Yahoo Ban on Employees Working From Home a Risky Move: Analysts

By Todd R. Weiss  |  Posted 2013-02-26 Print this article Print

For workers, the option to work at home fills a unique need, wrote Enderle. "They either just need some time away from office drama to get things done; they live too far away to commute every day; or they have home responsibilities, such as aging parents or young children, that require them to be home. What [Mayer] did could stall or reverse Yahoo's recovery, and it is very foolish."

Melanie Turek, vice president of research at Frost & Sullivan, a business research and consulting firm, called Yahoo's new work-at-home prohibition "a terrible idea."

Turek, who wrote a blog post challenging the decision, told eWEEK that it "completely flies in the face of all that our research shows about the trends in the workplace."

A recent Frost & Sullivan survey of 880 IT decision makers showed that 25 percent of their employees work remotely, which provides benefits such as improved productivity, better employee satisfaction and retention, and the ability to hire the best talent, regardless of location, according to Turek.

"The wasted time that people spend commuting is obviously mentioned a lot, which can range from 30 minutes to 90 minutes or more," said Turek. "Getting rid of that is huge."

Not every analyst thought the move was completely bad, however. R. Ray Wang, of Constellation Research, said that for businesses in general, Yahoo's decision is a bad choice, but that for Yahoo, it could ultimately make some sense, despite the drawbacks for some employees.

"For Yahoo specifically, this is a very good idea," said Wang. "When the company has gotten too far from allowing employees to have those formal and informal interactions, then you do have to bring people together again. I think Yahoo had gotten too far from that."

Sometimes having employees working from home too much can mean that a company forgets its mission and doesn't get everything done, said Wang. That can be a problem.

That's why Mayer's attempt at change isn't a huge shock, Wang said. But what is a big surprise, he said, is that rather than curtailing work from home, Yahoo is moving to completely forbid the practice.

"It's the extremeness of that message that is shocking," said Wang. "I think that what she's trying to do is to underline the seriousness of the situation, to say that for Yahoo to compete with Google and others that they need people to fully engage."

To do that, said Wang, she wants to put everyone inside Yahoo on an equal footing to "get the whole company moving together in the same direction."

"That's why we think they're taking this action," he said.

Inevitably, other human resources managers with other companies will probably look at Yahoo's move and see if it is a fit for them, he said. "The question is, have we gone too far?"

Mayer has kept the mobile industry intrigued since she left Google in July 2012 to become Yahoo's fifth CEO in four years, and while seven months pregnant.


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