’s a large body of evidence to support the claim 2.

There is plenty of good research available to justify telecommuting/telework so I won’t go into it here, but when a telework strategy fails, it fails because it is not rolled out properly. Here are some ideas to do it right;

  • Use technology to integrate the team into the organization – IT applications such as secure IP phones, desktop videoconferencing and secure VPN connections make it easy to give remote staff all the tools that they would have in the office. Giving remote staff an IP phone is an important strategy. As an IP phone is an extension of the in-office phone system, this approach means that customers are calling your organization rather than a stand-alone cell phone. All the benefits of your existing voice mail, messaging and your customer support team are available to callers.
  • Bring staff in for regular face-to face sessions – working side-by-side is important sometimes for teams to be productive. Schedule in-office sessions to keep everyone collaborating and connected.
  • Deploy CRM and communication monitoring tools – Many CRM systems such as ACT! and SalesForce.com will integrate with the office phone system as well so that email and phone interaction that remote staff have with clients can be tracked and managed.
Telecommuting Tips
  • Understand remote staff health and safety and the complexity of a home-based office – 911, fire safety, home office setup, even desktop ergonomics are among a long list of things to consider when implementing telework policies. A good resource can be found on the Canadian Occupational Health and Safety website athttp://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/hsprograms/telework.html

Though Yahoo’s CEO has mandated an in-office work policy, the benefits of telework to the organization and to staff are too good to pass up.

1 http://news.nationalpost.com/2013/03/02/does-yahoo-ceo-marissa-mayers-memo-telling-staff-to-come-into-the-office-signal-the-end-of-telecommuting/

2 http://www.scientificamerican.com/podcast/episode.cfm?id=telecommuters-work-longer-hours-tha-12-12-26