Yahoo employees who work from home will have to start packing up their lunches and reporting to the office for duty. But new research suggests there may be a good reason for them to show up: a future.
Those hired by the Internet giant with agreements that they could work partly, or entirely, from home are no doubt peeved over new CEO Marissa Mayer’s decision to end the company’s flexible location policies. In a memo issued last week, all employees were told they’d have to show up for work in the office starting in June, according to a report in AllThingsDigital. (Yahoo didn’t respond to requests for comment.) The memo says working from the office facilitates more brainstorming.
“Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings,” it says. See: “Physically Together”: Here’s the Internal Yahoo No-Work-From-Home Memo for Remote Workers and Maybe More.
But while studies suggest that those who work from home tend to be happier than the average cubicle drone, the chance to work in one’s pajamas often comes at a cost. Controlling for performance, working from home reduced rates of promotion by 50%, according to a report published last week by professors at Stanford University, which reviewed a working-from-home program at a 16,000-employee, Nasdaq-listed Chinese travel agency over nine months. One reason for the bleaker career prospects: less on-the-job training. See: Does Working From Home Work?
With its new policy, Yahoo (US:YHOO) is moving in the opposite direction of much of corporate America. The number of people working from home has almost doubled in 30 years, from 2.3% in 1980 to 4.2% in 2010, according to the latest U.S. Census. In fact, the Census data found that about 10% of the workforce works from home at least one day a week, and the wage discount for working from home — 30% in 1980 — has effectively vanished. The company saved around $2,000 per employee, primarily because it paid less rent for office space and increased productivity, the study found.
Aside from fewer promotions, those working from home face other obstacles, says Nicholas Bloom, a professor of economics at Stanford and a co-author of the study. “Even though their productivity went up, they got less face time at the office.” Some also said they were lonely, he says. On the upside, the percentage of workers who quit was halved to 25% from 50% among those who worked from home. Many of the people who volunteered for the work-at-home study were married women with children.