BY CHRISTOPHER ESSNER
For many Americans, working at home has become a norm for their daily lives. It provides the ease of flexible hours that fit around a busy schedule. For families with young children, this may be the only feasible choice available.
The importance of this choice for many, became notable when Yahoo! CEO, Marissa Mayer, announced that the company is now requiring all employees to work from the office.
Mayer made the desicion as one of her first major changes to the struggling company.
A memo to all Yahoo! employees reads, “Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings. Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home. We need to be one Yahoo!, and that starts with physically being together.”
Yahoo! feels that the lack of interaction creates a void in the creative process. For many this was unexpected, and the backlash became national headlines. Yahoo! is very much in the spotlight, and companies are watching to see how its strategy works.
Sara Sutton Fell, CEO of FlexJobs, a job search site for those seeking flexible work, works from home herself and doesn’t feel the success or failure of Yahoo! will affect other companies work-from-home policies.
“There are too many trends supporting the movement to incorporate some level of telecommuting,” she said in an email to New Jersey Newsroom. “Many job-seekers are very eager to work with companies that offer some kind of telecommuting policy, although I’m the first to say it’s not for everyone.”
In a survey by FlexJobs, 99.5 percent of respondents believe having a flexible job will make them happier, and the most common reason is the desire to have a balance between work and personal life (78 percent).
Many companies are turning to work-from-home positions as technology becomes more efficient. The New York Daily News reports 53 percent of US employers were offered flexible work hours in 2012 – a trend that is rising every year.
“Most people don’t realize how widespread telecommuting is already, and we see jobs in virtually every career category,” said Sutton Fell.
There are hidden benefits for companies that have work-from-home employees as well. Telecommuters often work more hours without extra compensation. A Labor Department report says work-from-home employees often work more hours per week than office workers. Employers fight to hire top-tier talent to their companies, and understand the value of offering flexible scheduling.
Vivek Wadhwa, a researcher from Stanford University, believes Yahoo’s situation is unique and the outside criticism is unwarranted.
“Marissa Mayer inherited a complete mess,” Wadhwa said in an interview with USA Today. “By bringing everyone in-house, she’ll be able to reprogram the company’s work culture while also easily jettisoning a lot of deadwood employees who aren’t doing much now. You can’t do that weed-and-feed with people at home.”
Whether or not Mayer’s intention was to weed out the bad apples or to implement a stricter policy, they have certainly started a discussion. It’s a discussion one expects to continue for years.