Marissa Mayer, Yahoo, And The Pros And Cons Of Working From Home

Whether or not she wants to be a role model for company culture or women in power roles, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer has reinvigorated the debate over telecommuting. Here's a guide to the conversation unfolding.

Yahoo's Marissa Mayer may not be the first CEO to crack down on telecommuting, but her recent memo to staffers provoked one of the Internet's more heated discussions on the pros and cons of working from home. The discussion became so widespread that Yahoo issued a statement less than a week later clarifying that its decision to reverse its telecommuting policy was not meant to be taken as "a broad industry view on working from home." Whether you agree with Mayer or are regularly struck with creative inspiration while in your pajamas, we've put together a Fast Company reader with stories that make the case for both sides.

The Case For Working From Home

It makes you more productive.
Sure, you can save fuel power and time by cutting out the twice-daily commute. But the real benefit of working from home could be amplified productivity: According to a Stanford University study of call center employees at a Chinese company, telecommuters' performance improved by 13%.
Read more: "Working From Home Makes You More Productive"

It lets companies hang on to great employees.
When "work" isn't synonymous with "going to the office," it allows companies to keep great employees who aren't willing or able to move. Plus, without physical water cooler gossip, every employee has to commit to communicating to get things done.
Read more: "7 Great Reasons To Encourage Working Remotely"

It doesn't mean you have to sacrifice speed or quality.
Just because your workers aren't sharing the same physical space doesn't necessarily mean collaboration is dead. By staying on top of email and checking in often with colleagues and superiors, remote employees can make sure their telepresence is felt just as much as if they were in the office.
Read more: "Hey, Marissa: Remote Workers Can Collaborate, Too"

It means you'll be better prepared when disaster strikes.
Weather extremes and other disasters are always bound to hinder your work productivity to some extent. But if teleworking is already part of your repertoire, it's much more likely you'll be able to power on with minimal disruption.
Read more: "8 Steps To Make Telework And Flexible Hours Part Of Your Disaster-Response Plan"

When you love what you do, you'll work like you mean it, no matter where you are.
Motivating yourself from home is infinitely easier if you wake up each morning looking forward to the project you're working on. After that, it's simply about developing the same habits you'd adopt if you had to go into an office. And yes, that includes putting on pants.
Read more: "How To Work From Home Like You Mean It"

The Case For Office Space

"Working from home" isn't good for working or for being at home.
A case against parents who choose to work from home simply argues that you can't be in two places at once. Attempting to do so only serves to foster disappointment from both work colleagues and family.
Read more: "Why Working From Home Is The Worst Of Both Worlds"

Working and living under the same roof makes it harder to mentally "check out" of work when the day is done.
When you're trying to make your living in the same place you make your home, the way many freelancers do, it can become harder to identify when one ends and the other begins. That can translate into greater exhaustion and lower confidence in your work performance.
Read more: "Why Freelancers Are So Depressed"

It keeps the distractions of home life at bay.
Although working from home can provide a quiet sanctuary away from a bustling office and gossipy coworkers, it can also present a different set of distractions. Suddenly, the laundry you've been meaning to do becomes irresistible, and you're two hours from where you started.
Read more: "Will Working Remotely Work? 7 'What If' Scenarios To Consider First"

There are some things you can't do remotely.
Box CEO Aaron Levie tries to schedule face time with his customers whenever possible, whether that means scheduling meetings while on business trips or having customers come visit the office.
Read more: "Box CEO Aaron Levie On Scheduling Face Time With Customers"

Sometimes, working from home just isn't realistic.
The idea of sending an email to your boss while sipping a mug of coffee and balancing a serene tot on your knee will almost always be just that: an idea, and not a very realistic one, at that.
Read more: "Work/Life Balance Is A Myth; Here's What You Can Do About It"


A Happy Medium

Sometimes, curing office doldrums is simply about finding a temporary change of scenery, whether that's in a coffee shop, a coworking space, or even on a park bench.

[Image: Flickr user tashmahal]

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9 Comments

  • Emily Brower Auchard

    It's about the cha-ching-ching. When remote work goes away families pay in cold hard cash for childcare--or maybe even elderly parent care. See http://www.onethingnew.com/ind... for a good take on the collateral damage of Yahoo's and Mayer's decision.

    Also, I'm pretty sure parents don't work in their pajamas when they're 'telecommuting' for the day. Taking your kids to school in bunny slippers? Not a good look.

