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Who’s the Yahoo who banned working at home?

Search engine company calls all its employees back to the office

By Todd Humber

In a controversial move, search engine company Yahoo has revoked work-at-home privileges for all its employees.

In an internal memo to employees, obtained by the Wall Street Journal’s All Things D technology blog, Jackie Reses, executive vice-president people and development at Yahoo, outlined the new policy.

“To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side by side,” the memo reads. “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.”

The memo, which was also signed by CEO Marissa Mayer, according to media reports, says the new arrangement will begin in June.

It even calls out employees who occasionally stay home to wait for a service call — “And, 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. Being a Yahoo isn’t just about your day-to-day job, it is about the interactions and experiences that are only possible in our office.”

According to Kara Swisher, who broke the news on All Things D, the move will also apply to workers who only work from home a day or two per week as well.

There are two divided camps of opinion when it comes to working from home. Some see it as a great tool for recruiting and retaining talent, and many workers argue they are more productive working outside the office. It gives them the flexibility to maintain a decent work-life balance, and doesn’t force them to trudge through the daily grind of rush-hour commuting.

Others don’t trust employees to be as productive, and bemoan the lack of collaboration that comes when employees are scattered.

But from this perspective, a blanket policy stating no employee can work from home, ever, seems like a mistake — especially in the technology industry where star players have plenty of options.

It’s telling that Swisher reported that WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg commented on her story about the change at Yahoo. This is what he 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 San Francisco.”

The long-term impact of Yahoo’s edict remain to be seen. Forcing all workers into the office could boost collaboration. Or it could impact morale and kick-start a brain drain to companies with more flexible policies.

What do you think? Is banning working at home a good HR tactic? Or is it a policy destined for failure?

Todd Humber is the managing editor of Canadian HR Reporter, the national journal of human resource management. He can be reached at todd.humber@thomsonreuters.com or visit www.hrreporter.com for more information. 

© Copyright Canadian HR Reporter, Thomson Reuters Canada Limited. All rights reserved.

Todd Humber

Todd Humber is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Canadian HR Reporter, the national journal of human resource management. Follow him on Twitter @ToddHumber
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