Yahoo bans homeworking: is this wise?

Marrisa Mayer

Yahoo's chief executive Marissa Mayer has reportedly issued an edict that staff are no longer allowed to work from home. Blog All Things D has published what it claims is an internal memo from HR saying that staff who work from home will be expected to relocate to the nearest office.

But why is this, and can this be right?
The memo, said to have come from the head of HR, has been quoted as a saying that being part of a company means being 'Physically together'. It also claims that when staff work from home it can harm both speed and quality.

The change

The memo reads: "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. Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings. Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home. We need to be one Yahoo!, and that starts with physically being together."

There have been conflicting reports as to who this will affect: whether it's a small number of staff who work entirely from home, or a much larger group of those who work from home one or two days a week. Yahoo told the blog that it did not comment on internal matters.


The news has sparked a debate about working from home and work/life balance. There are those who agree with Mayer that making connections between employees at a distance is more difficult than if they work side-by-side. Likewise, research shows that it is more difficult to build trust and collaboration without face-to-face meeting.

There are plenty of people who have used 'working from home' as a euphemism for all sorts of things from playing golf to lying in the garden with a book. You can't argue with a policy change that stamps this sort of thing out.

In addition, there are those who argue that Mayer is trying to change the culture of the business and turn its performance around, and it's easier to do that if they are all in the office where their performance and approach can be clearly monitored.

Donald Trump added his Tweet to the debate, saying that she "is right to expect Yahoo employees to come to the workplace vs. working at home. She is doing a great job!"


However, there are those who disagree. They argue that working from home enables employees to fit their work and home life more effectively around each other: they work longer hours and they do so more efficiently.

Richard Reeves, author of Happy Mondays, argues that if we love what we do, we think about work all the time. Adding in the artificial barrier of where and when we work is likely to make us less efficient.

On a practical level, flexible working enables the talent pool to be widened to include those who don't have the flexibility to go into an office. Often employees who have been given this opportunity repay it by going above and beyond what is expected of them at work.

Richard Branson weighed into the debate on his blog, saying: "This seems a backwards step in an age when remote working is easier and more effective than ever." He also said: "We like to give people the freedom to work where they want, safe in the knowledge that they have the drive and expertise to perform excellently, whether they at their desk or in their kitchen. Yours truly has never worked out of an office, and never will."

The reaction of staff, meanwhile, can perhaps be understood by considering the fact that the memo was marked to clearly state that it should not be sent on - and yet more than one staff member was said to have sent it to the tech blog that originally broke the story. Clearly they are not all happy with the change.

Mayer has already sparked a great deal of debate since taking the helm at Yahoo in an effort to turn the ailing business around. There were those who criticised her decision to return to work within a fortnight of having a baby. However, there are those who have applauded her attempts to lift employee morale and reduce bureaucracy in order to encourage staff to drive change.

But what do you think? Will cutting 'working from home' help or hinder her plans? Let us know in the comments.
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