  • Mahima Kini

    Interesting article presenting the two sides of the coin--but like most things in life, there is no single "perfect" option!  In a utopian society, you could expect every person to deliver his/her best at work and beyond, irrespective of where they work from. Unfortunately, we can't expect the same in the present times.
    To ensure you get the best out of your employees, you have to incorporate and imbibe those values within your organizational culture. Declining your employees the flexibility of time and space will not ensure 100% productivity, neither is it a guarantee that their mind is at the same place where their body is! It takes a sense of discipline and whole-hearted commitment to deliver to the best of one's capability...to be mindful of the company's goals and objectives..to stay as dedicated to your working hours at home as you might be within the office (under your boss' nose). 

    Today, technology has rendered geography meaningless--at least when it comes to work that can be done virtually. Our blog on a Virtual Workforce in new Geographies < http://www.minacsblogs.com/Cus... > talks about how a virtual workforce is slowly gaining momentum overseas as businesses compete for talent across the globe. 

    In today's  hyperconnected world, Mayer's decision comes as a shock. Micro-managing every employee is impractical and keeping a tab on every minute during the working hours is impossible. The first step then should be to pick the right people, and then offer the right culture and environment where the "workspace" doesn't matter..what matters is the work itself.

  • Mahima Kini

    Interesting article presenting the two sides of the coin--but like most things in life, there is no single "perfect" option!  In a utopian society, you could expect every person to deliver his/her best at work and beyond, irrespective of where they work from. Unfortunately, we can't expect the same in the present times.

    To ensure you get the best out of your employees, you have to incorporate and imbibe those values within your organizational culture. Declining your employees the flexibility of time and space will not ensure 100% productivity, neither is it a guarantee that their mind is at the same place where their body is! It takes a sense of discipline and whole-hearted commitment to deliver to the best of one's capability...to be mindful of the company's goals and objectives..to stay as dedicated to your working hours at home as you might be within the office (under your boss' nose). 

    Today, technology has rendered geography meaningless--at least when it comes to work that can be done virtually. Our blog on a Virtual Workforce in new Geographies < http://www.minacsblogs.com/Cus... > talks about how a virtual workforce is slowly gaining momentum overseas as businesses compete for talent across the globe. 

    In today's  hyperconnected world, Mayer's decision comes as a shock. Micro-managing every employee is impractical and keeping a tab on every minute during the working hours is impossible. The first step then should be to pick the right people, and then offer the right culture and environment where the "workspace" doesn't matter..what matters is the work itself. 

  • James Walsh

    Got to say for me your points are all very one sided, so allow me to balance it out.

    A. my kids are both at school when I work from home and even when they're at home they are disciplined on out to know I am working.
    B. I am very structured and disciplined when working at home and often have to be told its way past 6 by my wife.
    C. As a manager I "trust" my people when they work at home
    D. You assume that "working from home" is reserved for the rmployed when actually it can hold a key solution for the long term unemployed too, and before everyone slams that comment thinks about this...unemployed people use eBay too ! That takes skill and for me fits the new definition of "working at home"

    Hope that gives some balance to what felt like a one sided "old school view" of working at home.

  • susan

    I've worked exclusively from home for 3 years, I'm self-employed. I find I need to set boundaries, I'm at work at 9, leave at 5, take an hour lunch. Tracking my time hour by hour helped me focus at first. I find I have to make a conscious effort to schedule face time with clients, lunches with colleagues and the occasional work-from-the-library days. There's a great group of colleagues on Twitter that I converse with almost every day.
    I'd love to find a group to meet up with and work together at a coffee shop for the intellectual exchange and human company. Has anyone successfully created a group like this?

  • Michaelm

     Susan, that sounds like a great idea - we are an architecture / interior design firm and have space available for "visitors" - a few empty work stations - your question sparked the idea that we can have creative folks join us every now and then -

  • Amber King

    There are pros and cons with telecommuting. I guess this depends on the person and the company. There are those who are more productive at home and those in the office.

  • Joy Dinampo

    I agree. It takes so much discipline, proper time management and sometimes the right tools to be able to work effectively at home.
    Managers need not gather everyone in the office just for them to see what everyone is doing, it's now possible through tracking tools like that of Time Doctor. An employee should have access to any data that is monitored otherwise, this already unethical; an invasion of privacy.  There are collaboration and communication tools as well, which is suited for teams whenever important matters are to be discussed.
    Really, everything boils down to proper time management (for a work at home employee) and something you called "Trust".