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NYT Hosts Telework Debate


Over the weekend, the New York Times published a letter to the editor extolling the virtues of telework, as well as a host of responses it prompted. Many readers chimed in with positive anecdotes, but there was also plenty of criticism. One reader made a well-worn managerial complaint:

[I]t’s difficult for an employer to ascertain the productivity of a worker who is not in the office. An employee working from home can run errands, go to the gym or otherwise not do his or her work, without the employer knowing it. A number of our remote employees have proved this to me over the years.

But what kind of manager needs to have eyes on his or her employees to get the most out of them? Telework doesn’t produce managerial problems; it exposes them. If you have the metrics, and clear-cut deliverables for your team, where they operate from shouldn’t make a difference.

Another reader voiced concern that telework is bad for workplace cohesion. This one makes more sense to us. Face-to-face interaction can aid collaboration, and time spent around the proverbial water cooler is valuable. One study suggests that there’s a telework sweet spot—work remotely 2.5 days a week to maximize the cost and time gains while minimizing the social costs.

Telework is essential here at Via Meadia. One of our writers is touring his way through central Europe at the moment, chipping in when he can. We have a correspondent writing from Pakistan, an office in DC, and of course the stately Mead manor in Queens. We use a chat room and an online task manager to delegate work and iron out the many issues that pop up daily with the posts we write. These tools allowed WRM to check in on the team while he was touring India last month. While we make an effort to get everyone together in one place every month or two, we’ve figured out a workflow that gives us all flexibility without leaving anyone feeling alienated.

For what should be obvious reasons, all-telework all the time for everyone doesn’t make sense. But for many, including us here at the blog, it’s a terrific tool.

[Telecommuting image courtesy of Shutterstock]

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  • thrasymachus02

    The whole freaking point of NYC and its surrounding metro area is that people can be close together and meet face to face. Why otherwise would so many people, and so many rich people, congregate in such a Godforsaken place? If telecommuting worked, all the rich people would be in San Diego. Anybody important, and anybody anybody important wants to talk to on short notice, will continue to live and work in that glamorous tract bounded by Newark, New Rochelle, Bridgeport and Islip.

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