Okay, I’m going for the holy grail here, measuring productivity in the information age. Let’s try to come up with a laundry list of metrics, for say, a middle manager at Yahoo. | LinkedIn

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

Kathleen says the company is skiddish about publishing data.

Kathleen Parrish •

Productivity is an average measure of the efficiency of production. Whether it’s developing a new code, the Iphone5, a reload core design, or cleaning up and restocking the K-mart shoe department after the July 4th weekend sales (yes, I’ve been there), it’s the holy grail of most CEOs, senior management, and Wall Street; and for complex activities, its almost impossible to measure directly. In our original 1994 telecommutting pilot, we didn’t try. Instead we measured the impact of telecommuting on time usage in 3 categories – admininsitrative, interruption, and production time. We also tracked the frequency and duration of interruptions as a function of work location.

When our people telecommuted (a mix of 1 to 2 telework days a week), the raw production time went up, for the entire workweek, by an average of 18%. We even adjusted the data to “scrub out” 1 hour/week of mandatory site staff meeting time, to avoid making telecommuting look too good to be true.

Interruptions (frequency and duration) were analyzed for telework vs. non-telework days. Big difference. Work-related interrupts still happened by phone, but casual drop-ins were limited to on-site days. More importantly, we retained about 5 highly trained people we could NOT afford to lose at that crucial time.

In aggregate, we were able to show a sustained, positive trend in increased production time. In the budget, we were able to show combined gains worth $5,000,000. Retaining our ‘at-risk’ staff also enabled us to follow through on a new procurement contracts worth $4m/year in reduced costs. Total gains? $9M/yr. We never actually measured productivity. We measured money. Faced with those kind of gains, our management chose to allow the program to continue. The cost of saying no was just too high.

Most companies with teleworkers don’t see it, but they already have the data they need to show the value of their telework programs. They’re more likely, however, to credit any successes to other factors: talented, dedicated, motivated staff; leadership or project management; brilliant innovation. The thing is, ALL of those factors are enhanced and refined with telecommuting and flexible hours are judiciously worked into the mix. To be successful, teleworkers must be highly motivated; focused and dedicated; highly sensitive to management strategic plans and goals. Their leaders must be able to effectlyely manage remote workers and hold them accountable to working on the right things at the right times. Communication must flow both ways. All of it must work together in today’s highly competitive markets. If an organization doesn’t have these underlying qualities, they may not be good candidates for telecommuting – too many other ‘broke-fix’ items on their to-do list.

I’m considered the ‘go to’ expert on telecommuting at my plant. I consider myself a student of leadership, strategic planning, and effectiveness – a raw recruit, if you will, specializing in telecommuting as a strategic tool.The gains in production time achieveable via telecommuting only translate into success if leadership uses such programs strategically.