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Mila D'Antonio | March 4, 2013

Yahoo! CEO Sparks Work From Home Debate. Where do you Stand?

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In light of the annual Employee Recognition Day last Friday, I had planned to offer advice for rewarding and recognizing employees. Rather than list tips about writing hand-written notes or introducing Zappos-like recognition day celebrations, I'll instead address a more poignant debate fueled by Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer last week--the discussion around whether allowing employees to work from home is beneficial or disadvantageous.

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Mayer's edict last week mandated that all remote employees return to the office by June 1. She explained her decision with this message: "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... We need to be one Yahoo!, and that starts with physically being together."

Mayer's decree set off a week-long contest between everyone from Michael Bloomberg to Richard Branson. Her decision sparked categorically varying and heated thoughts, especially in an environment which technology has enabled remote working to be easier and more efficient than ever before.

Her advocates insist that coming to an office environment every day creates collaboration and sparks innovation. Her opponents, however, argue that creative insights also need quiet, unstructured time to develop and emerge.

I'm fortunate to work for a company that offers flexible work arrangements, and as such, I'm an opponent of mandatory five-day in-office structures. I believe that companies that offer a remote working model instill trust in their employees and in return get a loyal workforce that often produces more than when they're in the office distracted by the hustle and bustle of meetings and office chatter. I know firsthand that my coworkers and I tend to work through what typically would be our morning and evening commutes.

In addition to maximizing productivity, numerous studies show that companies that offer employees the option to work remotely boast high employee satisfaction and and low employee turnover.

Without a structured office atmosphere and limited social interaction with colleagues, a remote workforce isn't a fit for everyone. But rather than treat all employees the same, companies would benefit from making case-by-case decisions based on their individual situations and aligning voice of the employee feedback to their human resource strategies when deciding on whether to offer flexible schedules.

Mayer may have ruffled some feathers at Yahoo! as well as around water coolers across America, but only time will tell as to whether the company's command and control structure will negatively affect employee productivity and turnover or will it do as Mayer hopes and get employees to feel more like a team, encouraging innovation through impromptu encounters.

Where do you stand? Are you an advocate of a remote workforce model or a structured office atmosphere?

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