The telecommuting balancing act

My great-grandmother once told me, "Anything in moderation is just fine." I have taken this advice to heart and found that moderation tends to be the most sustainable and rewarding path. Excess leads to unhappiness.

Much of our work at BrownFlynn can be done remotely, but we have long believed that this is not the best practice for the firm or for our clients. In order to deliver the best service, maintain efficient operations and create an environment of trust and teamwork, we continue to work in the office the majority of the time. Sustaining this environment requires continuous innovation. Recently we have been testing our flex time and remote working practices to better align a policy that reflects the office environment we wish to create.

We recognize the importance of balancing the need to be at home with the need to be in the office to create generative relationships with our colleagues and clients. Recent headlines about companies such as Yahoo and Best Buy reversing their flex time policies caused us to dive a little deeper into this question. What is the best practice when it comes to flex time policies? Is there a best practice?

Flexible working environments, like other human resource guidelines, help to shape the culture of an organization. As an organization shifts, so do the habits of the employees. A recent article in the Atlantic Wire shed a little more light on the Yahoo story. At Yahoo it seemed that they might have pushed beyond what was the best fit for the organization, and the recent reversal is a correction to address a dysfunctional working environment.

In this case, I can't help but go back to my grandmother's advice. Yahoo requires collaboration, strong teams and individuals dedicated to a common goal. Together these elements create generative relationships. These relationships require conversation both planned and unplanned, face time and human presence. Further, these generative relationships are much more difficult to create remotely. I do not believe that rolling back these polices is the solution. However, I do believe that making sure the policies are matched with the appropriate positions and that there is adequate face time to support collaboration is essential for success.

Despite these recent events, the trend continues toward creating more flexible work environments. More Americans are working from home than ever before. The 2010 census found that 13.4 million people or 9.4 percent of the workforce worked from home at least one day per week in 2010, up from 9.2 million people in 2007. This is both a necessary and healthy trend for businesses and employees alike. By creating environments where employees have the option to have regular or planned work days at home, they are better able to schedule non-work activities, reduce their carbon footprint and save time and money from the commute to work. As long as these activities do not negatively affect needed collaboration, face time or essential job functions, it can relieve stress from the working environment and provide for a more productive work day.

Next page: A link between happy employees and revenue?