To Homework or Not to Homework…
14 Mar

To Homework or Not to Homework…

Following Yahoo!’s controversial decision to ban home working, it is the proverbial hot potato…but is it the way of the future or simply a nice to have?

You must have been spending March living under a rock if you missed the headlines caused by Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer when she decided to ban employees from home working.  Perhaps Mayer didn’t mean to create as much debate, but debate she has sure created…and it’s gone global.  Even Richard Branson has been tweeting about it, saying he was ‘Perplexed by Yahoo! stopping remote working.  Give people the freedom of where to work & they will excel.’  So, even though Mayer’s decision seems to ignore everything we think we know about the perceived benefits of homeworking, is all the furore warranted?

The debate has thrown up much about the benefits of home working.  Arguably, home working brings increased flexibility and productivity; how many of us, for example, will say we’ve clocked off well after we should have when working from home?  For employees it helps those with responsibilities outside of the workplace and reduces the stress of endless hours of travelling, and for the organisation it can cut costs and bring all those lovely employee engagement and productivity benefits.  Strengthening the case ‘for’, Vodafone have recently thrown their hat into the home working ring by surveying 500 ‘decision makers’ in businesses across the UK, who responded by saying that home working could save £34bn a year by freeing up space and reducing overheads.

Seems like a no-brainer then, but let’s also consider the case against…and in Mayer’s defence there are sound reasons against.

Just as many of us will have worked past when we should have, do we account for how long it took us to get started, or for an extended lunch break / errand running / boiler repair visit* (*delete as applicable).  Of course we will all say when we’re working at home we’re completely focused and not taking liberties, but part of home working’s allure is that it is flexible, so why shouldn’t we as long as we make up for it?  Well, part of Mayer’s argument is that Yahoo! staff will be more productive working exclusively in the office, and that’s a pretty valid argument when we consider the number of distractions we have at home.  When she banned the same practice at Google, it was to improve ‘communication and collaboration’ between colleagues, and in the same Vodafone survey, a quarter of employers responded with concerns that employees would abuse the opportunity to work from home.

So, as the debate rolls on, tell us your home working fors and againsts in the comments below.

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Chris Mooney Chris Mooney
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