A lot of people are quite upset over the fact that Hewlett-Packard is cutting back on telecommuting. (That’s decision-maker Randy Mott, H-P CIO, to the right, from the company’s Web site.)
This is not an either-or proposition. There are many times when telecommuting is preferable to getting in the car and going to work. But there is something to be said for the idea of exchanging experience, of learning by seeing colleagues, and of passing along what you know face-to-face.
My lovely bride, for instance. Usually works in the office. Sometimes works from home. Gets more actual work done at home. Has more productive meetings at the office. And when people are working in cubes, the location of those cubes does not create training.
What’s wrong here is the framing, not the policy.
When you have a project that needs to be done, that is mainly your
responsibility, then you need the time and quiet of a home office.
People in home offices often spend more hours at their desks than
people with desks. (That’s Ricky Gervais, originator of The Office on the BBC, from the Beeb’s Web site.)
There are also times when you need to be at the office. When you’re
working on a group project. When there is specific training to be done.
The Mercury-News story (and the commentaries which followed it) were
wrong in making this about or when it should be about and. There are
times to be alone, and there are times to be together.
By the same token, many of the advantages Mott sees in
making everyone schlepp to the office might be gained through "shared
teleworking," where a single junior employee goes to the home of a
senior, and they get the work done together. A lot more can also be
done by apportioning work among a number of satellite offices, with
fast data links, so workers have shorter commutes most of the time,
don’t have to trouble with the expense of a home office, but still have
that home-office as back-up.
In the end it doesn’t matter that much where work is done. So long as
it’s done. And so long as you can defend it, explain it, and implement
I would feel sorry for Mott, and H-P, if they really feel this is an or thing, or that the expenses of working and dressing for work don’t matter. They may not matter to the company, but they do matter to morale, and to long-term productivity. Not to mention the country, and the air.
If Mott does think this is an or question, he’s re making himself vulnerable to someone else who has a Clue.