What Companies Are Doing About Working at Home

According to All Things Digital, uber technology journalist Kara Swisher writes that Yahoo is calling remote employees back to the office. Should they say "no," they are invited to consider employment elsewhere. You can read her February 22, 2013 article by clicking on "Yahoo CEO Mayer Now Requiring Remote Employee to Not Be (Remote)." Click to read the original Yahoo memo that emphasizes the need for the kind of communication and collaboration that allegedly disappears when the work force is scattered throughout the world.

While the official text is interesting, a read of the 172 comments (as of February 24, 2013) are telling. Some suggest that Yahoo is likely to send talent packing at a time when smart and productive people are needed. Besides the fact that certain employees may have been promised a work-at-home arrangement and are not happy about a reverse decision, others may simply find it prohibitively expensive to live closer to Yahoo headquarters or too time-consuming to commute several hours each way from places where real estate is more affordable. At a certain point, individuals could be better off making less money in exchange for a shorter commute. Ask anyone who has regularly traveled into New York City or other cities for many years. A daily dose of driving, training and walking for three to five hours round trip can take its toll. Others offer that professionals who are well suited for telecommuting because they like freedom and flexibility will bristle at the structure of having to show up in person. Then there is the argument that telecommuting enhances productivity, especially if it means that a quiet home versus a noisy office allows for fewer interruptions to one's work flow and facilitates the kind of concentration required for complex problem-solving.

It will be interesting to monitor whether Yahoo's new policy to work on site at one of its locations pays off for shareholders. It certainly seems to differ from what I am hearing in the workplace. In the last few months alone, executives from two major insurance companies told me that many of their employees are being forced to telecommute and that physical offices will be replaced with a hotelling arrangement for days when they travel to a company location.

Unlike Yahoo, the message being sent by those who advocate telecommuting is to leave those family photos at home. Use technology to shave off "bricks and mortar" expenses and take a coffee break on your own time.