One of the first things Marissa Mayer did at Yahoo was to kill telecommuting. Yahoo just got sold to Verizon and it wasn't pretty. Coincidence? Sure, there were tons of other reasons, but smart companies know that they need to make telecommuting available--not just butt-in-seat time. Working from home (part- or full-time) is very attractive to employees, and here is how other companies are making it work.
Google isn't a top telecommuting company, in that it doesn't actively encourage the practice, but they do do something super important for companies--allow employees to work at home when there is a need. Jon Tirsen, a former Google employee, said in an answer at Quora, "It's definitely quite normal to work from home a day here and there if you're expecting a delivery or some work done at your home or you just want to dig down and get work done without interruptions. I would do it probably about one day per week when I was there."
Key learning: Your employees have lives. Use telecommuting to allow them to take care of important things.
Intel is another tech giant, but unlike Google, its telecommuting policy isn't just as-needed, instead it's encouraged. They have a whole slew of flexible work schedules, including "compressed workweeks, flextime...alternate start times...telecommuting and part-time and job share positions."
The key is that Intel allows each business unit to determine needs, rather than dictating from the top on down. This type of thing makes a ton of sense--while companywide policies are good for many things, options like telecommuting can be great for some jobs and terrible for others. Allowing division leaders to make decisions based on their needs is a great way to handle the policy.
Key learning: Let your business units determine needs, and offer a whole bunch of options. Telecommuting is sometimes a great solution to work-life balance issues, but it's not the only one.
Cisco's telecommuting program encompasses over 20,000 employees. Talk about a telecommuting policy! How does it do it? Datamation gives some key insights into the policies.
Managers get to determine who telecommutes and who does not, but they also have a strong infrastructure to support it. Cisco has systems in place to make sure equipment is returned and maintained, and the IT system is tied into the HR system, so if HR terminates someone their IT access is immediately cut off. So often, companies don't really think about what to do if someone quits, but Cisco has thought about it extensively.
Key learning: Figure out the technical side of things before you jump in. How are you going to make sure equipment is collected and access terminated as soon as an employee stops working?
Getting away from tech, 47 percent of insurance giant Aetna's employees telecommute, either part- or full-time. Just what types of people telecommute? Well, "Teleworkers, who, in addition to nurses and physicians, include customer service representatives, claims processors, network managers, communications and human resources professionals, lawyers, underwriters, actuaries, and others." Basically, people from all over the company.
Key learning: Don't rule out telecommuting based on job title alone. There are many jobs that can be done from home, at least part of the time. Give your employees an opportunity to make their case.
Jay Steinfeld, CEO of Blinds.com, works from home about 25 percent of the time. He says he does it when he needs "solitude to think without any distractions or have a personal appointment. So why can't that work for my employees?" In fact, it does work for his employees, as 20 percent of the company's work force works from home.
He's careful, though, to point out that working at home isn't for everyone or everything. Sometimes teams need to be physically together. Some people don't work well from home, and some things cannot be "replicated virtually."
Key learning: If you want to support telecommuting, make it clear from the top levels down. Leadership sets the standard for how things should be done.