subscribe: Posts | Comments

Back to the office?


corporate-office-artSome bosses do not believe that working at home is a good alternative to working in the office.

Last week, the chief executive of Yahoo!, Melissa Mayner, took steps to stop her staff from working from home.

In an office memo sent out to all the company’s California-based employees, the efficiency and productivity of working from home was placed under much scrutiny.

The memo read: ‘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.’

‘Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings,’ it went on to say, and continued: ‘Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home.’

The memo ordered all office staff to return to work by the summer or risk losing their jobs.

Mayner is thought to have returned to work only two weeks after giving birth to her first child.

Her return was made easier by her adeptness of bringing home-life to work: by building a nursery next to her office that allowed her to put in extra hours.

However, another high profile working woman agreed with her surprising announcement.

The head of British Vogue, Alexandra Shulman, welcomed Mayner’s decision, saying, “We have come to believe that working at home is a completely adequate alternative to showing our face in the office. But it’s not.”

“It’s very pleasant and often very constructive, but it is not doing the same job as I do at work and neither is it for anyone else,” Shulman insisted.

Elsewhere, reactions differed greatly, with some resenting the proposed change.

Unsurprisingly, Yahoo! employees felt the most displeased.

One anonymous staff member reportedly said, “When a working mother is standing behind this, you know we are a long way from a culture that will honour the thankless sacrifices that women too often make.”

Mayner’s move has sparked a huge debate in the corporate world about whether working from home makes a significant difference to businesses.

CEO of WPP advertising group, Sir Martin Sorrell, argued, “You want a bit of both. You need to have flexibility.”

“Women are much better organisers of time in our industry than men. I would argue they’re even better at doing their jobs than men in our industry generally,” he admitted.

Stefan Stern, of Cass Business School in London, disagreed with Mayner’s memo.

“I find it slightly depressing actually – five decades of management thought and research has told us we should be worrying more about what people do and how they do it, and not where they do it.

“In this era of knowledge work, brain power, empowering well-educated, intelligent people to do interesting things – the idea that you need to recreate the classroom ethos, that physically turning up is the answer to creativity and better ideas. I don’t get it.”

“Offices can be incredibly unproductive places. But managers do like to supervise and they do like to see people,” he said.

Virgin tycoon, Sir Richard Branson also disagreed with Mayner’s step.

“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,” Branson argued.

Writing for the Guardian, business entrepreneur Heather McGregor argued that employment was hugely dependent upon the trust between the staff and its management, and in most cases, flexibility was essential to success.

In a 2011 survey by business organisation, CBI, it was found that 59 per cent of companies allowed their staff to work at home.

“I still believe the future of work will be more about working from home – or on the move – and less about offices with expensive commercial rents and sky-high business rates,” McGregor insisted.

“I employ talented people who are not easy to replace, so when they ask for flexibility in the form of remote working, I would much rather find a way to accommodate that than lose them. More than half the staff in our company work flexibly.

“People of both sexes want and need to work from home for many reasons, including ageing/infirm relatives, medical appointments, or because their partner is posted a long way from our office.

“It makes good business sense to accommodate these requests,” she concluded.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *