More Meyer - is she right or wrong?

Reading David’s blog post about Marissa Meyer got me thinking about the plusses and minuses of remote working. Being able to work from home is vital to me and means I don’t have to worry about the painfully expensive issue of childcare for my son, but I have to admit that from time to time I miss the camaraderie of working in an office.

There’s no-one to gossip with over lunch (endless questions about Thomas the Tank Engine don’t count) and if my computer decides that it’s time for a meltdown I don’t have the handy option of asking IT to come and fix it.

But other than those minor gripes, I personally feel that home working is a huge boon for both employers and employees, so is Meyer’s public negativity around the idea of working from home really justified?

Ben Dowd, Business Director at O2 doesn’t think so. He says …

“In failing to embrace a flexible working culture, companies like Yahoo are missing out on huge benefits, both for their business and their staff. Our own research of over 2,000 UK employees and over 400 employers shows that three quarters of people say they are most productive when they can change when and where they work and one in ten even rates flexi-working as a more important benefit than their holiday allowance and salary. Working Mums on the warpath after Yahoo and Marissa Meyer bans home working

“The changes we’ve seen at O2 since our flexible working pilot speak for themselves. In just one month our staff saved 100,000 miles of commuting, 30 tonnes of CO2, and £20,000 in fuel – and productivity when flexi-working has doubled.

It’s not about sacrificing face time with co-workers, but empowering staff with the right mix of technology, policy and education, to help them shape their own definition of the 9 to 5.”

Then we have Nicola Brookes from NewVoiceMedia who agrees with Ben:

‘Sure, an office environment can’t be beaten for building a culture and driving innovation; so much benefit comes from those ‘water cooler moments’, some of which can turn into great ideas – but being in an office can also dramatically reduce productivity. If you write, code, design, analyse, invent or create, then you need focus and to get into a deep state of thought.

The typical office worker is interrupted every three minutes and it takes 15 minutes to recover from each interruption. Giving your employees the freedom to work from home when needed will give them the ability to think without these disruptions and produce their best work.’

But then, despite that Kevin Young, general manager at Skillsoft EMA, addresses a worry commonly shared by company bosses: loss of company identity.

“Many organisations may have concerns about the sustainability of such an approach; however these can be eliminated if managed correctly. The biggest worry for any businesses is that if staff no longer walk into an office and see the logo of the company they represent, they may soon forget they are part of a much bigger picture and have corporate responsibilities.

Therefore to make any flexible working policy succeed, organisations need to realise that communication is key. 

“Regular phone meetings can be used to maintain visibility of employee actions on a daily basis, while e-learning and electronic resources can provide a useful method to ensure staff have easy access to the latest training and resources, regardless of their location.

Many businesses instinctively think that human-to-human contact is needed to teach and do business – but as a result of technology we can now do much of this ‘virtually’, using video-links, virtual role plays, augmented reality and simulations.” 

That's two more people standing up for home workers, so is there anybody who does think Meyer has a point? Yep, Alexandra Shulman, who is the head of British Vogue, and a working mother, thinks she's absolutely right to insist that Yahoo workers come into the office on a daily basis.

She says, "(Working at home) is very pleasant and often very constructive, but it is not doing the same job as I do at work and neither is it for anyone else. "We have come to believe that working at home is a completely adequate alternative to showing our face in the office. But it's not."

The company behind children's favourite Moshi Monsters, Brain Candy also say that they would rather their workers come into the office. Chief Executive Michael Acton Smith has said that '...working remotely was not best for business. Our preferred setup is everyone being under the same roof.' 

So what do you think? Does working from home enhance creativity, or stifle team-building? Does it lead to employees forgetting who they are working for, or does the flexibility of remote working actually lead to increased trust and loyalty? 

Let us know what you think! Keep the comments coming …