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San Francisco Mulls Telework Mandate


There are a lot of reasons to embrace teleworking: a better work-life balance, cutting out a polluting and unhealthy commute, saving money on office real estate and gas, and even boosting productivity. Given the advantages, we’d like to see more businesses adopt telework policies for their workers (looking at you, Yahoo!) and more government policies enable remote working.

We think, however, that this San Francisco city supervisor is taking this line of thinking a little too far. The AP reports:

Supervisor David Chiu’s measure would allow workers to ask their employers to adjust their start times, telecommute or job share.

Employers would only be able to deny the request if it created an undue hardship for the company, including increasing its costs or affecting its ability to meet customer or client needs.

Chiu’s goal is sound, but this is the wrong way to go. Telework has big advantages for businesses and for workers, but it is more workable in some situations than others. Employers understand their businesses far better than government officials, and we believe that they are best equipped to make smart decisions about when and where telework can help their business.

Instead of mandating telework, governments at the local, state, and national level should be working to make the choice more attractive for businesses. Setting an example by creating telework policies for government would be a good start. (This has already been done at the federal level.) Even better, governments should consider offering tax incentives to employees who work from home offices.

Let’s see more carrot, and less stick.

[Telecommuting image courtesy of Shutterstock]

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  • Boritz

    Some organizations simply have an entrenched anti-telework culture among the managers. There are a couple of reasons for this:
    Employees successfully completing assignments outside of direct management supervision is a bad indicator if you are a manager who would like to believe that your presence is essential for every micro-unit of productivity that the supervised accomplish. Might a successful telework program lead some to the conclusion that less management and fewer managers(at less cost) is a good thing for an organization? Better not to find out. The second reason is loss of power. Employees working from home have a fair amount of insulation from their managers that they don’t enjoy at the office. Many managers don’t like this one bit as it cramps their ability to perform MBWA and other in (front of) your face styles of management.
    As far as more carrot and less stick the reverse may be what is really needed for telework to take off. Government should propose truly threatening, draconian requirments for increasing mandatory telework in organizations* then back off and allow the organizations to ‘voluntarily’ implement reasonable canges.

    *The amount of paperwork required to demonstrate compliance should be arduous and produce high additional costs for the organization, of course.

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