Marissa Mayer’s decision to limit, and in many cases remove, the option of home working for Yahoo! employees has brought about a debate over whether home working is beneficial for the employer. An article on Forbes positions remote working as a net loss to a company because it reduces employee communications, and not just business specific communications, but also the more social-led chat which bonds employees together.

“Ultimately a company is only as good as its people. The value of each worker centers on the knowledge they have and the knowledge they can gain. “In work environments that see co-workers mingle and shoot the breeze around the water cooler, some real learning gets done. A lot of information exchange takes place, which allows the very same workers to increase their value to the organization. They’re able to tap into this undocumented flow of information and knowledge.”

The article is right to question whether employees can mingle as easily as they do in an office environment, but wrong in its conclusion.

“Teleworking generally doesn’t work well, because corporations still haven’t solved the issues of remote learning, knowledge sharing, or firing up ideas. If that “magic” is to happen, you still need office face-time.”

Technology has come along way to solving the problem of employee interactions across multiple locations, whether they are offices or homes, and can be used by companies to promote both social and business conversations.

Keeping creative conversations

When email first became a business tool, employees quickly saw how they could extend their coffee-break conversations throughout the working day, making it a medium for social chat and resolving business issues. Now email is available everywhere, across multiple devices, home workers can catch up with office-bound colleagues without having to be in the same room.

More advanced technologies, such as Microsoft Lync, make creative discussions and knowledge sharing possible across multiple locations. Built-in tools like interactive whiteboards, web conferencing, desktop sharing and instant messaging mean people can collaborate and generate ‘creative magic’ without the confines of having to be ‘locked’ in a conference room together.

Home working has the potential to reduce employee social interactions, and a knock-on effect for creative discussions, however a well-structured remote working environment, using the right technologies, will prevent this from happening. This leaves you with the benefits of remote working (increased productivity, less transport costs, smaller office spaces) without the risks of losing the important social and creative bonds that tie employees together.