Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer instituted a policy in 2013 stating that the company's employees could no longer work from home without an occasional, specific reason for doing so. The memo from Yahoo's human resources chief, Jackie Reses, stated, "To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side."

This move started a discussion in the industry -- as companies become more tech-based, does working remotely hurt company productivity enough to ban it completely?

Remote Working: How Much is Too Much?
According to the Wall Street Journal, 67% of companies allow limited employees to work at home occasionally (up from 50% in 2008), and 38% allowed it on a regular basis. Gallup says workplace flexibility is actually good for engagement, but only if employees spent less than 20% of their work time away from the office. After that, the engagement levels drop.

With an increasingly dispersed workforce, whether working from home or in entirely different cities, what can companies do to keep their workforce engaged, even outside of the office?

There are a number of programs out there that seek to make intra-company communication and productivity easier. These generally focus on employee communication, as well as a way to securely send important documents and resources. While these features are important, workforce management software needs to be about more than communication. Sharing notes on assignments and meetings will not inspire out-of-office employees to work their best (or in-office ones, for that matter).

How Can Workplace Software Help?
Workforce software instead needs to focus on employee engagement as much as communication. According to Business 2 Community, “There’s always social chatter during the work day: bumping into your coworkers in the hall, or even having side conversations before and after meetings. Unfortunately, you can’t have these casual encounters when you’re working remotely.” It’s important, then, to keep your employees engaged through a centralized community. An OS that can provide companies with community, as well as intra-company messaging and resources, will make those companies stronger and more productive.

One way to foster community is through game mechanics and peer recognition. Game mechanics — earning points and rewards for company activities — encourage healthy competition amongst employees and engage people on an emotional level, motivating them to achieve company goals. Game mechanics can be reinforced through leaderboards on the platform, highlighting employees who excel in order to prompt peer recognition and camaraderie. In this way, remote employees could be rewarded and cheer on their colleagues without having to go into the office.

Social sharing could play into this by rewarding employees who share a certain amount of company-related content, or get a certain amount of likes. Again this can be done on the platform, making remote workers feel connected with the company message by sharing it with through their social networks. This has the added bonus of gaining positive outside attention for company brands. Even company cause initiatives promoted on workforce management software could help get remote workers involved, as they can find local volunteer opportunities and donate to causes through the platform.
Communication, productivity, collaboration, flexibility — utilizing the right software can enable and empower employees to get involved and inspired, even on the go.