David Sturges, Chief Operating Officer, WorkPlaceLive
The news that the chief executive of Yahoo! Marissa Mayer has banned executives from working from home is bound to go down like a lead balloon. She has been accused of taking the company back to the 1980s. Richard Branson has been drawn into the debate who commented that Ms Mayer’s pronouncement was ‘perplexing’ and ‘backwards ’in today’s mobile work environment.
Mr Branson, who has never worked from an office in his entire career, commented that this is backwards step in an age when remote working is easier and more effective than ever. He believes that if you provide the right technology to keep in touch, maintain regular communication and get the right balance between remote and office working, people will be motivated to work responsibly, quickly and with high quality.
I couldn’t agree more. Secure technologies, such as cloud computing and Skype, have allowed businesses over the last 10 years to be much more flexible about where their employees are based. A solution such as hosted desktops allows people to work seamlessly from any device with an internet connection from any location.
This technology is great for forward thinking businesses that are happy for their workforce to work flexibility, but also businesses where employees are on the road a lot perhaps seeing clients or suppliers, home and abroad. Security needn’t be an issue either as all information is held securely in the cloud, hosted by provider, with nothing left on laptops, tablets, ipads etc.
There are numerous business benefits to allowing home working such as needing smaller office space, less time spent commuting and arguably fewer distractions. To employees the sense that their boss trusts them enough to allow home working some or all of the time is a huge plus point and can be the reason that many talented people will choose one organisation over another to work for.
Whilst I can understand the point made by head of human resources at Yahoo! Jackie Rees in the memo just sent to all their staff "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,” to have an out and out ban seem ludicrous.
People do of course need time to build rapport with colleagues and plan activities, but they don’t necessarily need to be in an office every day. Research shows that people can be as or more productive working at home providing the right technology is in place. Companies can also put systems in place to ensure that work gets done if that is their main concern.
A You Gov survey last year found that 52% of British adults say they would like to work from home if they had the necessary IT resources to so, and 58% of British office employees believe they can be as productive (36%) or more productive (23%) when working from home. However it also found that 51% of all employed British office workers say that their employer doesn’t allow them to work from home.
By not allowing people to work from home Yahoo! will also restrict the talent pool coming into its business – people who only want to work this way, people perhaps with disabilities that find it hard to commute to an office and also working mums that want to re-join the workforce but are deterred by the commute and inflexible working hours.
Yahoo! is one of the forerunners of the internet revolution and its business has always been seen as forward thinking and embracing new ways of working. This is why it’s such as surprising attitude from the CEO of one of the world’s leading technology companies. Just think how those executives who have thus far been trusted to work from home feel being told that they must now all be office based? I imagine many of their top executives could soon be deserting this ship.