In February of 2013, Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer banned working from home across the entire company. Even employees who were hired on as fulltime remote workers were asked to relocate their desks to the Yahoo offices or lose their jobs.\nThe reasoning?\nAccording to\u00a0Mayer's memo: \u201cTo become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side. That is why it is critical that we are all present in our offices. \u2026 Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home.\u201d\n+ Also on Network World:\u00a010 ways to make sure your remote workers are being safe +\nThe decree prompted an outcry, especially from workers who had signed on with the internet giant partly because of its flexible work-from-home policy. It was also followed by a flurry of articles touting the benefits of telework, including cost savings and environmental benefits.\nWas Mayer on to something? Or was something else going on?\nHere\u2019s my guess: Given everything that was happening at Yahoo! at that time, Mayer\u2019s decision was probably appropriate. But before you start throwing virtual tomatoes at me, let me explain.\nI know firsthand that remote work has real benefits. As a CMO, I see it all the time. Staffers who get to work from home (either often or occasionally) are more satisfied employees. They\u2019re also usually as productive, or even more productive, than their in-office counterparts. Further, remote work helps reduce harmful emissions on the road. All good stuff.\nOn the flip side, I\u2019ve also seen telework programs fail miserably. When a company isn\u2019t ready\u2014managerially, culturally or technologically\u2014it can have disastrous effects. That is what I am guessing happened at Yahoo!. It\u2019s likely the problem wasn\u2019t remote work, per se. It might have been the way the company was implementing its telework program.\nThe dark side of remote work\nRemote-work programs can have a host of problems, but the most common one I\u2019ve seen is an insufficient investment in the tools and technology used to engage and include remote workers.\nMost companies have adopted some technologies\u2014videoconferencing, screen sharing, instant messaging\u2014to facilitate collaboration among disparate groups of employees. However, while those applications are great, they still leave holes.\nTake videoconferencing, for example. It\u2019s a great tool to restore some of the powerful human interaction that\u2019s lost when people aren\u2019t in the same room. But it doesn\u2019t let you see (let alone use) the whiteboard, which is often a big focus in working-group meetings. Likewise, screen sharing is great for enabling participants to see each other\u2019s PowerPoint slides and documents. But it shows only one screen full of information at a time, and from only one data source. For some applications (analyzing big data, for example), that\u2019s just not enough.\nThese things matter. At a minimum, the deficiencies alienate remote employees from their in-office counterparts. More important, they can compromise their ability to be effective collaborators.\nEnter the digital workplace\nA digital workplace is a new paradigm for collaboration and teamwork. It has features that facilitate ongoing projects, as well as for preserving the work product for future reference and learning. It makes it easier to track meeting results and decisions, enable better data visualization and analysis, speed product-design cycles and more.\nWhat are the components of an effective digital workplace? Here are a few:\n\nThe ability for remote participants to interact with content. Interaction changes the role of the remote employee from passive observer to active participant.\nCompatibility with existing applications. A digital workplace can be effective only if it works with the software employees use every day. Ideally, meeting participants shouldn\u2019t have to leave the digital workspace to access their content or applications.\nMobile device access. Since one of the main drivers for the digital workplace is remote work, it should support access and interaction from laptops, smartphones and tablets. It's even better if participants can lead meetings from their devices, as well.\nThe ability to integrate rich content. A robust digital workplace allows participants to integrate video, web pages, PowerPoint slides and multiple data sources into meetings and presentations.\u00a0\nLarge displays that enable visualization of multiple pieces of content at once. Especially in settings where the goal is to analyze big data, this can really make a difference.\n\nA new way to work\nOne thing is for sure: Mobile work is not going anywhere. In fact, considering the data, chances are the upward trend will continue. Adopting a digital workplace can help your company benefit from the cost savings, productivity and employee satisfaction that remote work can afford.\nIn my next blog post, I discuss how to build a business case and strategy for adopting digital-workplace technology in your organization.