When all the hubbub hit about Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer’s decision to have employees start showing up to an office instead of working from home, the first thing that came to mind was that her reasoning goes against the eight months of research I conducted as a master’s candidate at St. Catherine University in St. Paul.
After interviewing leaders in information technology (IT) and performing an extensive literature review of material about telecommuting, all arrows point to innovation when employees have flexibility and input as to when and where their work will be done.
As a working mother in the IT field, I am confident of my abilities to juggle, multitask and, most important, organize and execute my work. Having multiple demands requires working mothers to focus on juggling and keeping balls in the air. My personal and professional network is made up of working mothers. Most would tend to agree that it’s easier if all balls are in the air. If one drops, they all do.
Mayer has many challenges in front of her at Yahoo, and based on my research on leading telecommuters in the information technology field, she is not off to a good start. Yahoo will suffer from her decision. There is a reason STEM schools are popping up all over the United States: Talent is hard to find in the IT world.
Recruiting and training talent is one of the biggest challenge leaders in IT face today. And one of the most effective ways to retain employees is to offer flexibility, primarily in the form of telecommuting. (Review the criteria in almost any “Best Places to Work” article.)
Working from home or telecommuting is part of life for IT professionals. We don’t work traditional hours, so traditional management approaches to sitting in an office from 9 to 5 are counterproductive. Ask any leader if they want to apply a database upgrade at 10 a.m. on Wednesday and see how they react.
Mayer can see how well it works to require overworked database administrators to come into an office after an all-nighter, and see how quickly they put their résumés on Dice.com (not Yahoo).
IT professionals are the ones working all hours to create virtual environments and develop the remote infrastructure needed for businesses to be global. Many IT professionals tend to be introverted and are more productive in their own, quiet space.
Ever see what happens when you have a business manager hovering over someone try to bring up a database? It’s not pretty.
Emily Sams works for a Bloomington technology company as a business analyst.
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