Internet companies like Yahoo! do their best to make their offices comfortable and fun, right down to custom colored foosball tables. But that doesn't work for everyone, and the alternative of working from home, either full time or a few days a week, is a very attractive perq to some, a necessity for others. Marissa Mayer has caused a storm or controversy with her decision to drag everyone into the office, covered in Yahoo to homeworkers: Get back to the office. Now. Here are some of the other comments from 'round the net:
To successfully work with other people, you have to trust each other. A big part of this is trusting people to get their work done wherever they are, without supervision....If you provide the right technology to keep in touch, maintain regular communication and get the right balance between remote and office working, people will be motivated to work responsibly, quickly and with high quality.
Working life isn't 9-5 any more. The world is connected. Companies that do not embrace this are missing a trick.
Let’s get this straight: Yahoo is a company that was supposed to move forward under new CEO Marissa Mayer, right?
Last week, she issued an edict that everyone at Yahoo must be in the office every day. That means all the customer-service staff and remote workers who live in the mountains of Colorado or in a condo on Miami Beach must either give up their jobs or relocate closer to a Yahoo office. What a fabulous way to step back in time, and lose talent to other more open-minded and flexible employers.
Not only is there practically no survey evidence to suggests that telecommuting reduces productivity, but also it would help companies specifically like Yahoo: media and technology firms based in major cities. Writing can be accomplished anywhere. Coding marathons are often best done in intense solitary. What's more, Yahoo has large offices in San Francisco and New York, which have two of the worst commute times in the United States. Working from homes adds hours to peoples' days that would otherwise be spent in rather less productive grindlock.
Mayer is trying to put together a 21st Century technology company using 19th Century workplace mentalities. If Mayer doesn't embrace new concepts for managing Yahoo!'s team (and loses too many critical employees), the new CEO just might oversee her former competition's continued downward spiral.
That well-known exclamation point at the end of the search and tech services company's long-held name? It's starting to look a lot more like a question mark these days.
Employees, especially younger ones, expect to be able to work remotely, analysts say. And over all the trend is toward greater workplace flexibility.... Studies show that people who work at home are significantly more productive but less innovative, said John Sullivan, a professor of management at San Francisco State University who runs a human resource advisory firm.
“If you want innovation, then you need interaction,” he said. “If you want productivity, then you want people working from home.”
A Business Insider story picked up by the San Francisco Chronicle looks like a planted story, with a convenient explanation that quotes "a source familiar with Mayer's thought process on the matter." It sounds like a high tech version of Office Space., people hiding at home with red staplers on their desk. A long quote:
Yahoo has a huge number of people of who work remotely – people who just never come in. Many of these people "weren't productive," says this source. "A lot of people hid. There were all these employees [working remotely] and nobody knew they were still at Yahoo."
These people aren't just Yahoo customer support reps. They're in all divisions, from marketing to engineering.
Mayer is happy to give Yahoo employees standard Silicon Valley benefits like free food and free smartphones. But our source says the kinds of work-from-home arrangements popular at Yahoo were not common to other Valley companies like Google or Facebook. "This is a collaborative businesses."
Mayer saw another side-benefit to making this move. She knows that some remote workers won't want to start coming into the office and so they will quit. That helps Yahoo, which needs to cut costs. It's a layoff that's not a layoff.
Bigger picture: This is about Mayer "carefully getting to problems created by Yahoo's huge, bloated infrastructure."
The company got fat and lazy over the past 15 years, and this is Mayer getting it into fighting shape. This source gives Mayer credit for making a very tough decision – one that her predecessors knew they had to make, but never did. "She's turned out to have a lot of courage. She's dealing with problems no one wanted to deal with before."
Finally, we received a comment from Reader M to the original post on Yahoo that I think summarizes the case for allowing more flexible work patterns better than I have ever done, and republish it here:
Everyone is missing the bigger picture. Telecommuting is INEVITABLE in most industries. It's not just that telecommuting is more productive for many workers. There are killer competitive advantages:
1. It allows companies to draw from a national rather than a local talent pool. This is especially important when trying to hire people with specialized skills or experience. If you just need a schmuck to sort the mail, this isn't much of an advantage. But if you're trying to build a great company with some of the most qualified and creative people in your industry, this is the way to reach them. It allows a company in Iowa to be as competitive as one in Midtown Manhattan.
2. It allows companies to offer its employees tens of thousands of dollars in "invisible" benefits: savings in gasoline, savings in parking, savings in tolls, savings in wear-and-tear on your vehicle, reduced time spent commuting, reduced stress from commuting, and (probably the biggest factor) reduced real estate costs. This means a company can keep salaries low. This means the employees are happier.
3. It's a killer employee retention tool - which is critical in most industries. The Chinese study showed its turnover was slashed in half. When a spouse of a teleworker needs to relocate, it allows the teleworker to pack up and follow the spouse without having to change jobs himself/herself.
4. It allows companies to reduce office space costs. Not only do your remote employees pay for their own office space at their homes, but your main office can now be located anywhere (or nowhere). You can relocate your office from Midtown Manhattan to Iowa, for example, and slash your rent to a fraction of what it was.
Know-nothings can yammer all day long about whether they think they'd work better as a telecommuter. But unless you've tried to build a company, and unless you've tried to hire and retain good people, you don't know how much of a huge economic advantage telecommuting is. A non-telecommuting company cannot effectively compete in most industries these days. If you don't at least offer telecommuting to your employees in more specialized positions, you're going to suffer badly, probably winding up having to outsource, and paying through the nose for it. For example, Treehugger would be dead within a year if they stopped allowing telecommuting. Yahoo is stupid. They're going to lose their best people overnight by discontinuing telecommuting. This is great news for Google. I'd buy stock in Google tomorrow. Watch Yahoo disappear even more quickly.