Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Working From Home: Good Idea for Your Company?

On Friday, February 22nd, a leaked memo from Yahoo’s CEO Marissa Mayer revealed that Yahoo employees would no longer be allowed to work remotely, citing decreased productivity and the desire for a more unified company culture. The memo stated, “to 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.” As of June 1st, all Yahoo employees are expected to report to the office – if you can’t or don’t want to, you may need to find yourself another job.

Yahoo’s decision has sent shockwaves through the corporate world, prompting other companies to reevaluate their own policies about allowing employees to work remotely.

In support of Mayer’s decision, top executives, bloggers, and news pundits have sounded off over the benefits of working at the office. Many pointed out that work should be done in an office, and employees should be expected to come to the workplace. And when it comes to new ideas and moving forward, nothing beats the personal interaction of working with fellow co-workers on a daily basis. “The combined efforts of a group can provide quantum leaps in innovations,” psychologist Eve Ash stated to smartcompany.com. Tech blogger Shawn Farner supported Yahoo’s decision specifically for their company, stating, “The company needs employees…walking the halls, eating lunch with colleagues, brainstorming on whiteboards, gathering around monitors – basically, doing the things…you’d see in companies that emphasize collaboration and camaraderie.”

Those opposed to Yahoo’s crackdown believe it is a step back for the future of companies – and how business is run. In this age of technological advances, it is unheard of for an employer who is not in the office to be unreachable, whether it is by phone, email, IM, or even Skype. Many working parents believe Mayer’s stance is a direct attack to those with children, hindering those who want to have both a career and children. However, those at Yahoo would be preaching to the choir – Mayer herself was back at the office after only a two-week maternity leave after the birth of her child. But to those opposed, Yahoo’s decision seems like an affront to those ideals. “Families in general need this flexible time,” stated Kate Listor, president of the Telework Research Network.

In fact, in a meta-study conducted by Pennsylvania State University, working from home (or “telecommuting” as it is known in the study) actually benefits both the employee and the employer. The study found that those who telecommute report a happier lifestyle, enjoy a sense of freedom, and produce lower turnover, while employers praised telecommuting as a cost-saver for office space, lower absenteeism costs, and even tax credits for lower pollution and traffic congestion.

While Mayer stressed that her decision is best for Yahoo, it is not necessarily a solution for what is best for all companies. There are positive and negatives for working from home and at the office, and finding a perfect balance for what works best for your company is biggest priority.

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