Working from home is no longer an option at Yahoo thanks to a new policy by the company's new CEO, Marissa Mayer. Christina Shalley, a professor in the Scheller College of Business, studies how companies structure jobs and the work environment to support creative and innovative work. Is Yahoo’s new policy a mistake or a good idea?
Essentially, Marissa Mayer is trying to change the culture. In order to do this, she feels that the employees need to come together and create a new, vibrant culture that is “right” for Yahoo moving forward. This could be difficult to accomplish when a number of employees work exclusively at home.
My research focuses on creativity, and the social context can have a significant effect on employees’ creativity. For example, your social network can make a difference. While there are many ways to have social interactions, the occasional, often serendipitous interaction at work, can spark new insights. Also, if you are involved in collaborative or team work, some face time can be very productive in stimulating the creative thought process. Yahoo now offers free food in the cafeteria. The company is finding that many employees are taking advantage of this and coming together in conversations, which could lead to the development of exciting new ideas. Finally, face time can be important for your career. Research has found that people who show up at the office versus remote workers are more likely to be promoted and get better performance reviews.
In general, there are pros and cons for employees’ working in the office versus at home. It is a complex issue. Most importantly, however, it depends on the particular employee, the nature of the work and the demands of the office environment. For example, assuming all your employees are conscientious and accountable, some will thrive working at home because they can be on task all day while reaping the benefits of having the flexibility of being at home. Others may desire some separation between their work and home life. These types of people can be more productive within the office.
Some jobs require more independent work that can occur at either the home or office. But if the office environment is too noisy or chaotic, home could be best. Many jobs require teamwork and collaboration, so working at least part of the week at the office would be beneficial. From my understanding of Yahoo’s current culture and the issues they are facing, implementing this type of policy, particularly in the short run, appears to make sense.
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