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Yahoo CEO bans working from home.

Marissa Mayer – CEO of Yahoo

Marissa Mayer, CEO of global giant Yahoo, has declared that her employees will no longer be allowed to work from home.

Yahoo memo to staff from Human Resources said:

“To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side. That is why it is critical that we are all present in our offices. Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home. We need to be one Yahoo, and that starts with physically being together.”

37-year-old Mayer, who is also a mum, has drawn widespread criticism since the new policy was announced – especially from employees who don’t live near a Yahoo office or have young children, as they will either have to relocate or resign.

Richard Branson, founder and chairman of Virgin Group, wrote on his blog that he found the decision “perplexing”.

“This seems a backwards step in an age when remote working is easier and more effective than ever,” he wrote. “If you provide the right technology to keep in touch, maintain regular communication and get the right balance between remote and office working, people will be motivated to work responsibly, quickly and with high quality.”

“Working life isn’t 9-5 any more. The world is connected. Companies that do not embrace this are missing a trick,” Branson said.

Marissa Mayer with her baby, who was dressed up for Halloween

However, the move has been praised by other influential business figures such as Donald Trump, who tweeted: “[email protected] is right to expect Yahoo employees to come to the workplace vs. working at home. She is doing a great job!”

But is the CEO of a company – especially a CEO who is the mother of a 5-month-old baby – doing the right thing by putting in place a policy that will limit rather than improve flexible work practices for staff?

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While exact figures on Yahoo’s workforce flexibility arrangements aren’t publicly available, there is no question that the impact of this new policy will be felt most chiefly by women.

More flexible working arrangements, including hours and location considerations, have been credited with significantly increasing women’s participation in the workforce over the past decade.

Allowing women to be able to mold the way they work to suit the changing demands of pregnancy, birth, babies, toddlers and young children means that more women are able to stay in jobs they love and return to work sooner.

And as Jessica Guyen wrote in The Age: “Working mothers are in an uproar because they believe Mayer is setting them back by taking away their flexible working arrangements. Many view telecommuting as the only way time-crunched women can care for young children and advance their careers without the pay, privilege or perks that come with being the chief executive of a Fortune 500 company.”

Rebecca Sparrow, Mamamia’s contributing editor, recently wrote about the benefits of working from home:

Rebecca Sparrow

I’ve been working from home pretty much exclusively for the past 12 years.  And I love it. Big L, love it.

With two little kids who see me as their own personal Sherpa, I can choose to do the bulk of my work on the hemlines of the day.  Early mornings when the house is quiet and my mind is crispy fresh. Or late at night when I’ve chosen to spend the day playing Princess Shops and making Gingerbread biscuits.

But mostly I work during the day, like a normal person (well, except for the fact I don’t always brush my hair which makes me look suspiciously like Newton Faulkner)

I’m tapping out stories while Fin crawls around my feet and attempts to lick the dog.  I’m replying to comments while I’m in the kitchen road-testing Lana’s best ever salad dressing.

There are things I miss about working in an office of course (I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss all the cake). But mud cake to celebrate the birthday of Sonia in accounts, doesn’t – for me – make up for me being around to take Ava to kindy and pick her up again the afternoon.  And to work in my black and white polka-dotted PJs if I want to.

(You can read Bec’s full post here.)

We also had the other side of the spectrum covered by Kate Hunter, who wrote about how lonely it can be to work from home:

Kate Hunter

I have a great home study at home that looks out onto a leafy courtyard. Our street is peaceful, and my three kids are at school, so interruptions are few.

When I was working full time in an ad agency, I dreamed of a life like mine.

But as the kids grew up and started school and I was less caught up in the physically demanding and time-consuming aspects of all-day parenting, I discovered I was going a bit nuts.

Yes, without the kids here during the day, it was quiet at home … too quiet. Except when the dishwasher screamed to be emptied, or that laundry begged to be folded, or I decided there was no way I could settle to my work knowing the children’s wardrobes were such a mess. I’d just sort that out and then I’d tackle that brief. Write that post.

Of course, I wouldn’t, and then I’d be cranky with the kids when they got home from school. All my words remained unwritten and darn it, there my kids were, expecting dinner and asking for help with their homework. Didn’t they realise how FLAT OUT I was?

For the past couple of years, I was monumentally unproductive. I was also lonely.

(You can read Kate’s full post here.)

Perhaps the answer is that working from home is ideal for some industries – and not really workable for others. If you’re doing data entry or, say, accounting work and it doesn’t require a lot of interaction with others – then why not work from home? In other roles, however, it may be necessary to – as Mayer puts it – work with employees “physically being together”.

Do you work from home? Would you want to work from home?

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