Words by Anna Howard
Yahoo CEO Melissa Mayer caused uproar earlier this year when she hit the kill switch on the company's popular work-from-home policy. Though Mayer acknowledged people are more productive when they are alone – whether at home or another chosen location – she claimed that time away from the office was not conducive to collaboration or innovation.
To no surprise, critics lashed out and argued her stance was a step back for flexibility in the workplace which is not only the (assumed) norm for tech companies, but the future of all workplaces.
While both arguments have their merits, it can be hard to completely empathise with the former if you're stuck in an office day in, day out, constantly disrupted by noisy neighbours in open-plan spaces, dragged into departmental politics or your creative juices have been sucked dry in a fluorescent-lit cubicle.
No doubt we've all dreamt of a pack-up-and-go work station where we can wear pyjamas all day without judgement or settle into a nook at the local coffee shop and make use of the free Wi-Fi. Or better yet, take our work on the road – wherever we choose. No longer is lounging on the beach with your laptop left to the travel writing pros.
Telecommunicating, or remote work, is a concept in which employees don't commute to a central hub. Work-from-home is the term more commonly used to meet the needs of new mums and dads or employees who can't (or won't) live near the central hub.
These days, telecommuting is increasingly offered as a formal arrangement or 'perk of the job'.
In the US, the Forrester Research’s US Telecommuting Forecast predicted the number of telecommuters will reach 63 million in 2016, a staggering 43 per cent of the workforce. On home soil, the figure is roughly 25 per cent according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. What's more, the Federal Government are said to be pushing for 12 per cent of public servants to be working from home by 2020.
The global workforce is your oyster if you've got a mobile phone and internet connection. Though, it does require clear communication requirements, a certain amount of trust between employer and employee and plenty of self-starting motivation; the benefits of telecommuting are great.
For new families, especially, working from home allows that greater flexibility to ease back into the workforce, while new environments can stir the imagination of creative types.
Some argue those who work from home put more hours in to make up for this 'perk', but it's also said telecommuting strikes the ultimate work/life balance.
Companies that encourage such practices – with the stipulation of periodic 'check-ins' – will often increase employee productivity at the same time as it reduces infrastructure costs. Autonomy, flexibility and convenience associated with telecommuting boosts morale, job satisfaction and retention.
What's more, the concept can open up a worldwide pool of potential candidates with hard-to-find skill sets. But most importantly, it can open up candidates to the world.
Just think of all the possibilities. If you're lucky enough to consider telecommuting as the norm, why not combine your work and travels? After all, there's now Wi-Fi in the sky.
From Skype calls to Google Hangouts, it's not hard to wire in anymore. Isn't that what conference calls were developed for in the first place? So if you're reading this while trying to drown out chatter over in the next workstation or before boarding a flight for that weekly interstate meeting, we've thought of a few places from where you'd rather be ... working.
- Dialling into a work-in-progress meeting over Skype on a picnic rug spread out on the Great Lawn in Central Park.
- Sending off that digital trends report while lying by the private plunge pool in your Bali villa.
- Filing articles in front of a fireplace in a cosy wood cabin nestled in the Canadian Rockies.
- Firing off a few emails as you wait for your steaming bowl of tsukemen to pop out from behind the curtain in a pint-sized ramen bar in Tokyo.
- On a conference call as you enjoy the views of the river Seine and people watching from a rustic Parisian bistro.
What would your ultimate office look like?