Yahoo's CEO Marissa Mayer has announced that working from home will be banned for its employees.
The memo sent around to the company's staff talked of the importance of "communication and collaboration", and that working "side-by-side" was the way to achieve this. From June, those currently working from home full-time will have to get themselves into a Yahoo office...or quit.
It's an interesting issue and given that working from home has increased as communication technologies have progressed, what Yahoo proposes seems a step backwards in office practices.
Of course this was an internal memo, so the fact it was released (by one peeved employee) to tech website AllThingsD would indicate that the message didn't go down too well. In a modern day working environment, employees appreciate flexibility in where they work. They may choose to work every day in the office, or work permanently at home, or prefer a mix of the two according to their lifestyle.
Working mothers, for instance, may require that flexibility so they can continue with their careers.
"Cafeteria discussions" and "impromptu team meetings"
So why has Yahoo clamped down on what has become a popular way of working?
Yahoo's email read: "Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people and impromptu team meetings."
It then suggests that speed and quality are sacrificed when people work from home.
We don't question that the office is the central physical focus for any company and having face-to-face contact is necessary - and that with the right focus on office design, companies can leverage creativity and inspire employees to meet informally rather than simply in a soulless meeting room at a designated time.
Yet, given the connectivity of today's world, much of this all-important communication and collaboration can be achieved through video calls, emails and conference calls. This kind of technology allows people to work simultaneously on a project.
International teams easily produce high-quality projects without having stepped foot in the same room as each other. They have worked together and shared ideas without bumping into each other around the coffee machine.
And the idea that speed and quality are affected disregards the benefits of employees working in an environment that suits them.
Given the reaction by Yahoo employees to the company laying down the law regarding working remotely, it seems that giving that option is fundamental to ensuring employees are content and satisfied, and the work environment benefits from this.
But what companies need to be assured of is that employees working from home are doing so in an appropriate environment. That's down to the individual to make sure it works for them, but employers can always advise their staff, using the same points they use in the main offices.
If Mayer isn't convinced, she need only look at a recent study published by Stanford University just a couple of days before her email was sent which reports the results of an experiment at a Chinese travel agency. Employees were randomly assigned to work from home or in the office for nine months. Who was the more productive? It was the home workers, who showed a 13% performance increase, as well improved work satisfaction.
- by Guenaelle Watson
What do you think? Has Mayer missed the point, or is she actually trying to instill a culture of informal meeting and socialising within the workspace - but needs people to be present in order for it work? Tweet us your opinion @AreaSq.