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To Be, or Not to Be… In the Office

It’s been a few weeks since Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer sent out an email to her employees calling for all telecommuters to start reporting to physical office locations – and pronto. Naturally this sparked quite the debate online and everywhere about work-at-home policies. Some find Mayer’s move “absurd” and some say “she has no right” to force employees to work in the office. Others think that she has made the right move in bringing Yahoo! back to prominence by promoting collaboration and innovation. Best Buy seems to agree with Mayer. They ended their work-from-home program soon after Mayer’s email hit the web. But what do people think?

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The first place many people go with their opinions is the internet. Whether it is on Facebook or Twitter, blogs or forums, people love to speak their mind. Especially on matters that affect their daily lives. With SAP Social Media Analytics by NetBase, we can listen in on the debate and pick up on how people really feel about the topic of work-at-home.  Now that the chatter has cooled a little bit, let’s take a look at what the people have to say! Click on the graphics to enlarge view.

Mayer’s email to Yahoo! employees was sent out on Tuesday, February, 26th. Looking at the past 30 days of sentiment, it is hard to miss the surge in activity around this date. Twitter and blogs seem to have the most chatter and if you look closely, negative sentiment was starting to brew.

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Here we can see the top terms and attributes that are being associated with work-at-home. Focusing on the attributes cloud, the top positive attribute is money. This is highlighting the argument that telecommuting is less expensive than maintaining brick-and-mortar office space. The largest negative attribute states that telecommuting is bad for business. Collaboration is very important to many companies, especially tech companies that are focused on staying innovative. Why else would companies like Google make their offices fun and quirky? To ensure their employees love going in to the office every day!

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It is apparent that people are not receptive to the ban or abolishment of work-at-home policies. It seems that people are upset about the all-or-nothing approach. Perhaps companies should look into encouraging physical time in the office rather than forcing it? With many people concerned about the policies of their own workplaces, it is no wonder that there are strong emotions reflected in the sentiment. People are saying that work-at-home options are a good thing and that some prefer working virtually. However, according to the chart, it is not for everyone.

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The gender breakdown around sentiment is slightly higher for women. This is interesting to note because of the amount of buzz around working mothers and their important tie to work-at-home policy. Here we also have insight into the most popular domains, brands, and hashtags. Yahoo! certainly caused a stir!

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We even have the ability to see where the conversation is taking place geographically. Not only can we see that the US is dominating the conversation, we can see that California seems to be a hotbed for the debate. Influence from Silicon Valley could be a major catalyst for these results.

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Conclusion

Yahoo!’s new policy is meant to revitalize the innovative spirit of the company. No one will know whether or not banning work-at-home outright is effective until we see some results. Guess we’ll just have to wait and see! Now it’s your turn to weigh in on the debate! What are your thoughts on working from home?

14 Comments
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  • As someone tweeted: “if you are efficient at the office, working from home will make you more efficient. If you are not efficient in the office, working from home will make you even less efficient.”. I agree 100% with this statement and honest think Mrs MM is nuts.

  • work from home, give you more stress, you need to be more active, online every second on the operating business day, cant miss any call, need to reply email quickly, people need quick answer else they will believe you are watching game or sleeping, where as work at office is more efficient, even if you moving around the lobby of business center, or chatting with friend at cafeteria, your business associate know you are working…….. and where as understanding and walking to business associate office is more efficient….more over I have seen people working from home, always have noises like dog barking, baby crying etc…. so the whole serious discussion go for a toss……:)

  • Great subject and Interesting analysis, thank you for sharing. Just a suggestion – I’d repost this in Coffee Corner too, when it opens for business (in April?).

    I’m surprised interest among women is not higher, actually. Do you have any idea how much time does it take to get ready for work, unless you were blessed with natural beauty? When working from home, I’m saving at least 1 hour per day just on makeup and picking an outfit to wear (and then running to change it because my son spilled something on my shirt).

    Personally, I’d be less inclined to work for a company that has “all or nothing” policy. While I understand a need for collaboration and personal contact (although it varies dramatically depending on the kind of work you do), to me it’s also a signal that management does not trust their own employees. If there is such a huge need to keep close watch on all the employees at all times, as if they’re hamsters in a cage, then something is not right.

  • Jelena,

    I completely agree with you on this 🙂 , I have seen my sister love to work from home than office……. apologies for confusion….. good luck…

  • Extremely valid point at the right time.

    The golden statement made here is ” If you are efficient in office, then you are more efficient in home. If you are less efficient in office, then you are completely inefficient in home”

    Ideally if employees are serious about work, the location shouldnt matter. In the perspective of Indian IT industry which supports mostly customers from US and Europe, virtual working (though it is from offices in India, customers are in US or Europe) is imminent. In this context, it really doesnt matter if the team is working in office or from home.

    Also in my opinion, if somebody is working from home, he is saving approximately 4hours everyday. I spend 4hours up and down from home to office and back. Most of the Indian IT crowd falls under this category. Working from home is really a time saver.

    If collaboration is an issue which necessitates working in office, I think we have not yet matured in our delivery pattern. There are abundant online collaborating tools and with that I dont think locations are constraints. We have been ;using communicator, online meetings, webex sessions, online trainings, weekly reviews over phones all through virtual means for which a location constraint doesnot exist at all.

    If mandatory work from office still holds its argument, long live the corporate bureaucracy!

    • Navaneetha, this is great commentary and a perspective I had not thought about until reading your comment. I agree that a mandatory work from office policy is a bit too constrictive. Not everyone thrives in the office just as not everyone can thrive at home due to distractions. Both work situations have their advantages, I think it is a matter of finding the appropriate balance based on the company, position, and the employee’s personal situation.  

  • Thanks Jacob for ur comment.

    Unfortunately working from office in India is extremely painful as people are expected to work consistently over 12hours everyday. Spending 12 hours at work location and another 4hours to travel to office and back home doesnt leave sufficient time for us to even sleep 8hours. Such massive and strenous travel also makes people exhausted on the third day itself and normally people just drag themselves for the remaining two days.

    So in effect, last two days have exhaustion in store for people, no inspiration to go to office, no motivation to work etc…This also leads to lot of personal issues.

    If organisation considers a holistic analysis of working from home or office, then the effect of policies on the life and work life balance of employees should also be considered. Under these circumstances, a mandatory work from office is not a progressive step towards employee welfare.

    I completely agree with your balance of both the approaches.

    It is an Indian perspective though 🙂

  • good article again Jacob.

    i think the one thing it’s missing is the intangibles around working in an office space with others, the knowledge tranfer that takes place and information sharing.

    Plus in some cases, things like corporate policies.