signpost crossroadsWhen it comes to working from home, telecommuting, telework and so on, one of the common areas that organisations are right to grapple with is which people, which tasks, which days, which clients and so on are well suited to remote work?

These decisions can make or break productivity.

But applying remote work in your organisation just got a whole lot easier.


This week a Harvard Business Review (HBR) author coined the phrase: "isolate to concentrate, convene to collaborate." I love this phrase because it has so much potential to guide your flexible and remote work strategy.

You might recall in 2013 Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo! recalled all their staff from telecommuting arrangements back to the office. She gave her staff a few months' notice but made it clear they wouldn't have a job if they didn't move back to head office and cease telecommuting.

The reason for her decision was made clear when an internal memo was leaked to the media, which said that at Yahoo! it's important that they got together: "We need to be one Yahoo! and that starts with physically being together."


With Mayer's background working at Google, "being together" is what she had experienced before – Google is a highly innovative company with a strong focus on collaboration in order to achieve that innovation.

However commentators went into a spin when Mayer ordered everyone back to the office, saying remote work was on the rise and she was completely out of touch. Many, including myself, were struggling to understand her extreme approach.

Marissa Mayer wanted a much higher degree of collaboration. In doing so, she lost the advantages of remote work, but that was a decision she wanted to make for her company and many would say it is her right to do so.


A more common scenario is that people go to the other extreme – they think that remote work is an arrangement for 100% of the time. They imagine a team of invisible workers who never come to the office.

Instead, it is better to keep in mind that remote work plays an important role in your business and so does getting together.

In most businesses the ideal solution is neither 'all' or 'nothing' but something in between.


As HBR points out, virtual work enables you to:

  • Draw on the global talent pool;
  • Reduce costs from office space;
  • Provide greater autonomy to workers, which is highly attractive and engaging;
  • Respond to local customers;
  • Help your employees to better integrate their work and family life.


On the other hand, convening together helps with:

  • Achieving strong commitment to jointly made decisions;
  • Establishing shared understanding of goals and a larger purpose;
  • Creating diverse and innovative solutions to complex issues;
  • Fostering a sense of community, cohesion and belonging.

So in your business the new normal should be a mix of isolation and collaboration: isolate to concentrate, convene to collaborate.


Nina Sochon
Nina Sochon is a leading expert on remote and flexible work in Australia and a High Performing Workplaces Consultant. Nina now assists businesses to drive amazing service outcomes and powerful staff engagement through a clear system of results management, effective leadership and highly productive remote and virtual work arrangements.