In this, the Digital Age, with the Internet of Things looming, it may not come as a surprise that telecommuting has become a more common and established model of working and learning.
Though people generally agree that nothing beats real, physical human interaction, and there was a bit of skepticism about the feasibility of people working from home, it’s clear now that the practice isn’t going anywhere.
When Marissa Mayer took her place at the helm of Yahoo! when it was floundering in 2013, one of the first things she did was require all employees to work in the office, to help improve communication. Now, a little more than two years later, the Huffington Post reports that the tech giant has relented somewhat, and that some Yahoo! employees don’t come into the office.
These days, working from home isn’t as isolating as it once was. Through the use of services like Skype, Google Hangouts, instant messaging systems, and email, working remotely doesn’t necessarily mean there’s no personal interaction. Additionally, not all workers who are allowed to work from home choose to do so.
In a recent survey, of the 65% of employees who were permitted to work remotely, only 27% of them chose to work remotely 100% of the time.
In an interview with Wired, co-founder of collaboration software company Basecamp Jason Fried said that the company’s 45 employees live in 30 different cities. They only get together in person once a year — they otherwise touch base spontaneously using video chats.
A study conducted by Stanford economics professor Nicholas Bloom found that in addition to the way that advancing technologies are conducive to employees working from home successfully, those who do are often more productive than their counterparts in the office.
Bloom studied workers in a Chinese company called Ctrip, and found that the remote workers worked almost an entire day more than those who were in the office. Additionally, the remote workers took fewer breaks and sick days. The company also saved about $1,900 on furniture and overhead per remote worker.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology is also getting in on the remote action — but they’re experimenting with online learning.
“On the one hand, we’ve been trying to say, ‘Are there ways we can use technology that don’t cause us to have to completely re-think and re-write how learning happens, how our faculty teach, how program participants interact collaboratively?’ So in that sense it is trying to mimic the in-person experience,” Peter Hirst, director of the executive education program at the MIT Sloan School of management, told the Harvard Business Review in an interview.
Though telecommuting may be no match for the “press of the flesh,” nor is it trying to emulate it, it’s clear the practice is here to stay — and could move beyond both the realms of working and learning.