Does tele-commuting work?

We don’t normally comment on general management issues, but I have always wondered about the true effectiveness of tele-commuting and flex hours. I understand some flexibility in start and end times, but over the last 15 years flex time/tele-commuting has, in too many instances, come to mean “I will come in when I do, leave when I do and work from home when I do.” The logic being that as long as the “job gets done” what’s the issue.

Much has been written over the years as to the value of this approach with many pundits arguing that it was the “future” of management and work. My feeling was that most managers aren’t able to determine what level of white collar work should be done, so managing flex time and tele-commuting workers just added to the difficulty. It also suggests that face-to-face working was no longer of particular value in the “modern” world.

In truth, I believe that this approach was designed to deal with the needs of workers who either lived far away, had family issues or just preferred to work from home. Companies, to keep limited talent, agreed to these provisions and then convinced themselves it was a good management practice. For some it may have been, but I was never convinced it was really such a good idea. And it spread way beyond a few people to become standard business practice at many companies.

And now, news comes out today that tele-commuting and flex hours are on the downswing because employees are worried that not being on-site could cost them their jobs in today’s economy. Didn’t seem to bother anyone whether productivity was increased due to the flex and tele-commuting, but when it gets personal, the truth comes out.

Mitch

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