Working from Home v. Working from an Office

March 09, 2013

It is surprising to me how much the debate over working at home versus an office has blown up in recent days. For years different companies and organizations have had varying policies and positions on this issue, but once Yahoo!’s new CEO Marissa Mayer issued an edict ending work at home policies for a small number of employees, there was a strangely large backlash. Business owners, employees, and management theorists all wasted a lot of energy trying to convince people who there was some kind of answer to this. They are wrong. Working from home is something that will work for some companies and employees, but not for others.

The overreaction and public debate about this issue make little sense. I understand why workers that previously were allowed to work remotely would be upset about being forced to haul themselves into their office every day. However this policy move does not impact anyone outside Yahoo. Companies like Aetna and government organizations like the USPTO continue to offer and even encourage working from home. The change has little or no bearing on whether remote work policies are right for companies that are not Yahoo.

Even stranger, the press pegged a minor policy change at Best Buy as being related to Yahoo’s change. The headline and analysis are poor in two respects: Best Buy did not claim that Yahoo’s change influenced their position, and Best Buy did not end remote working like Yahoo did. They simply changed it from a decision the worker makes to one that they have to consult with their manager about. One company making a minor change does not make a trend that is worth writing about.

Ultimately this debate is full of filler and noise for the media. Companies and organizations will continue to adopt policies that work best for them. Decision makers should not be afraid to try one mode of operation or the other, and then switch if one works better.

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This work by Matt Zagaja is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.