Amy Maclean

You could probably design entire college courses on the Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer’s decision to stop working from home, and another whole set on of instruction on the expectations she faces as a female CEO and mother. Then there is a whole business class on how the message was delivered.

Forgetting Mayer and Yahoo for a moment, it seems like working from home is becoming less popular among cable companies as well. WICT’s 2011 PAR Initiative found that full-time telecommuting is offered by 48% of cable telecom organizations, a decrease from 68% in 2009. However, cable does appear to be flexible on allowing it when something pops up (like the cable guy showing up) with 92% offering it on an ad-hoc basis. MSOs are more willing to allow telecommuting, with 100% allowing it on a part-time basis vs 57% for programmers. Some of this could relate to the different types of jobs at the companies. MSOs have launched virtual call centers in some instances. For example, Cox has some work-at-home CSRs in AZ, CA and the Northeast.

Despite the differences in numbers in the PAR report, don’t count programmers as having blanket objections to teleworking. Most HR leaders I heard from are supportive, saying each company needs to find the right mix for them. And yes, there is something to the collaboration argument that Yahoo raised in announcing its new policy.

“At Scripps, as at many organizations, short hallway conversations—or as I like to call them ‘workplace collisions’ – are often more productive than several long meetings and can be extremely effective at fueling innovation,” said Chris Powell, EVP of HR at Scripps Networks Interactive and CTHRA board pres. “Unfortunately virtual workers, and even workers in offices but not co-located with their respective teams, may lose out on those opportunities if the right tools and structure for flexible work, communication and collaboration don’t exist.”

Powell said Scripps is currently revamping its internal employee portal to offer more flexible access to info and tools from within and without offices. It’s also expanding video conferencing and the like for both meeting rooms and personal devices. Video conferences? No more working in your PJs.

Turner also stressed that flexibility is the key. “We’ve found that telecommuting and flexible work arrangements drive employee engagement and boost productivity,” said Alisha Penick, Vice President, Talent Programs and Engagement for Turner. “Our work flexibility policy allows employees and managers to determine what works best to meet business and personal needs both informally and formally, through telecommuting, compressed work week, flexible hours, and part-time work.”

And there can be some actual cost savings in telework. A white paper published in ’12 by Dell SonicWall found that AT&T saved $550mln by eliminating or consolidating office space and about 25% of IBM’s 320,000 workers worldwide telecommute from home offices, saving $700mln in real estate, according to HR consultant Lisa Kaye of Greenlight Jobs. “Technology may offer its challenges when it comes to being tied to a computer or smartphone erasing the concept of a ‘work week,’” said Kaye, who has consulted for OWN, Ticketmaster and Disney/ABC in addition to serving on CTHRA’s board. “The advantages of telecommuting far outweigh the challenges as employees trade the long commute time for the freedom of taking a conference call while dropping the kids off at school.  Employee retention and attraction is great when there is give and take on both sides of the desk.”

Here at CableFAX, we’re a bit of a mix. I’m writing this in our main office, and sending it to our editor who works from home, who will send it to another editor in a satellite office. Maybe the bottom line on teleworking should be whether the work gets done and business continues to grow.

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