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Yahoo’s Homeworking Ban: Long Live the Office

Yahoo’s Homeworking Ban: Long Live the Office

Yahoo!’s Marissa Mayer is having a tough week. But when your main rival is Google, sometimes you have to shake things up a bit.

If Yahoo! was looking for a bit of PR, they’ve certainly had their fair share this week. Following the announcement that CEO Marissa Mayer intends to ban telecommuting and homeworking from June, much of the company has been up in arms.

At first, it seemed a strange decision. As an innovative technology company, Yahoo! of all businesses must surely be able to make telecommuting work. They’ve got the tech, the tools, the gadgets, the secure connections and the resources. Plus we’re constantly being told just how beneficial flexible working can be. Here on the blog, time after time we’ve reported on studies that demonstrate the efficiency of flexible working. For instance, in October we reported that three-quarters of respondents would happily accept more remote working in lieu of a payrise. A further 78% identified flexible working as the key to maintaining job satisfaction.

Richard Branson, chief of Virgin, waded into the debate by branding Yahoo!’s move as “perplexing”. Branson says it’s “a backwards step”, adding: “Working life isn’t 9-5 any more. The world is connected. Companies that do not embrace this are missing a trick.”

So by calling a stop to working from home, isn’t Yahoo! risking a mutiny? Potentially – and some commenters believe the backlash will be so great that Mayer will be forced to reverse it.

But when your main rival is Google, sometimes you have to shake things up a little.

That’s the nature of business. It doesn’t mean that telecommuting doesn’t work, and it doesn’t mean that Yahoo! employees will never work from home again (most of them will undoubtedly log-in when they get home anyway). What it does mean is that the office is still – and always will be – an essential toolkit for businesses of any size.

What Mayer wants is to place a focus on “communication and collaboration”, and she believes that working “side-by-side” in a central location is the way to do it. The announcement said: “Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings… that starts with physically being together.”

She’s not alone. When designing Pixar’s head office, the late great Steve Jobs said that he wanted to create a place that “promoted encounters and unplanned collaborations”, as he believed this sparked creativity and innovation. He created the office to “make people get out of their offices and mingle”.

You only have to look at the innovative designs of business giants like Pixar and Google to know that these collaborative spaces are what drives innovation. It’s all about encouraging those natural, unexpected moments when you bump into someone in the corridor, or in the cafe, and great ideas happen.

Crucially, the office is not standing still. Employees won’t be coming back to cubicle farms or stale office environments. They’ll find that office design has moved on, and these collaborative open-plan spaces are an inspirational and creative place to be. It’s exactly the same as coworking – and the coworking concept has been growing at an annual rate of 200% for the last seven years, so it’s no surprise that Yahoo! has identified an opportunity here.

At, we think that this debate shines the spotlight on the importance of the office, and just how essential it is in 21st century working. So while Mayer’s decision might not be a popular one, it’s not as outdated as it seems.

What do you think of Yahoo!’s decision to ban working from home?

Image from NextEditor | Wikimedia Commons

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Author: | March 1, 2013 | 1 Comment

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