Another work-from-home program bites the dust


Ah, just when you thought Yahoo's decision to ban working from home is an aberration, HP suffers from the same delusional tendencies.

To recap: Earlier this year, Yahoo's new CEO Marissa Mayer decided to prohibit employees working from as a team building measure. "To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side. That is why it is critical that we are all present in our offices," Mayer said in the memo announcing the move.

Then, reports began to surface this month that HP CEO Meg Whitman was considering cutting back on employees working from home. AllThingsD reported that, under Whitman's stewardship, the company has been circulating a document to employees that encourages them to work in the office as much as possible.

And I quote: "During this critical turnaround period, HP needs all hands on deck. We recognize that in the past, we may have asked certain employees to work from home for various reasons. We now need to build a stronger culture of engagement and collaboration and the more employees we get into the office the better company we will be."

As AllThingsD notes, HP doesn't have enough office space to accommodate all of its more than 300,000 workers. Currently, at least 80,000 employees are working from home, seven times more than the entire workforce of Yahoo.

The argument by HP and Yahoo is that communication, engagement and collaboration will be improved by everyone being in the office. This perplexes me no end. Writing for FierceMobileIT, I see every day the incredible mobile communication, engagement and collaboration tools that are available for companies to use. These tools don't require employees to be in the same hemisphere, never mind the same office, in order to communicate and collaborate effectively. And they cost much less than building new office complexes for employees to waste hours getting to.

As I recounted in my commentary on Mayer's decision, I commuted for more than 20 years in the Washington, DC, area, wasting countless hours stuck in Beltway traffic or twiddling my thumbs in subway cars and commuter trains. I now work from home and use the four-plus hours I save each day doing work for my employer as well as helping my wife with child-rearing. Not having the resources of Mayer, we are not able to build a nursery at our office.

In my view, it comes down to a management issue. If your employees are not being productive or, worse, taking advantage of you, it doesn't matter where they are located. As with the infamous "Bob" who hired workers in China to do his software development work while he sat in the office watching cat videos and buying things on eBay, this kind of conduct can happen anywhere. Managers, from the top down, need to do a better job of managing their employees effectively, no matter where they are located. - Fred