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Telecommuting - the future ain't what it used to be

Asher Moses and Ben Grubb (via SMH) | Feb. 25, 2013

Wollongong animator Phil Jennings moved from Sydney to get early access to the NBN and now works from home.

Photo: Sylvia Liber

With Yahoo and Google sledging teleworking as slow and detrimental to work quality and creativity, has working from home lost its lustre?

Yahoo's head of human resources Jackie Reses sent out a memo on Friday telling remote staff they must be working in the office by June and if they had an issue they could quit.

Is this the end to what Deloitte said would be one of the biggest structural changes to the Australian labour market this decade?

Teleworkers report having more time to spend with the family and increased productivity.

Photo: Eve Fisher

Not so fast, say experts including Dr Yvette Blount, research co-ordinator at Macquarie University's Australia Anywhere Working Research Network, who argues that while Silicon Valley innovators may thrive on being together in the office, teleworking in Australia is taking off.

A new Melbourne University study published in the Telecommunications Journal of Australia found people who work from home start earlier, work up to three hours longer and get more done, while they felt more energised, less stressed and had fewer distractions.

Millions of Australians already do some work from home and this number expected to increase with the National Broadband Network (NBN). “There is a lot of telework occurring that is informal that's not being captured in the official statistics,” said Dr Blount.

However it is clear that teleworking isn't for everyone, including, ironically, some of the very companies building the online email, instant messaging, office productivity and other tools that enable us to work from anywhere.

“Being a Yahoo isn't just about your day-to-day job, it is about the interactions and experiences that are only possible in our offices,” said Reses in the Yahoo memo.

“Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings. Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home.”

BusinessInsider quoted a source saying Yahoo had many people working exclusively from home who were not productive.

In Sydney last week Google's chief financial officer Patrick Pichette, said “as few as possible” Google staff worked from home because it was not as conducive to collaboration and creating “magical moments”.


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