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Is the future of work remote?

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In February, Internet company Yahoo hit the headlines after HR director Jackie Reses sent a memo to all employees working remotely, telling them they must relocate to the organisation’s offices or quit the company. Yahoo’s bold move has sparked a debate around flexible working. Do you agree with its policy change around remote working? Or do you think the future of work is remote, and that HR directors have a responsibility to offer and manage flexible alternatives?

HR magazine asked two HR directors for their views. Today: Ann Pickering (pictured), HR director, Telefonica, gives her take on the matter.

"Last summer's Olympic and Paralympic Games gave a great boost to the flexible working cause. Businesses across the country were forced to adopt flexible working policies to manage the potential disruption.

Since then, flexible working has remained a discussion point high on the C-level agenda. Yet while many businesses extolled the benefits that a flexible working culture could bring, six months on from the Games, signs suggest that our business culture may not be seeing progress at the pace we'd hoped. Yahoo's policy change is an example of where a big business is taking steps back.

So why aren't businesses embracing remote working that promises to deliver increased productivity and reduce costs? One concern is that employees will spend less time focused on work when no longer under the supervision of managers. But at a lot of companies employees are measured on their output, not time inputted. We need to move away from this culture of presenteeism, and concentrate on delivering quality work.

This doesn't mean we should do away with the office - face-to-face interaction is still an intrinsic part of business. However, having the freedom to work from home, away from the distractions of a bustling office, allows us to get more out of our people while also showing them the trust and flexibility needed to promote strong professional relationships.

Flexible working is often seen as an employee benefit, but we need to see it as a business tool. Businesses that fail to introduce it will miss out on the benefits it can bring, and on attracting the best talent to their teams.

As technology advances, remote working will become even easier. It is our responsibility as HR directors to harness this potential for the good of our people and our business."