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Your Take: Is Working from Home a Good Thing?

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Yahoo LogoOne of the big stories this week was Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer’s memo that would end “working from home” for all Yahoos by June. Various pundits and bloggers jumped at the chance to debate the merits and failings of working at home and I wanted to hear your opinion.

Personally, I think that working from home cannot be a standard way of doing business for any business because being distributed makes it much harder for teams to function. As archaic as it seems, being in an office together does build team chemistry even if it’s complaining about something as silly as the temperature of the office. Shared experiences does promote bonding, even on a superficial level. It also can result in serendipity, ideas that come about by happy accidents, just because people are working together.

Then there’s the issue of friction. Any little roadblock, or friction, can make a process go slower. If I’m working with someone on a project and they are sitting next to me, I just turn around and see if it’s a convenient time to talk. If they’re away, I email. Then I wait, work on something else, until they respond. They can’t possibly respond as quickly as someone sitting beside me or in the office down the hall.

That said, these are all the costs of doing business and I suspect some of the people who work remotely are still with Yahoo because they can work remotely. Yahoo has been languishing for years and this move just looks like a shot in the dark, since there are plenty of companies that allow working from home and they seem to be doing just fine (IBM is doing well after a period of difficulty not because they decreed all employees must work in their offices but because they pivoted their business strategy).

If I were a Yahoo employee, valued working from home, and was given the order to come into an office or quit… I’d go into the office but I’d also start looking for another job. What would you do?

{ 13 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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13 Responses to “Your Take: Is Working from Home a Good Thing?”

  1. Michael says:

    Can’t say that I’m surprised by this decision. There is definitely value in having everyone in the same place at the same time. Also, look at how much some companies have invested in incentivizing that by offering free (quality) meals, on-site daycare and medical care, etc. If having people physically at work didn’t matter that much, why would Google et al. go to such lengths to make it happen?

  2. cubiclegeoff says:

    Sometimes, depending on the business, face-to-face is important. But being in an office can also decrease productivity. I find that if I’m working on something in the office, people often come in to ask questions or request something (with the expectation that it is done right away), or I get a phone call, and it throws off what I was already doing. I then have to restart what I was doing before. Being remote, these things can be prioritized better and added to a list of items to do, rather than have to deal with the anticipation that it is done immediately. I also don’t have to interact with others all that much face-to-face, email or phone provides most of the same interaction I need.

    Overall, I think being in the office a couple of days a week is fine and is good to keep people knowing each other as you work together and for ideas. But every day is not necessary.

  3. Matt says:

    I think that working from home has a place in the business world; often times when you’re working from home you’re doing it to get caught up on something or focus which can be very hard to do with the constant interruptions at the office.

    I agree that there is benefit to going into the office but there are also a lot of drawbacks as well. Once the team chemistry is in place sitting beside the person really isn’t required especially with all the various means of communicating out there.

    Personally I like to work from home once in a while because I find myself more productive when I do it. At the end of the day I think there are benefits to both working from home and being in the office and it depends on the specific office and your job.

  4. Working at home works for some people and not for others. At times I work from home though the majority of the time I’m in an office. I work from home at times because of the decreased interaction with co-workers. It’s easier, at least given my home situation, for me to concentrate.

    If I valued working at home I would do exactly as you described. I would go to the office…and start looking for another job.

  5. Being self-employed, I work at home. I love it. I have worked outside the home in the past in a variety of settings. Whether it is a good idea for a business to allow their employees to telecommute or not largely depends on the type of service or product being produced and the type of wages being paid. If an employee is paid by the hour, then it is usually in the company’s best interest to have the employees report to an actual office. If paid by the satisfactorily completed job, then it may be OK to telecommute. And it largely depends on the work ethic of each employee. And it can depend on the home environment of the employee as well. It can be a tough decision for an employer to make.

  6. Rob says:

    Work from home is one of those concepts that is great for a small percentage of the population, and is terrible on the large scale. It’s perfect for the sterotypical hacker type- a highly motivated, self-directed individual working a one man job.
    Otherwise? Abuse of the freedom becomes a major issue, as does the lack of simple social interaction that greases the wheels and makes everything flow better.
    Plus, I think it’s basic human nature that information carries best person to person. Right now, our team is split between an office in Florida and an office in Virginia. And the experience has been, when someone in one office figures out a problem or solution, their entire office knows about it within an hour, while the other office is lucky to find out a week later.

  7. bloodbath says:

    Before I retired there were instances when I worked from home and I loved it. I accomplished more in less time and I could vary my hours at will – if insomnia kicked in I got up and worked. I am more at ease communicating by phone or email than in person and I know how to stick to the topic and get what I want quickly.

  8. Jacampbell2000 says:

    I think a blend is defiantly the answer. I like getting up and dressed for work but sometimes it’s just better to work at home uninterrupted.

  9. WorkFromHome says:

    At my company, we have several people who work from home a few days a week to full-time. The full-timer seems to always have excuses…running out for an errand…going to the Post Office..picking up son…etc. Also, when you email the WFH people, there tend to be delays in getting responses, like maybe they aren’t actually working. I think the productivity gains by not having office distractions are outdone by productivity losses from no accountability.

  10. admiral58 says:

    It’s good for the right person, but I wouldn’t have my entire team working in the office with one remotely.

  11. Marilyn says:

    My husband has always been able to work from home but I have never been able to, even though when I worked in an office job, it was glaringly obvious that I did not need to be there. when my husband works from home, he does not need to commute to and from the job, which typically means he is at work a half hour earlier and works an extra half hour in the evening. He is a salaried employee so the company gains a free hour. He has a laptop but uses our electricity, wifi, home phone, etc. The company saves electricity; however they provide our wifi and phone for free. He does not work for a company that provides incentives like dry cleaning, fitness facility, etc so none of that is a factor.

    Conversely, I work in a fitness center at a tech company. Recently, the company made it easier for more employees to work from home or other offices. Initially we saw a drop in attendance at our fitness center. However, that was temporary because, apparently, people decided working remotely wasn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.

    One aspect that companies might consider in the work from home debate: the company that hosts my fitness center encourages work from home because it reduces their need for office real estate and the accompanying infrastructure. If 25% of your employees are not in the office on any given day and you don’t assign permanent, dedicated work stations, then you need 25% fewer cubicles, telephones, floor space, etc.

  12. For the right person with a good degree of self discipline and good time management skills, working from home is better than on the job work. That being said, if I were running Yahoo, I would definitely reduce the workforce and get them to work together in physical, in-person teams, at least for the time being as the company regroups and reinvents itself.

  13. Shirley says:

    Several years ago I worked at home for three weeks while in a leg cast, recovering from knee surgery. There was simply no way I could navigate the stairs up to my office. That was a blessing and I was grateful for it while it was necessary, but I was really glad to get back to the physical hands-on business of my job.

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