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Yahoo, Best Buy Pull Plug On Telework

Want to be a reporter but hate the idea of a noisy newsroom?

Get in, get known, and get yourself assigned to a bureau. That’s how I worked it for years, first covering North Tampa, the state legislature and finally Washington for the Tampa Tribune. Which meant I was teleworking long before it became the rage, and before technology made it simple.

My goal? Have fun reporting and writing lots of stories, keep away from newsroom politics, and set my own agenda. The formula kept me in headlines for more than two decades.

Naturally some jobs are more tele-workable than others. You can’t reline brakes, bag groceries or operate on knees remotely. But there are plenty of jobs you can do, and the benefits from flexible work policies are pretty obvious.

  • Avoiding a rush-hour commute saves wear and tear on the car, the air, and your mental health.*
  • Studies say working from home cuts back on sick leave and attrition.*
  • And though some will argue, studies say telework increases productivity and collaboration.*

Lots of companies have robust telework policies, and Yahoo and Best Buy were once among them.

No more. Both ordered employees back to the office recently, with Best Buy mothballing its Results Only Work Environment shortly after Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer declared, “speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home.” ¹

There’s some speculation that eliminating or cutting back on telework is a backdoor way to trim the payroll. We’ll see if that’s the case. We’ll also see if Mayer or Best Buy CEO Hubert Joly will be able to demonstrate benefits from their corporate return to “all hands on deck.”

After years of bureau reporting, I wound up a manager in another organization. Not too long ago I managed more than 40 employees. My view of flexible work policies changed a bit, though I still come down more on the side of the teleworkers. I stand with those who feel:

  • Work is a lot more about what you do than where you do it;
  • That employees who perform well at the office do as well or better at home or at remote sites;
  • And that telework is a privilege, not a right. Abuse it, you lose it.

But I also get energy from being in the office. Chance meetings at the elevator or break room spawn ideas that lead to plans and worthwhile projects. And there’s also all that body language you miss in teleconferences, G-chat and the rest of what we’ve come up with to keep from seeing each other in person.

Mayer told the Yahoos that for the company to perform at its best, “we need to be working side-by-side. That is why it is critical that we are all present in our offices.”

I’m not alone in thinking that a hybrid policy – say three days in the office and two at home – also keeps employees happy, productive and connected.

Where do you come down, and is there more to the companies’ new policy than meets the eye?

* Source: Global Workplace Analytics.

¹ Source CNNMoney.

More Info: CitrixOnline videoMobile Work Exchange.

Read more posts by Steve Piacente, a former print journalist and correspondent. Steve is a blogger for JenningsWire.