Yahoo Work vs Home Debate Misses the Point

'Home Office' by Stubacca via WikipediaThe tech news, and mainstream news for that matter, have made a big deal about Marissa Mayer's recent policy to rein in Work From Home at Yahoo. There's definitely something to be said for in-person meetings. I've experienced situations in which a ten minute conversation got more done than a whole email chain. At the same time, I've also seen how working from home allows you to interleave work and life in the way that works for you. However, this whole work vs home debate is missing the point.

The problem for Yahoo is that this mandate isn't about "Home" or "Office", it's about "Home or Office." It's about flexibility, autonomy, and freedom. The ability to choose when and where to do my work is part of the reason I went into this business in the first place. It also factors in to which companies I choose to work for, and I'll bet a lot of Yahoo employees made the same calculation.

Even with a flexible employer, many employees will come to work anyway for the resources, perks, and people there. The moment you require everyone to work from the office, however, you take away the freedom that has become almost as important to many workers as the old fashioned tangible benefits. Suddenly the office starts to look like a cage, however gilded.

If you want people to work from the office, and there are many reasons to do so, you need to lure them there, not drag them. Otherwise, you'll have an office populated only by the remaining true believers, who probably weren't the problem in the first place, and those who couldn't manage to land another job.