Human Resources News & Insights

More experts speak out on Yahoo’s controversial telecommuting decision

Here’s more on what workplace experts have to say about Yahoo’s recent decision to do away with its telecommuting policy.

In case you haven’t been following along at home, here’s the skinny: Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer last week announced in an internal communication (that was later leaked) that come June, employees would no longer be able to work from home.

You can imagine the uproar from not only employees but workplace and management experts across America.

That’s especially true in the light that telecommuting continues to rise in popularity, with nearly 10% of all U.S. employees working from home at least one day a week as of 2010.

Add to that studies that have shown telecommuting can boost retention, engagement and morale, and you have a decision that’s going to raise the ire of all sorts of people.

Caveman logic

George Hutchinson, writing on StarTribune, sees Yahoo’s no-telecommuting move, which was recently adopted by Best Buy as well, as a great way to destroy workers’ creativity and make for a stressful work environment:

“… we can examine this decision using caveman logic:

“If workers are not sitting at their desks, they must be goofing off and wasting time. Only direct and persistent visual surveillance by superiors can ensure that the company is receiving the full benefit of the labor of these conniving, cheating slackers we hire to perform menial tasks at the lowest possible wages. Even then we will lay off a bunch of them, just because we can. The rest can work harder.

“The new corporate style — ironically implemented by women with small children — is to return to the 1950s corporate-conformity model pioneered by the blue suits at IBM. The assumption is that employees are not to be trusted but must be carefully supervised, lest they stray from the divine pathway of corporate groupthink.”

These are unique situations

Nin-Hai Tseng with CNNMoney says that Yahoo’s and Best Buy’s decision isn’t a harbinger of things to come —  and might even be a temporary solution for both companies:

“Unless you’re at a struggling company desperate to turn business around, working from home is here to stay. The changes at Best Buy and Yahoo are unique; they come amid hard times in which both companies have tapped new CEOs to turn things around.

“What’s happening at Yahoo and Best Buy won’t likely carry over to healthy companies. After all, corporate America still sees the benefits of the home office.

“Years from now, if Yahoo and Best Buy turn their businesses around, it may not be that surprising to find their employees back at their home offices.”

No telecommuting = bad for business

Huffington Post writer Ann Brenoff talks about the dangers of offices:

“It’s hard to overstate the value of being able to work at home on a day when the cable guy is coming sometime between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. or when your kid is home from school with a fever. Flexibility is one of the things employees regularly say is important to them.

“I’d add another item to that list of important things: Being able to have a life outside your job and a boss who understands that need.

“Somewhere in the digital age and the recession, the idea that we have families and kids and friends who we’d like to see outside the office got lost if not deeply watered down.

“… what’s most remarkable [is that] having workers stay late isn’t just unhealthy for the workers, it’s also not such a great thing for the company either. A Harvard Business school professor and researcher found that all those extra hours spent connected to the office don’t actually improve worker productivity. Rather it’s the opposite. Worker productivity actually improves if the worker is allowed to have a life outside the office…”

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  • As a long-time remote employee, I can unequivocally say that I’m far more productive working remotely.


    I agree that there are benefits to getting face-to-face with co-workers, in the same physical room. When we can see our co-workers, touch our co-workers and smell the coffee that they’re drinking, the dynamic changes – it’s as though we our two (or more) minds become one, and thoughts combine into something entirely new.

    Yes, I do believe that there are benefits to being in the same place – but this needn’t be an either-or proposition; make it a one or two-day-per week thing, when people are required to work in the office. Call these days “Idea Days.”

    But don’t stifle productivity and employee freedom in the process.