At work

Daily Dance: To Telecommute or Not to Telecommute?

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On February 25th, 2013, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer announced a corporate decision to end telecommuting at Yahoo within the next six months. The internet went wild. No more working in your pajamas. No more leisurely breakfasts with the spouse (spice) and kids. No more Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 breaks in between tasks to ‘freshen the brain’.

On the other hand, Yahoo employees will have enhanced opportunities to get to know each other, collaborate in ways that are not necessarily doable without face to face contact, and share a space together. At least that’s the company line.

Completely coincidentally, the second round of ‘the Blizzard that ate Kansas City’ has hit today, and I am working from home (on my day job, that is). In other words, after a leisurely breakfast (in my pajamas) I will move my laptop to my home office for privacy, sit in the comfort of the old easy chair up there, and spend the day doing tasks related to my job as a therapist. I don’t play Modern Warfare, so my work breaks will involve Minecraft, knitting, or possibly Star Wars: The Old Republic.

‘Phone therapy’ and video therapy have been a controversial topic in my field for some time. One advantage that has been discussed is making therapy more accessible to participants with conditions that leave them housebound, including various physical issues, agoraphobia and sometimes major depression. Technology can also allow therapists to reach people in ultra-rural areas more easily.

On the con side, therapy is an inherently face to face process, with tone of voice, body language, and even setting sometimes critical to the process. Skype can help, but has some limitations. Several modalities of therapy involve participation in joint tasks. In addition, it is also important to safeguard health data in such a way that HIPPA regulations protecting patient privacy are upheld.

Other industries have different issues with telecommutes. While online learning has become commonplace in the last few years, educators struggle to replicate the give and take of discussion common to well run university classrooms on learning websites. Home based offices often lose the advantages of scale and efficiency when dozens or hundreds of people are sharing expensive equipment or able to ‘cover’ each other as needed.

And yet: working in your pajamas. No commute. The comfort of your own office, or couch, or easy chair. Breaks among your favorite things and people and spaces. Working with a cat on your lap. The advantages could be very sweet.

Let’s explore the idea of telecommuting a little more deeply:

  • Have you ever telecommuted in your current job? Any earlier jobs? For an education?
  • Would you consider a telecommute for a future job? Why or why not?
  • For you, what would the primary advantage of a telecommute be? Disadvantage?
  • What industries do you think translate well to working from home, at least part of the time? What industries are a bad fit? Why?
  • What would be the toughest adjustment to a telecommute for you? The easiest?
  • In your field, would it make more sense to telecommute full time, or to simply have planned or unplanned days of working from home on occasion? What factors into this?
  • How would telecommuting impact your work-life balance? Would there be an overall benefit or would you anticipate problems? Describe those advantages and disadvantages.
  • What expenses would you have to shoulder to telecommute regularly, that your employer would not cover for you? How would it impact your employer financially if you worked from home on a full or part time basis?
  • Would your health habits change? Would you have more or less time to exercise and/or meditate? Would you eat healthier or less healthy meals? Why?
  • How would regular or irregular telecommuting affect your family relationships?
  • If you telecommuted regularly, would you invest in your home workspace to significantly change it? What would you do?
  • Would you (or have you) have trouble ‘turning work off’ when working at home? Would this (or has it) cause conflicts with family?
  • Do you find that you work harder at home, or find yourself ‘slacking off’, or does it depend? If it depends, what does it depend on?
  • Overall, would working from home, either full time or as needed, generally improve or worsen your life? Why? How would it impact your employer?

As always, feel free to use today’s dance to spark an interesting discussion with friends, or simply to organize your own thoughts on the issue. You are welcome to (and encouraged to!) share this post via the buttons below. If you want to get a new dance every day, don’t forget to like my Facebook page or add Am I the Only One Dancing? To your RSS feed or subscribe by email.

Enjoy the dance!

  • Why Can’t Yahoo! Employees Work From Home? (
  • 4 Reasons Yahoo’s Telecommuting Ban Won’t Last (
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  • Ravan Asteris

    So, the blanket ban on telecommute will hit people who work remotely hardest – ie those who don’t live where there are yahoo offices. Then the ban on casual telecommuting will crimp people whose commutes are long, or those who concentrate better when they are away from noisy offices. Because, in spite of all the bullshit spread about “collaboration”, some shit in the tech industry you just need to sit down and *do* without anyone getting up in your business. Also, when someone is coming down sick, has a migraine, or has a sick kid, they now have to go in to the office or burn PTO. So more people would show up to work sick, which is one of my pet peeves.

    “Collaboration” sounds all lofty and good, but it comes down to control, and half-assed, insecure or incompetant managers being able to look over low cube walls to watch their slaves work. It’s back to the 70s time for Yahoo, IMO.