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HindustanTimes Mon,24 Nov 2014

Face-to-face: Yahoo orders home workers back to office

Claire Cain Millera and Catherine Rampell, NYT  New York, February 26, 2013
First Published: 22:45 IST(26/2/2013) | Last Updated: 22:46 IST(26/2/2013)

Since Marissa Mayer became chief executive of Yahoo, she has been working hard to get the Internet pioneer off its deathbed and make it an innovator once again.

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She started with free food and new smartphones for every employee, borrowing from the playbook of Google, her employer until last year. Now, though, Yahoo has made a surprise move: abolishing its work-at-home policy and ordering everyone to work in the office.

A memo explaining the policy change, from the company's human resources department, says face-to-face interaction among employees fosters a more collaborative culture - a hallmark of Google's approach to its business.

In trying to get back on track, Yahoo is taking on one of the country's biggest workplace issues: whether the ability to work from home, and other flexible arrangements, leads to greater productivity or inhibits innovation and collaboration. Across the country, companies like Aetna, Booz Allen Hamilton and Zappos.com are confronting these trade-offs as they compete to attract and retain the best employees.

Employees, especially younger ones, expect to be able to work remotely, analysts say.

Studies show that people who work at home are significantly more productive but less innovative, said John Sullivan, who runs a human resource advisory firm.

Reflecting these tensions, Yahoo's policy change has unleashed a storm of criticism from advocates for workplace flexibility who say it is a retrograde approach, particularly for those who care for young children or aging parents outside of work.

Their dismay is heightened by the fact that they hoped Mayer, who became chief executive at 37 while pregnant with her first child, would make the business world more hospitable for working parents.


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