Is Yahoo Right? Should Employees Not Be Allowed to Work from Home?

February 25, 2013  |  

Yahoo employees are livid about a memo that was recently sent from HR to employees and subsequently leaked to the public, revealing that, come June, employees are no longer able to work from home. Those that do will be let go and can stay at home permanently! Although there are only a few hundred employees that work from home full-time, the memo directs anyone who even works from home occasionally to make the transition. It goes as far to say “… for the rest of us who occasionally have to stay home for the cable guy, please use your best judgment in the spirit of collaboration.” Geez you can’t even wait for the cable guy?

HR (and CEO Marissa Mayer) justified the drastic decision by saying, “We need to be one Yahoo!, and that starts with physically being together.” You can check out the memo on AllThingsD. However, most all data implies that reducing employee flexibility can leave an organization divided.

The first thing to consider is how much employees value flexibility in their workplace. In a survey conducted by Mom Corps Houston, 45 percent of the 1,096 working adults who responded to questions about flexibility at work said they would be willing to give up, on average, as much as 8.5 percent of their salary for more flexibility at work.

Another aspect to consider is how productive employees will be while working from home. The numbers are still in favor of allowing flexibility. A study conducted by Stanford University of a Chinese company showed that productivity increased when employees were allowed to work from home. As reported by Forbes 9.5 percent of the increase was due to employees working more hours since there was no commute, fewer distractions, and fewer sick days taken. At home, it’s less likely that employees will be distracted by the discussion of who sang better last night on the Oscars, or taking an extended lunch break and hitting the mall.

The call center employees also took more calls per minute. The same study showed that those who worked from home were 50 percent more satisfied with their jobs and less likely to quit.

Yahoo has been struggling to stay afloat and this is another ploy to get back on the right track. Just last week, Mayer paid a visit to the Today show to unveil the company’s new homepage. That move was later questioned; Yahoo and GMA have a business partnership, and that was Robin Roberts’ first day back on the job. It was a ratings winner… for GMA

Maybe by forcing all employees into headquarters every day they will weed out the least productive employees. One thing is clear: Yahoo employee morale was reduced the moment that memo was sent.

Employees in tech jobs are spoiled when it comes to work flexibility. And with hundreds of competing IT firms in the area that allow flexible work schedules, many employees will be seeking other employment that allows them to work from home.

After the memo was released, WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg wrote:

“For anyone who enjoys working from wherever they like in the world, and is interested in WordPress, Automattic is 100% committed to being distributed. 130 of our 150 people are outside of San Francisco.”

The most beneficial work environment is when employees have a mixed presence in the office, working a few days at home and some in the office. This allows you to be able to wait on the cable guy, while also building strong relationships with your coworkers, your managers, and the company as a whole.

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