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The Good, Bad, and Indifferent on the ‘Work From Home’ Debate

Mom working from home

Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo, recently announced that the company’s employees must shut the doors to their at-home offices and bring their briefcases to the headquarters. Ever since, the ‘net has been buzzing with opinions, surveys, and questions about working from home.

We have a lot of customers, friends, and employees who work from home, and know that it’s a productive way to get the job done. We also know that working from home isn’t for everyone, and can present complications. We’ve been on the lookout for the most insightful and interesting posts from the past couple of weeks surrounding the topic.

Marissa Mayer on Google+Here are our favorites:

Reuters explains Mayer’s decision and dives into Yahoo’s original memo, helpfully outlining the work from home debate.

‘Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussion, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings. Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home,’ said the memo attributed to Yahoo human resources head Jacqueline Reses. -Yahoo memo sparks debate on pros and cons of working at home

David Heinemeier Hansson, creator of Ruby on Rails and partner at 37signals, thinks Yahoo’s decision is a big mistake. Not only that, the choice shows that the company is in trouble.

When management has to lay it on so thick that they don’t trust you with an afternoon at home waiting for the cable guy without a stern ‘please think of the company’, you know something is horribly broken … The real message is that teams and their managers can’t be trusted to construct the most productive environments on their own. They are so mistrusted, in fact, that a ‘zero tolerance’ policy is needed to ensure their compliance. No exceptions! -No more remote work at Yahoo

 

Delia Lloyd, political writer and contributor to the Washington Post, explains the stark difference between work and life balance in the United States versus Europe. She says working from home isn’t the problem, but working too much is.

But let’s not kid ourselves that working at home means that we necessarily work any less or that it’s somehow more relaxing. I routinely get up at 4 a.m. and routinely work 50-hour weeks. It doesn’t matter whether I’m doing that in an office or on my sofa; I’m still exhausted. In fact, the human resources team at my company recently phoned to remind me that I was ‘in danger of not complying with company policy by taking my mandatory 28 days of annual leave.’ (I know. 28 days? What are they smoking? But this is Europe, after all….) -Dear Americans: Don’t work at home, work less

Samantha Murphy, Mashable writer, explains the results of a national survey by SurveyMonkey, indicating that workers value remote benefits, and may even quit if they are taken away.

It’s not surprising that working from home proves to be a coveted perk by many employees. There’s no commute and pajamas are acceptable attire. In fact, that’s what respondents (29%) said they would miss most from working from the confines of home: sweatpants. Employees said they would also miss the lack of interruptions (26%), ability to multi-task (work-life balance) such as washing the dishes (25%) and hanging out with their dog (8%). -Can’t Work From Home? Study Reveals Employees Might Quit

Caroline Humer of Reuters explains that Aetna Inc. has a large at-home workforce (47 percent), and plans to stick by them despite the emergence of a work from home discussion.

Aetna

A nurse practitioner, Tammy Saunders works as a case manager for Hartford, Connecticut-based health insurer Aetna Inc, helping college students recovering from accidents or surgery get the follow-up services they need. The bonuses? No ironing, no commute and no need for after-school care for the kids. Also, less chatting with other employees – so fewer distractions. ‘There are days when I sit at my desk, and I don’t move all day,’ said Saunders … Of course, that also means no coffee breaks, lunches or group chats about, say, the Oscars. ‘I miss them, but not enough to go back into the office.’ -In telecommuting debate, Aetna sticks by big at-home workforce

Rachel Emma Silverman and Quentin Fottrell, contributors to the Wall Street Journal, discussed some of the cons associated with distance from the office.

Wall Street Journal Growing Group

Clichés about the water-cooler aside, many managers say having workers in the office makes sense, given greateremphasis on collaboration and group projects. And despite studies showing that home-based workers may be more productive than their cubicle-bound peers, remote workers must also combat the perceptions among managers and colleagues that they’re not spending the day goofing off… ‘Home workers can become forgotten workers,’ especially when it comes to bonding with senior management, said Nicholas Bloom, a professor of economics at Stanford and a co-author of a study [on remote workers]. -The Home Office in the Spotlight

People are different. Some may revel in their pajamas about how much they’re getting done at home, while others may struggle to generate ideas without daily chats by the coffee machine.

It’s up to business owners, managers, and other leaders to think about the pros and cons of working from home. What do you think about Yahoo’s decision? Do your employees work from home? Do you? What are the advantages? The disadvantages?

This article was written by Emma Siemasko.