Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer has today reversed existing company policy regarding employees working from home. From June all employees will have to show up at the office in a decision that goes contrary to current thinking on this type of working arrangement.
A wealth of reputable research indicates that working from home increases productivity and this is backed by the experiences of major international entities that encourage the practice. The system saves employer costs such as office space, energy etc. and saves the employee commuting time and expense, and in some cases childcare costs and allows greater personal flexibility. Those industries in which such arrangements are practical are trending towards the expansion of this method of labour engagement. The technology industry is a forerunner in the field and many service industries have also counted the benefits: Cisco, IBM, Microsoft, telcos and journalists and insurance companies and dressmakers and copy-editors and innumerable others. New terms like Telecommute and Telework have become part of business jargon.
Industrial cost savings pale in comparison to the plans of governments around the world who have been following this trend. Some have factored into their future estimates equations that reduce capital expenditure on roads and public transport based on a drop in the number of commuters. Carbon emission estimates have been made on the proportionate reduction of pollutants from commuting and less office space. This extends to land for parking and planning for urban high-rise development. Health budgets reflect less cases of work stress and motor vehicle trauma.
It is difficult to explain the Yahoo move in the light of a connected world where internet bandwidth is now fast and affordable at a time when computers have never been cheaper and an average employee’s smartphone increases their availability to a possible 24/7 scenario. Yahoo has cited the value of impromptu ideas in meetings as being part of its rationale but there is nothing to support this and in this day and age businesses do not make major changes without extensive research. The extensive research of the day points to working from home being added value for businesses and there is nothing to suggest that ideas originate in a specific environment. It is already a common complaint that too much time is spent in meetings anyway. When necessary, the virtual VideoTeleMeeting allows such an environment.
Marissa Mayer is the relatively new boss at Yahoo. She previously worked for Google, the company that invented the flexible workplace. She was headhunted into Yahoo in an attempt to restore the stale search engine to its former glory. Industry watchers have been waiting for her first major move. If this is it, nobody will be impressed. She’s not responding to requests for an explanation, saying that the decision is “an internal matter”. Respectfully Marissa Meyer, it’s not. It is now in the public arena and will be exposed for the short-sighted, selfish thinking that it is. As a manager you should know to keep it simple: increases in productivity mean better businesses and telework means increased productivity.
There are ramifications to her decision that affect the workforce worldwide, global environmental issues and government policy on every continent. In Australia the government is rolling out fibre-optic broadband to every home on the continent. To every home (sorry 98% – the outback will get satellite). It expects to double the number of people working from home to 12% of the workforce by 2020. The original estimate for this National Broadband Scheme was $43b and it will almost certainly come in over budget but the Australian Commonwealth has already counted the savings right down to the reduction in potholes to be repaired in rural back roads.