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Chris Mooney (Chartered MCIPD)

Right Trax Training Ltd

Learning & Development Consultant

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To Homework or not to Homework…


Following Yahoo!’s controversial decision to ban homeworking, it is the proverbial hot potato…but is homeworking the way of the future or simply a nice to have?

You must have been spending March living under a rock if you missed the headlines made by Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer when she decided to ban employees from homeworking.  Perhaps Mayer didn’t mean to create as much debate, but debate she has sure created…and it’s gone global.  Even Richard Branson has been tweeting about it, saying he was ‘Perplexed by Yahoo! stopping remote working.  Give people the freedom of where to work & they will excel.’  So, even though Mayer’s decision seems to ignore everything we think we know about the perceived benefits of homeworking, is all the furore warranted?

The debate has thrown up much about the benefits of homeworking.  Arguably, homeworking brings increased flexibility and productivity; how many of us, for example, will say we’ve clocked off well after we should have when working from home?  For employees it helps those with responsibilities outside of the workplace and reduces the stress of endless hours of travelling, and for the organisation it can cut costs and bring all those lovely employee engagement and productivity benefits.  Strengthening the case ‘for’, Vodafone have recently thrown their hat into the homeworking ring by surveying 500 ‘decision makers’ in businesses across the UK, who responded by saying that homeworking could save £34bn a year by freeing up space and reducing overheads.

Seems a no-brainer then, but let’s also consider the case against…and in Mayer’s defence there are sound reasons against.

Just as many of us will have worked past when we should have, do we account for how long it took us to get started, or for an extended lunch break / errand running / boiler repair visit* (*delete as applicable).  Of course we will all say when we’re working at home we’re completely focused and not taking liberties, but part of homeworking’s allure is that it is flexible, so why shouldn’t we as long as we make up for it?  Well, part of Mayer’s argument is that Yahoo! staff will be more productive working exclusively in the office, and that’s a pretty valid argument when we consider the number of distractions we have at home.  When she banned the same practice at Google, it was to improve ‘communication and collaboration’ between colleagues, and in the same Vodafone survey, a quarter of employers responded with concerns that employees would abuse the opportunity to work from home.

So, as the debate rolls on, tell us your homeworking fors and againsts in the comments below.

Right Trax Training are a training, development and consultancy business who are passionate about helping other businesses be successful through their people and teams.  Get in touch to find out how we can help your people to develop and your business to grow.

3 Responses

  1. evidenced fact or biased suspicion?


    You last line reads:

    "in the….Vodafone survey, a quarter of employers responded with concerns that employees would abuse the opportunity to work from home." (My italics and emphasis)

    So homeworking opportunities may well be withheld solely because 25% of employers don't trust the people who work for them! Have these people ever heard of the concept of "projection"; they a scared that other people will do something becasue they know that they would do it themselves!

    Or not?


  2. Good challenge

    Yes indeed, good challenge…they could be projecting or who knows, burnt by experience and lack of demonstrable returns from allowing homeworking in the past.  Or perhaps they were managers promoted from the ranks who know what it was like to be allowed to homework within their organisations…all conjecture of course. 

    Although when I was researching the short blog I found one report saying that 24% of respondents for the Vodafone survey felt homeworking made them more productive, and strangely, another (same?!) 24% saying they felt it made them less productive because of distractions. 

    Either that's a strange coincidence or perhaps managers and homeworkers have two very different opinions!


  3. I was homebased for 7 years

    I was homebased for 7 years and only went into the office for client meetings. I think that for those who really want to homework, they will make it work. Sure I did the school pickups etc.during the day, but I also was available to deal with calls from Asia before anyone else was at their desk, and also to handle calls from the US when others had gone home. The trick is to be self disciplined and plan your time properly.It doesn't matter when you do the work, as long as it's in on time. I never missed a delivery deadline, although sometimes I'd be working on something when other people were settling down to Corrie or Eastenders. By being able to be fleixible with my time my work day settled to my own rhythm – meaning that I worked when I was at my best (early morning and early evening) and not when I was less alert (middle of the day!) My manager treated me as an adult – measured me on what I delivered rather than how long my backside was settled into a chair in the office, and he managed team meetings so I was still able to join in and fully colaborate with my peers. It's about managers learning how to manage their team properly, and I think the reluctance from some managers reflects their own inability to manage effectively rather than a flaw in the basic idea of flexible working. I'd like to know how many of the respondants who said they had concerns about employees abusing homeworking opportunites had actually had negative expereinces and how many are simply extrapolating from what they suspect might be their own behaviour if in that situation?

Author Profile Picture
Chris Mooney (Chartered MCIPD)

Learning & Development Consultant

Read more from Chris Mooney (Chartered MCIPD)

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