Yahoo announced on February 25 that it is abolishing its work-at-home policy and requiring all telecommuters to work in the office. The e-commerce company Zappos also has revoked a policy that allowed certain individuals to work remotely. The stated rationale of both–to create a “more collaborative culture.”
In other news:
- Ford will reintroduce the Model T Station Wagon;
- The US Postal Service says it will deliver mail by horse and buggy to boost human and animal collaboration;
- The All-England Club issued a memo stating that all players must use wooden rackets at this year’s Wimbledon; and
- The Supreme Court may scale back the landmark Voting Rights Act, which was a centerpiece of the civil rights movement.
O.K. that last one might actually happen, but you get the point. The idea of a world where telecommuting is completely verboten seems nothing short of antiquated. Then, throw in the fact that Yahoo’s very essence derives from the Internet age and this new policy seems even more bizarre.
Will Employees Exit Stage Left?
The company’s policy change appears to be the brainchild of its new CEO Marissa Mayer. The goal is to boost personal interaction. But the result for Yahoo and Zappos may well be to boost the number of employees heading for the door.
A number of studies have shown that allowing the telecommuting option not only increases employee morale but also productivity. One of our top Legal Editors here at XpertHR works from home full-time. He lives four hours away but remains fully reachable to team members. Having a flexible policy enabled us to keep him in the fold producing for us rather than someone else.
Surely, this news is not of the “man bites dog” variety to seasoned HR professionals. Many workers with much shorter commutes than that work from home one day a week or more to better meet familial obligations or other reasons. There are benefits to be sure of personal interaction, and certain positions may need to be office based. But staff morale also matters.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 63 percent of US employers in 2012 said they permitted employees to work remotely. And many of those that don’t fall into categories where such arrangements are not as feasible. So Yahoo’s move clearly goes against the grain.
Not surprisingly, even workers outside of Yahoo are taking umbrage with the company’s no-work-at-home policy. Business titans are weighing in too. Virgin Group’s Richard Branson has registered his opposition, and spoken of “trusting people to get their work done wherever they are.” But Donald Trump has firmly backed Mayer’s strong stance to have all employees physically present in the office.
What’s your view? Are you on the side of Sir Richard and myself that getting rid of these policies turns back the clock to a less-worker friendly time. Or do The Donald and Yahoo have it right?
I’d love to hear from you. Please do get in touch either by leaving a comment below or via Twitter.