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It made some ripples in the digital world this week when Yahoo's new CEO, Marissa Mayer, engineered a move to abolish the company's work-at-home policy, and require everyone to come into the office.

According to the New York Times story, "A memo explaining the policy change, from the company’s human resources department, says face-to-face interaction among employees fosters a more collaborative culture — a hallmark of Google’s approach to its business.

"In trying to get back on track, Yahoo is taking on one of the country’s biggest workplace issues: whether the ability to work from home, and other flexible arrangements, leads to greater productivity or inhibits innovation and collaboration."

And, the story goes on:

"Yahoo’s policy change has unleashed a storm of criticism from advocates for workplace flexibility who say it is a retrograde approach, particularly for those who care for young children or aging parents outside of work. Their dismay is heightened by the fact that they hoped Ms. Mayer, who became chief executive at 37 while pregnant with her first child, would make the business world more hospitable for working parents."

There are a couple of different tensions at work here.

There remains among many employers concern that people who work from home are less productive than those who go to the office each day; at home, it is feared, they will be distracted from their work by children/dogs/aging parents/Sports Center/video games.

However, as the Times notes, there have been studies suggesting that people who work at home actually are more productive ... though often less innovative.

The Yahoo memo explains the rationale behind the decision this way: "Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people and impromptu team meetings. Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home."
KC's View:
It is an ironic move, coming from an iconic internet company.

I have to admit to being of two minds on this one.

I am a huge fan of working at home. I've been doing it, to some degree, for almost two decades. While I have an office about a half-mile from home - aptly called "MNB Global Headquarters" - for a variety of reasons I probably do half my work from home. And I'm not sure that I am any more or less productive or innovative at home than in the office.

But I'm an outlier, because I work by myself - it doesn't matter where I am.

The thing is, one of the best days I've had in this gig is when Michael Sansolo joined up ... because it gave me someone to talk to with some frequency. Same with Kate McMahon. And I'll tell you that the hundreds of emails I get from MNB readers each week keep me connected in a way that I would not be without that level of interaction.

My observation would be that what matters is connection, not proximity. And I also think that these things ought to be considered on a case-by-case basis. The needs of the company need to be considered, but if valuable people have reasons that they need to work elsewhere than in the office, and their jobs can be done as effectively, then I think the modern corporation has to be progressive in its thinking.