One Fortune 500 CEO has banned 'work from home'—will more follow?

Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer says workers must come into the office

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer will no longer let employees work from home as part of her push to improve collaboration and innovation—but some say it may come at a price to working mothers, the company's ability to recruit top talent, and overall worker productivity.

Working from home becomes more popular

According to Microsoft's Ron Markezich, work-for-home policies have become commonplace across many industries. "Ten years ago, it was seen more as an employee benefit," he says, adding, "Today, businesses around the world are seeing telework as a necessity."

Even the government has embraced the new workplace model. At U.S. Patent and Trademark Office work remotely, 64% of employees work remotely. The agency has since seen employee satisfaction and productivity improve, while real estate costs have fallen, NPR reports.

But not everyone is on board with distributed work arrangements. For example, Mayer's previous employer—Google—sees working from home as a detriment to productivity, a philosophy Mayer has evidently brought with her to Google as she tries to build an environment that better fosters collaboration and innovation

Yahoo's new policy stirs controversy

In a memo to Yahoo staff, HR chief Jackie Reses wrote, "To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side." She added, "Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions [and] meeting new people… Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home."

However, critics warn that the new, much-discussed Yahoo policy may:

  • Harm employees who care for aging parents or younger children at home;
  • Harm the company's ability to recruit top talent as more competitors offer the perk; and
  • Harm employee productivity, as research shows that working from home can enhance it.

In a blog post this week, Virgin Group's Richard Branson called Meyer's decision "backwards." He wrote, "If you provide the right technology to keep in touch, maintain regularly communication, and get the right balance between remote and office working, people will be motivated to work responsibly, quickly, and with high quality."

Yahoo is not the only company to limit work from home. Last year, Bank of America—which has a robust remote-work program—decided to require workers in certain roles to come into the office. However, the Boston Globe notes, the overall trend remains more workplace flexibility (Miller/Rampell, Boston Globe, 2/26; Goudreau, Forbes, 2/25; Pepitone, CNN, 2/25; MacMillan/Baker, Bloomberg, 2/26; Hu, "All Tech Considered," NPR, 2/25). 


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