Once again, this week’s reading provided lots of food for thought and reflection for those of us that are working in the intensely hyper-connected environment of today’s world. One of the most interesting pieces of information that I found while researching this week’s subject for my blog was that Yahoo stock price nearly tripled since CEO Marissa Mayer’s much-derided decision to end telecommuting in February of 2013. Perhaps she was on to something.
In discussing this with my son who is a sophomore in college he asked me an interesting question. Have other companies done anything similar? Upon researching that question I found that the week after the decision by Mayer, electronics retail giant Best Buy followed suit with a similar decision regarding telecommuting workers. Best Buy also saw a similar increase similar percentage increase in its stock price in the months that followed their decision. Would the experiences of these two companies be the death knell for telecommuting? Apparently not.
Further research could not uncover other large companies that had made similar decisions. Given the exceptional results of the stock prices in the 18 months since these decisions were made at Yahoo and Best Buy seems to indicate that Fortune 500 CEOs still embrace policies that allow employees to telecommute. This tells us that there is still a perception that allowing some employees to telecommute is advantageous to companies. What are these advantages? The Pew Internet & American Life Project (2008) on “Networked Workers” does not segment its data in ways that report on telecommuting policies specifically. But the study does tell us that nearly half of all working Americans do at least some work from home. Given that the study was completed in 2008 it seems a safe assumption that that percentage has risen since that time. In effect, this tells us that over half of all working Americans are in one way or another telecommuting at least part of the time.
Some aspects of the Pew study revealed that connected workers are willing to spend more hours meeting the responsibilities of their jobs while at the same time juggling their work and email accounts throughout the day. Some managers see this as a detriment to productivity while others see it as a necessary concession which affords the employees opportunities to spend more time on their job – which the Pew study also indicates is happening.
Overall the Pew findings indicate that the networked environment in which today’s workers are immersed is a mixed blessing. While productivity increases and workers become more efficient in the use of their time for both work and personal purposes, there is the detrimental effect of “cognitive overload” that happens in a world that exchanges information “faster and faster” as Shirky’s (2008) Chapter 7 is titled. Last week’s reading by Gartner (2010) reinforces this idea by stating “work will increasingly happen 24-hours a day, seven days a week. In this work environment, the lines between personal, professional, social and family matters, along with organization subjects, will disappear.” As each week of this class goes by it becomes apparent that Shirky’s title “Here Comes Everybody” is absolutely appropriate. Leaders must learn to deal with this blizzard of information for the sake of themselves and, even more importantly, for the sake of those whom they lead.
This leads us to one of the most important Future Work Skills 2020 identified by the Institute for the Future (2011). Davies, Fidler, and Gorbis note that one of the 10 skills that members of the future workforce must develop is that of “Cognitive Load Management”. They define this skill as the ability to filter and synthesize the massive influx of data that workers receive in an efficient way that allows them to focus on what is important. Workers that do not develop this skill will be overwhelmed by the cognitive overload to the point of making little contribution to their organization.
It seems this particular blizzard shows no signs of letting up.
Best Buy. (2014, July 25). Retrieved from http://fortune.com/company/bby/
Davies, A., Fidler, D., & Gorbis, M. (2011). Future work skills 2020. Future Work Skills, 1-14. Retrieved from http://cdn.theatlantic.com/static/front/docs/sponsored/phoenix/future_work_skills_2020.pdf
Gartner, Inc. (2010, August 4). Gartner says the world of work will witness 10 changes during the next 10 years [Press release]. Retrieved from http://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/1416513
Madden, M., & Jones, S. (2008, September 24). Networked workers. Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/2008/09/24/networked-worker
Pepitone, J. (2013, March 05). Best Buy ends work-from-home program. Retrieved from http://money.cnn.com/2013/03/05/technology/best-buy-work-from-home/index.html
Shirky, C. (2008). Here comes everybody: The power of organizing without organizations. New York: Penguin Press.
Yahoo! Inc. (2014, July 24). Retrieved from http://www.marketwatch.com/investing/Stock/YHOO?countrycode=US