As the digital revolution unfolded a number of years ago, the concept of working from home (“WFH”) became a commonplace practice. Many businesses attracted young prospects by actively implementing such WFH policies. It therefore was no surprise that when Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer announced a ban on WFH in February 2013, her idea was met with much skepticism and criticism. As only one example, Farhad Manjou, technology consultant for the Wall Street Journal, called it “a terrible mistake“ and “Yahoo’s ridiculous new ban on working from home.” Numerous writers dubbed the new policy an old school idea, and claimed that it was indicative of control issues on the part of the company. In April of 2013, Mayer defended her position at a news conference by stating, “people are more productive when they’re alone, but they’re more collaborative and innovative when they’re together.”
A few months ago in October 2013, to the surprise of many, Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman announced that everyone at HP would have to work at the office, at least for the time being, since “during this critical turnaround period, HP needs all hands on deck.” In that same month, despite predictions that the Yahoo policy would fail, Julie Ford-Tempuesta, Yahoo’s senior director of real estate and workplace, said “employee engagement is up, product launches have increased significantly, and agile teams are thriving.” Among my own circle of business acquaintances, one person who has Yahoo as a client told me that the Yahoo employees he knows personally are “loving” the company’s policy.
Now, almost a year later, the debate continues to rage concerning WFH. Whatever else may be said of the Yahoo policy, critics must admit that it has not been the failure that many of them predicted.
In my own opinion, Yahoo’s policy reflects the fact that people are relational by design. Live human interaction with others often results in increased innovation, greater excitement, and a more flourishing work environment. That said, there are times when people may be more efficient by working in the privacy of their own home. This would seem to indicate that a combination of requiring people to spend some time in the office with others, and allowing other time to work at home, would be the logical solution. However, this is certainly easier to state in theory than to implement in actual practice.
What are your thoughts? Would you rather work for an employer that allows you to work from home? Do you believe there are benefits from working with others at the same physical office location? What type of policy would you implement at your business if the decision were left to you? Let us know in the comments.