Yahoo's crunch on working from home fuels debate on telecommuting
By Rob Lever, AFPWASHINGTON--Telecommuting, a growing trend in the U.S. workplace, is coming under fresh scrutiny following news that Yahoo is curbing the practice.
February 28, 2013, 12:01 am TWN
The trend of working from home has been gaining steam for decades, as part of a workplace evolution which allows greater family-work balance and saves energy and commuting costs.
An internal Yahoo memo from chief executive Marissa Meyer posted this week by the Wall Street Journal said employees will be required to come to their offices to “feel the energy and buzz” of the workplace.
“Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home. We need to be one Yahoo, and that starts with physically being together,” according to the report.
Asked about the memo, a Yahoo spokesman said Tuesday, “We don't discuss internal matters,” but essentially confirmed the news by saying: “This isn't a broad industry view on working from home — this is about what is right for Yahoo, right now.”
The shift counters the overall trend: some 53 percent of U.S. employers offered flexible work options in 2012, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. That compares with 48 percent in 2007.
A 2011 report by the U.S. Labor Department found 24 percent of employed Americans reporting that they work at least some hours at home each week.
The trend is particularly noticeable in IT firms, where companies take advantage of technology to have virtual access to what they would have at the office.
Cisco Systems, which develops virtual private networks for remote access, said 40 percent of its employees are not in the same city as their manager, and the average employee telecommutes two days a week.
IBM, another strong telework advocate, said 29 percent of its 128,000 employees participate in a flex-work or work at home program, and that in 2011, in the U.S. alone, this saved 6.4 million gallons of fuel and avoided more than 50,000 metric tons of carbon emissions.
The move by Yahoo “goes against the grain of where a lot of organizations are going today,” said Cindy Auten, general manager of Mobile Work Exchange, a public-private partnership that promotes telework.
“This is especially important in the tech industry; they are focused on recruiting and retaining the best and brightest.”