Q&A David Fagiano: Practical advice for employers and employees on telecommuting

As the debate rages on over Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer’s decision to make all her employees work out of a Yahoo office, David Fagiano, chief operating officer of Dale Carnegie Training, shared some practical strategies and personal thoughts with Boston.com via an e-mail interview on how businesses and workers can handle this controversial issue.

Boston.com: How should an employee who has worked remotely handle being switched to working in an office?

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David Fagiano: The first thing is to stay optimistic – if such a change seems daunting, remember that the work assignments should stay the same, and just the environment will change. Second, communication is key. If something is or is not working in your new work space, communicate it. Let your supervisors and managers know when you feel like something is hindering work performance or when something is helpful.

Last, Dale Carnegie Training encourages employees to “Be a good listener” and “Talk in terms of the other person’s interest.” Doing this when approaching problems for the first time can alleviate major stresses or disagreements, allowing for productive conversations towards making the new working situation actually function positively.

Boston.com: Are there benefits to companies allowing workers locational flexibility?

Fagiano: Locational flexibility can have a great impact on an employee’s disposition about their actual work. For instance, if working in an office is a great personal strain because it takes away from an employee’s personal life (i.e. spending time with family, longer hours in the actual office, etc.), the employee can come to resent their work, coworkers, and the company, therefore resulting in poor work quality and ethic.

This is supported by the results of Dale Carnegie Training’s recent Employee Engagement study that explained that the most productive and engaged employees are those who have a positive disposition to their work and work environment, and positive interactions and experiences within their work environment.

Boston.com: Should companies consult workers before making this type of decision?

Fagiano: Companies should be prepared to lose employees when making such a large policy change. Specifically, if employees took a job dependent upon certain perks or policies, such a drastic change is enough to cause some employees to seek new opportunities that fit their lifestyle. Employee loss can be mitigated by offering commutation expense help. A remote employee forced to come to the office gets a practical pay cut.

Consulting employees before making such a big change is almost always beneficial as that sort of feedback can be very helpful. However, if the decision has been made and will not be changed regardless of feedback then you’re better off not asking. Asking for input and then ignoring it really destroys employee engagement.

Boston.com: What are the advantages to allowing employees to work remotely?

Fagiano: The clear advantage for allowing employees to work remotely is that it allows for more flexibility outside the workplace. For example, it offers employees who have children the opportunity to be at home more and spend time with their kids. It also allows workers who live farther away than a regular commuter the ability to work more hours than they would if they were driving or on the train.

Another advantage, which depends on the individual, would be their preferred work environment and what their job description entails. For example, if someone works better in isolation or in the comfort of their own home, this method could be beneficial for a company to produce the best results.

Boston.com: What are the disadvantages?

Fagiano: Face to face communication is definitely lost when employees work remotely. However, with the Internet being such a great tool in business today, it is easy to hold a virtual meeting via Skype, or even for colleagues pick up the phone and call their remote coworkers as opposed to relying on email which can speed up the process to get work done.

As Mayer mentioned, some of the best ideas and results are fostered within a workplace where employees work side-by-side, or even at the watercooler in a more casual conversation. However, this does not take into account the distractions that some employees could face if they have a young child or personal obligations that are not work related.

Boston.com: Do you think this move will help or hurt Yahoo!?

Fagiano: Time will tell if this is the right move for Yahoo. It is hard to predict how employees will respond to this, but Meyer is making a bold statement by enforcing this rule at such a progressive company. Regardless of the response, leaders need to dramatize their ideas in order to get heard, and Meyer is setting a standard of how she wants to run Yahoo. By enforcing a new policy change it proves that she has a vision and is committed to making it work for the company.