Two major Fortune 500 employers have made headlines recently by announcing that they are eliminating or significantly reducing opportunities for their employees to work remotely. Response to the announcements came quickly from business analysts and the mainstream media, speculating about the effect these decisions would have on the companies and their employees and how those effects might eventually impact the workforce in general.
Yahoo!® led the charge in February when CEO Marissa Mayer instructed her HR department to have all remote employees return to working in company offices. The reason given for the major policy change was that the company believes face-to-face employee interaction fosters a collaborative culture that can’t be developed among remote workers. A statement from the company said that they are not offering any broad industry view on working from home, but rather making a decision based on what is right for Yahoo!
Just a few weeks later, electronics retailer Best Buy® also announced changes to its policies about telecommuting. The company isn’t eliminating remote work across the board, but instead of it being an option that employees can decide for themselves, they must consult with their managers to discuss whether the arrangement is working.
These policy shifts in high-profile corporate America have ignited a national debate about workplace flexibility. Some employees at both companies have hailed the changes as positive, saying that more in-person collaboration and innovation will boost morale and nurture the company culture that is essential to maintaining a strong corporate brand. But many workers believe working remotely allows them to be more productive, because they can concentrate on their work without the distractions of an office. While Yahoo! and Best Buy wait to see how their changes play out, the discussion and examination of remote work continues to heat up.