Working from home for large corporations has increased by 60% over the past five years or so, and at some companies, almost half the staff telecommutes. Studies have demonstrated a number of benefits:
- A Stanford study found that Chinese call-center employees who worked from home were thirteen per cent more productive.
- Another estimated that a ten-per-cent increase in telecommuting could save a hundred billion dollars in lost time and expenses.
- By putting home at the center of society, it reintegrates work and family.
- By cutting down on physical commuting it cuts emissions and saves the environment
- Flexible work arrangements produce higher employee satisfaction, motivation and engagement as well as lower staff turnover.
But, as part of her so-far-successful efforts to turnaround and rebuild Yahoo, C.E.O. Marissa Mayer has banned all telecommuting.
So why’s a futuristic company like Yahoo rewinding the future?
It’s realized that for all the benefits of telecommuting, there were three areas where more was being lost than gained.
1. Loss of informal communication
It’s much harder for telecommuters to have the kind of informal and unplanned interaction that shares knowledge, challenges people to see things from another’s perspective, gets them out of their mental ruts, and stimulates creativity and productivity. Less communication means less collaboration.
2. Loss of trust
Telecommuting makes it harder to foster trust and solidarity. Face time is still the best way to build relationships. Studies have found that even occassional face-to-face meetings of “virtual teams” significantly increased trust and boosted performance.
3. Loss of energy
Yahoo’s office was virtually empty on a Friday, demoralizing and sucking the life out of the rare few who did turn up to the ghost town.
Telecommuting to church?
If this is true of Yahoo, how much more of your local church. You might be able to get better sermons online, or it might be just so much more “efficient” to simply listen to your pastor’s podcast. But if you regularly “telecommute” to church, you are losing more than you are gaining. You are losing valuable opportunities to learn from the “chance” meetings with other Christians in the foyer, in the corridors, and in the car park. You are undermining trust and unity between Christians. And you are sapping vital energy from the demoralized body of Christ.
So push yourself out of bed, get in the car, and get along to your local church. You’ll learn surprising lessons from the most surprising people, you’ll build valuable relationships, and you’ll get and give morale-boosting energy.