Best Argument: Alive
Audience Favored: Alive (81%)
Business requirements come first
Workers who occasionally work from home can benefit both the employee and the company. Having the flexibility to choose where you can do your best work is motivating and energising. Forcing your staff to work remotely can demoralise and demotivate individuals and teams – as can forcing workers to work in an office every day.
The key to success with occasional teleworking is to give workers the opportunity to work from home when they need to – as and when the business requirements allow.
Yahoo is comfortable with its workers working from home from time to time, but it wants its talent in the office to help it turn the company around and change corporate culture. Other organisations with workers that permanently work from home will be watching carefully. They will be watching how successful Yahoo becomes and might follow its lead – thereby changing the workplace for permanent telecommuters.
Distributed workforce makes sense
It is clear that telework is neither a panacea nor the right choice for all. It is, however, a very good choice for staff involved in creative and independent work even if that work is part of a larger team. This approach can be used by forward-looking companies as a way to attract the best talent even though that talent might be located far away. It also demonstrates that a company understands that staff can perform well and contribute to the company even though they’re dealing with illness or other family problems.
Marissa Mayer, by implementing a policy of forcing remote worker to abandon their current homes, seek out and purchase a new home near Yahoo, and pay for a relocation out of pocket, is demonstrating that the company doesn’t live up to its word and doesn’t, unlike nearly every other competitor, have the internal systems or expertise to work with a distributed workforce.
The industry will get to watch what happens as Yahoo implements this grand experiment. Let’s all hope that the law of unintended consequences doesn’t use this and other of Marissa’s management decisions to drive Yahoo into an even worse position in the market.
Alive and well
I'm glad we could explore the finer points of this debate, because as I said during the rebuttals phase, it's not a simple, black-or-white issue. Our debaters this week demonstrated that telecommuting can work for some (people, tasks, businesses) and not for others.
Whether it works for Yahoo or not isn't the point of this debate; it's whether telecommuting is dead or alive -- and how much Yahoo's decision will impact the industry at large. I think our debaters demonstrated this week that successful telework is far more impacted by task than edict, and while there are clearly pitfalls to avoid, it's not going anywhere fast. For this reason, I award Dan Kusnetzky with the win.