Work From Home? Not if You Work at Yahoo

Internet-based companies have often led the way when it comes to unique perks for employees — including flex scheduling and the ability to work from home. Yahoo's new CEO, however, sees it differently. A recent memo to staff asked those who work from home to come into the office starting in June. Needless to say, some who were not thrilled with the decision initially leaked the memo. (In Mayer's defense, recent reports indicate she believes some at the company have taken advantage of the flexible policy, leading to diminished productivity.) All Things D reports:

Courtesy of a plethora of very irked Yahoo employees, here is the internal memo sent to the company about a new rule rolled out today by CEO Marissa Mayer, which requires that Yahoo employees who work remotely relocate to company facilities.

“Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home,” reads the memo to employees from HR head Jackie Reses. “We need to be one Yahoo!, and that starts with physically being together.”

Painfully awkward as this is phrased, it means every Yahoo get to your desks stat!

I reported earlier today that the move will apparently impact only several hundred employees, such as customer service reps, who work from home full time. But numerous sources told me that the decree extends to any staffers who might have arrangements to work from home just one or two days a week, too.

The changes begin in June, according to the Yahoo memo.

After that, employees who work from home must comply without exception or quit. One top manager was told that there would be little flexibility on the issue.

The anger from impacted employees was strong today, because many felt they were initially hired with the assumption that they could work more flexibly.

In fact, even waiting for the cable guy is questionable. “And, for the rest of us who occasionally have to stay home for the cable guy, please use your best judgment in the spirit of collaboration,” wrote Reses.

The tone and tactics have infuriated some at the company. Wrote one impacted Yahoo employee to me: “Even if that was what was previously agreed to with managers and HR, or was a part of the package to take a position, tough … It’s outrageous and a morale killer.”

Most tech companies encourage workers to stay on their campuses, offering free food and other perks. But none enforce such rules beyond staff needed to operate an office.

“Our engineers would not put up with that,” said one tech exec. “So, we’d never focus on it.”

In the comments section of my first story on the HR change at Yahoo, WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg wrote:

“For anyone who enjoys working from wherever they like in the world, and is interested in WordPress, Automattic is 100% committed to being distributed. 130 of our 150 people are outside of San Francisco.”

The issue is an interesting and controversial one, with some certain that working at home is the wave of the future, while others considering it hurtful to productivity.

Well, we’ll presumably see which this way goes in time.

Road Time Costly to Companies, Employees

Too much traffic, too long a commute and too many workers losing productivity. The challenge is not new and neither is the potential solution of telecommuting. The leader of one of the nation's leading workplace consulting firms says it's time for change.

“By not expanding the use of telecommuting, employers are negatively impacting the environment, worker productivity, job satisfaction and, most importantly, their bottom lines.  And, it is not a lack of technology or other resources that is holding back this expansion.  It is simply a lack of vision, a shortage of trust and an irrational adherence to antiquated notions of how and where work should be done,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

The call for increased telecommuting comes on the heels of a new report from the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, which revealed that increased traffic congestion is forcing the nation’s workers to build in extra time to their daily commutes to the tune of $121 billion in wasted time and fuel in 2011.

Obviously, there are many occupations that are not conducive to telecommuting.  However, the number of jobs that can be done remotely have grown significantly over the last two decades and will continue to expand going forward.

The latest available statistics from the Telework Research Network indicate that 3.1 million people, not including the self-employed or unpaid volunteers, considered home to be their primary place of work in 2011.  That is roughly 2.5 percent of U.S. nonfarm payrolls.

Overall, the number of telecommuters increased by 73 percent between 2005 and 2011.  However, according to the data, the number of telecommuters remains well below the potential.  The Telework Research Network estimates that as many as 64 million U.S. employees (just under 50 percent of the workforce) hold a job that is compatible with telework.

“Companies are embracing the latest portable tablets and laptops, social networking, video conferencing and many of the other technological advancements that make telecommuting increasingly viable.  However, in many ways, companies are stuck in the old way of doing business, where people are expected to work from 9 to 5 and are judged more on the amount of ‘face time’ than on the quantity or quality of output."

Companies that have embraced telecommuting have found that their remote workers are just as, if not more productive than traditional office workers.  Analyses of Best Buy, British Telecom, Dow Chemical and many other employers have found that teleworkers are 35 percent to 45 percent more productive.  American Express found that its teleworkers produced 43 percent more than their office-based counterparts.

In addition, various studies have found that telecommuting employees are happier, more loyal, and have fewer unscheduled absences.