Working from home Photo: Erin Jonasson
GOOGLE believes working at home, or teleworking, is not the best environment for ideas to flourish.
It's a startling opinion from one of the leaders of the company that made email universally available and encouraged businesses to adopt Google apps so employees could work anytime, anywhere.
''The surprising question we get is: 'How many people telecommute at Google?' '' the tech giant's chief financial officer, Patrick Pichette, said at a talk in Sydney on Monday. ''And our answer is: 'As few as possible'.
''It's somewhat counterintuitive. People think, 'Well, because you're at Google you can work from anywhere.' Yes, you can work from anywhere, but many just commute to offices … Working from the office is really important.''
Mr Pichette, who is here to visit Google's office and the local start-up community, made the comments to workers at Fishburners, a co-working space shared by technology entrepreneurs.
He said he believed that working from home could isolate employees from other staff.
He cited a Dilbert cartoon in which Dilbert ended up working from home half-naked because those in video conferences with him could only see him on screens from the waist up.
''There is something magical about sharing meals,'' Mr Pichette said of working at an office.
''There is something magical about spending the time together, about noodling on ideas, about asking at the computer: 'What do you think of this?'
''These are [the] magical moments that we think at Google are immensely important in the development of your company, of your own personal development and [of] building much stronger communities.''
Teleworking, or telecommuting, had been touted by the federal government as one of the key benefits of the national broadband network, which would provide high-speed internet access using fibre-optic cables to about 93 per cent of Australians.
Last year, the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, made a commitment to have 12 per cent of the Australian Public Service regularly teleworking from home by 2020. Ms Gillard said then about 4 per cent of the public service had a teleworking arrangement.
In 2011, the Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy, cited Australian Bureau of Statistics figures, showing that just 6 per cent of Australian employees had telework arrangements.
He said businesses must change their attitudes about people working from home.