With the recent announcement/leak that Yahoo! is requiring all its employees to work from an office, I’ve been thinking a lot about my own experience working from home. I’ve been working from home for over 13 years; my first experience working from home was forced upon me with the closure of my office, but this second stint was my own choice. For my work style and ethic, I could never work in an office again. I do put in a full workday every day as well as work extra hours when needed. However, I’m also not chained to a desk and can get things done during the day, if needed. While I’m not alone in never wanting to work in an office again, working from home isn’t for everyone. In fact, I’d argue that most people should never work from home.
Working from home takes a certain dedication, motivation, and work ethic. In most cases, I believe that this should be reserved for the cream of the crop employees and be decided on a case by case basis. I’ve seen working from home abused by many employees and what Yahoo! is doing may make sense for it. However, they have the possibility of losing their best employees over the new policy.
Several years ago when my business was down significantly, I interviewed for a position with a local company. Like Yahoo!, their policy was that all employees had to be in the office. As someone who had worked from home for many years prior to this, I was quite torn about the position. In the end, I determined that my quality of life would suffer if I had to work in an office and commute up to an hour and a half round trip each day. Not everyone has this luxury, but a policy that is supposed to foster collaboration could backfire if it reduces overall employee satisfaction.
Even though I work in a large company, my entire team (except for one project manager) works from home (we’re all in different cities). We’ve actually never worked in an office for this company, but were hired as remote employees because great employees are hard to find and dictating where someone must live and come into an office drastically reduces the potential talent pool. If my company were to enact a blanket policy where no one could work from home with no exceptions on a case by case basis, I’m almost sure we’d all leave. My team is extremely talented and forcing us into the mold of an average employee is fraught with disaster.
Hopefully Yahoo! doesn’t lose too many good people (if you’re a mobile developer at Yahoo! and are looking to leave, please drop me a note) with this move. In addition, maybe the policy can be revisited on a case by case basis so that the top people have a lot more flexibility. In our highly mobile workforce, lumping everyone together is a recipe for losing people.