The costs and benefits of telecommuting

Two high-profile companies recently halted their work-from-home programs, but data show that employees perceive the practice as boosting productivity—and their sense of freedom.

In a speech at the Great Place to Work conference last week, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer told attendees that her company’s decision to end telecommuting was “wrongly perceived as an industry narrative.”

Even so, Yahoo’s February announcement that it was ending its telecommuting option was followed by news in March that Best Buy was also ending the practice for employees at its headquarters.

In her remarks Mayer acknowledged that workers seem to be more productive when they work alone, but they’re also more isolated, and isolation isn’t what Yahoo needs at the moment.

“Some of the best ideas come from pulling two different ideas together,” she said.

Research seems to bear her assertions out. A recent survey from market research firm USamp found that 67 percent of professionals feel more productive when working from home, while 69 percent feel more liberated. The sample was split almost evenly between agreement, disagreement, and neutrality over whether telecommuting tends to isolate workers.

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