The Way We Work

oDesk’s weekly column brings you the latest news on labor markets, innovation, and online work.

Week of 3/15/2013:

CNN: Benefit Of Office Face Time A Myth
Do great ideas truly arise at the water cooler? Writing for CNN, professors Catherine Albiston and Shelby Correll confront this ‘rational myth,’ arguing that a concrete focus on time spent in the office is more likely to hurt businesses than help. Citing a recent Harvard study on workplace dynamics, Albiston and Correll state that a work culture focused on face time is likely to create mass inefficiencies and promote groupthink—in turn reducing the innovation that companies so desperately want. Their solution? Breaking from an outdated labor system and doing away with the ‘face-time fallacy.’

The Wall Street Journal: More Americans Working Remotely
According to a recently released Census Bureau report, nearly 10% of U.S. workers spent at least one day a week telecommuting in 2010, up from 7% in 1997. Neil Shah shares interesting statistics regarding teleworking in the U.S., including the finding that workers who mix time in the office with time at home are compensated about $30,000 more per year than their in-office peers. Shah concludes that the movement towards telecommuting promises to lower costs, boost productivity, and improve professionals’ lives.

Harvard Business Review: Want Productive Employees? Treat Them Like Adults
The relationship between any worker and manager pivots on the strength of one key characteristic: trust. Tony Schwartz, CEO of The Energy Project, writes that the most important factor in Marissa Mayer’s and Hubert Joly’s decisions to reign in remote workers was the issue of trust. Believing that their employees could no longer make responsible decisions about how to get work done out of the office, they decided to remove the choice altogether. Schwartz concludes that the best way to build employee value is to trust their talents and their ability to get their best work done, at their own discretion—even if that discretion includes an 8-month trip to Amsterdam. “As an employer, I stay focused on one primary question about each employee: What is going to free, fuel, and inspire this person to bring the best of him or herself to work every day, most sustainably?” he writes. “My goal is to meet those needs in the best ways I can, without undue expense to others. In the end, I’m much less concerned with where people do their work than with the value they’re able create wherever they happen to do it.”

Fast Company: The Telecommuting Genie Isn’t Going Back In The Bottle; Here’s How To Strengthen Its Magic
Telecommuting is growing quickly, as more firms embrace the benefits it holds for both their bottom line and their employees’ lives. For managers, this transition will necessitate the fine-tuning of existing policies and processes, as well as the development of new skills. Shawn Graham advises managers on how to make the most of the remote work movement, from hiring the right talent and building employee trust to embracing the technology that brings it all together.

Harvard Business Review: The End Of ‘Results Only’ At Best Buy Is Bad News
In the wake of the Yahoo! telecommuting ban, Best Buy CEO Hubert Joly’s decision to eliminate the company’s Results Only Work Environment (“ROWE”) initiative was largely lost in the media shuffle. EDHEC professor Monique Valcour argues that Joly’s decision was in fact more significant, as it dismantled “one of the most innovative and celebrated examples of a company redesigning work to focus on results and boost performance through motivation-enhancing trust and autonomy.” Institutionalizing the lessons learned from decades of studies on the workplace, the ROWE program enabled corporate employees to work wherever and whenever, while being judged solely on the quality of their work. Valcour suggests that the real tragedy is the elimination of a program that can be so clearly successful.

Forbes: How To Overcome The Five Major Disadvantages Of Virtual Working
Virtual work has the potential to give both companies and employees what they want—flexibility, productivity, satisfaction, cost reduction and higher retention. Despite these benefits, remote work still has its downsides. Sebastian Bailey discusses five potential pitfalls of virtual work, and shares great solutions to help distributed teams overcome them. Bailey argues that the key to success in the online workplace is management that can communicate well, while creating a spirited and trusting culture.

Business Insider: Kick-Start Your Independent Career—5 Tips For Millennials  
Within the next five years, more than 23 million Americans will have joined the United States’ booming independent workforce. Choosing to shape their own careers, more and more young professionals are leaving corporate America and turning to independent work. Ready to get started yourself? Shama Kabani provides five useful tips for navigating the road to freelance success.

Did we miss anything? Are there any insights you find particularly interesting? Let us know in the comments section below!


Jenna Weiner

Content Marketer

Jenna Weiner is the former content marketing manager at oDesk and was the editor-in-chief of the oDesk blog. With a background in business and technology writing, she specializes in content marketing and strategy, public relations, and branding. Before joining oDesk, Jenna was a writer and editor for Monitor Group’s marketing department (now Monitor Deloitte) and was the Business & Technology Section Editor for Brafton Inc.… read more