In the past 20 years a lot of companies have adopted a more open model about where employees can do their work. Some allow employees to work from home. Some allow employees to selectively work from home or otherwise remotely. Some actively encourage employees to work from home … or at least somewhere other than the office.

It’s not too surprising that employees quite often like to Work From Home (WFH). I think more companies will adopt flexible models about where employees can get their work done. I also predict that a lot of companies with physical offices will start to change the way their offices are organized – including creating open work spaces and literally tearing down the walls with the intention of making Work From Office (WFO) days more productive.

Do you ever work from home?
If yes, is this your choice?
Or would you rather be working in an office environment?

Well, if you plan on working for Yahoo … you better make sure you are close to one of their offices or prepare yourself for the commute or even for a move.

Yahoo made a fairly dramatic statement last week — They said that employees are going to need to be physically together. Citing that “Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home” … therefore employees are being told to get to their desks (at the Yahoo office) stat!

Of course, companies can make any mandates they want. People can vote with their feet. If they don’t like the policies they can seek employment elsewhere.

As expected the response on some of the Social Media channels was quick and somewhat vitriolic. For example, this post by Lisa Belkin on Why Marissa Mayer is Wrong. There were also quite a few comments on my Facebook page and David Armano’s Facebook page.

What Should Potential Hires Do With This?

If you are interviewing for a role you should make sure you do your homework. You should know what the company preferences are for WFH vs. WFO. You should be prepared to answer questions about your preferred working environment.

  • You may be asked if you would be prepared to work remotely.
  • You may be asked how do you maintain your productivity when working remotely.
  • You may be asked how you like to stay in contact with colleagues.
  • You need to make sure you have answers to these questions.
  • There may be no wrong answer, but you should know or you should probe for details about how the company prefers to operate.

Two things to consider when thinking about these questions

Many Millennials expect they will have flexibility in where and how they do their job. Whether this is true will depend upon the role and the company. I offer these points not to throw them down as mandates. Rather I see them as soft comments that can be put into a conversation as you learn more about the company you are considering spending a lot of your time and effort.

It’s not how old you are … it’s what you can do
(this is advice from my father –when I was a new manager)

It doesn’t matter where the work is done … just that it is done.

Of course, the implication for the second point is that the work is done right, is on time and ideally it exceeds expectations.

Coming back to the title of this post … Should Working from Home Be Banned?

I don’t think most companies are actively considering this. Of course, with the recent exception from Yahoo. It could be something as simple as Yahoo pointed out in that they think productivity will be impacted. I have not seen the statistics to prove this out one way or the other. However, I do know that there are days when people need to be home – whether it’s for the cable guy or just to get things done.

Is Yahoo considering allowing people to check out and completely turn off when they leave the office? I doubt it. I don’t mean to pick on Yahoo here. I saw a lot of comments where people were happy to see their decision to Ban WFH. Perhaps they are right. Perhaps the evidence of productivity will bear them out. I think there is a lot more to the Yahoo decision beyond just working from home. Yahoo needs to make a dramatic change. This is just a start.

Sanity Check – Can people Tele-Work?

  • Of course! It’s been happening for years.
  • Can every job be called in? Of course NOT!
    • Some jobs require physical presence and proximity. Assembly lines, many service roles (think Hotel and Restaurant Management and Police and other First Responders)
    • However, even this is changing. Think fast food restaurants and the person taking your order … they may not even be in the same state or country.
  • Some high tech roles are being done remotely too
    • Remote X-Ray and MRI reviews
    • Remote Surgery — where the surgeon may be five feet away or 5000 miles away using remote telemetry.
    • Robots controlled from a distance – think Nuclear Clean up or Bomb Detection and Disposal.

Snapping Back to Today

  • Will this WFH thing just be a fad?
    • Not likely
  • Will companies continue to seek work life balance with their employees (their talent)?
    • Very likely. The War for Talent is REAL!
  • Will Working from Home be banned on a broad scales basis?
    • I don’t think so. If you have a different opinion please comment here.

Contrarian View

  • By implication are Stay at Home Moms (SAHM) and other WFM-by-choice people somehow less (intelligent, trustworthy, reliable, valued, skilled, responsible, <fill-in-the-blank>)?
  • Of course, the answer is absolutely not.

The Reality

Technology has enabled workers to be Always On. Whether this is right or not is not the point here. Whether your colleagues, your customers, your partners and yes … your boss expect you to be always on is what matters.

  • Some people prefer to be always on.
  • Some people feel they have to be always on.
  • Some people know their customers and partners expect them to be always on.

In the end, for the most part, it’s up to the individual to decide where they work and how they work. If they decide they don’t like the company, the policies, the people or the technologies they can vote with their feet.

I’m pretty sure that Working from Home and Working Remotely are here to stay. I do think that the way people Work From Offices will change.

The smarter companies are building offices and work spaces for Tribal Work mentalities. Where the Tribe is the focus. Where the Tribe succeeds together. Sometimes people will work remotely, but when they do come together they are physically together. So, maybe there is something to what Yahoo is implementing. I just think most companies are going to do it in a less draconian fashion and in a mode that encourages and allows individual employees to contribute in the best way they can.


Jeff  is a veteran in the Enterprise Content Management industry. Over the past 20 years he has worked with customers and partners to design, develop and deploy solutions around the world. Jeff is currently the Director of Strategic Alliances at Winshuttle. He has worked for Microsoft, FileNet (IBM), K2, Captaris, Open Text, Kofax and Kodak. He speaks and blogs about ECM and the Intersection between Social, Mobile and Cloud Computing.