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Telecommuting: Was Yahoo Doing It Right?

By LEANNE ITALIE

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ Yahoo's leaked edict under CEO Marissa Mayer that calls remote workers back to the office lit the Twitterverse on fire, angering advocates of telecommuting and other programs intended to balance work and home life.

A new study from the nonprofit Families and Work Institute shows a tide moving the other way, with more workers now telecommuting â¿¿ and men significantly more likely than women to be granted the freedom to work at least partially at home.

Left mostly unanswered is the question Mayer appears to be dealing with: Is that a good thing? Or has the rise in telecommuting led to a drop in productivity or creativity?

Chances are, one telework supporter said, the tech giant just wasn't doing it right.

"If you don't know where your people are and what they're doing, then you haven't implemented properly, so she's got her hands full," said Kate Lister in San Diego, Calif., co-founder of Global Workplace Analytics, which collects data on the subject for its Telework Research Network.

Slogging through decades of research on the value of telecommuting is complicated. Small studies have been done by employer membership organizations, companies looking at their own ranks, consulting firms and government agencies, along with academics. Some use small samples, others rely on a wild array of statistics from the U.S. Census, the Small Business Administration or the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The verdicts are mixed and the research often so focused on a work force or issue related to flex options that it's difficult to make conclusions.

The new Families and Work Institute study, on the other hand, deals solely with employers in the U.S., delving into a broad range of family friendly programs, policies and benefits. The institute found that 63 percent of employers surveyed allow at least some employees to work partially at home on an occasional basis. That's up from 34 percent in a comparable study done for the institute in 2005.

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