Yahoo's CEO risks productivity by work-at-home curbs

, Bloomberg

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Yahoo! Inc. chief executive officer Marissa Mayer, by ordering staff to report to offices, risks losing the productivity gains that can come from flexible work arrangements and may jeopardize her ability to lure top talent.

Jackie Reses, Yahoo's executive vice president of people and development, sent a memo last week asking employees with work-from-home arrangements to make their way to the company's offices, starting June.

"To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side," according to the memo, whose contents were confirmed by a Yahoo employee who asked not to be identified because it's not a public document. "Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home."

At a time when Mayer is under pressure to jump-start growth and create innovative products, the shift may compromise Yahoo's ability to attract employees seeking the freedom to work outside the office — a perk offered by many of the company's competitors. Research suggests that working from home enhances productivity, said Jody Thompson, co-founder of workforce consultant CultureRx.

"Mayer has taken a giant leap backward," Thompson said in an email. "Instead of keeping great talent, she is going to find herself with a workplace full of people who are good at showing up and putting in time."

Sara Gorman, a spokeswoman for Sunnyvale, California-based Yahoo, declined to comment on the memo or discuss the company's internal policies.

Less Stress

People who work from home tend to have less stress and are more productive, partly because they don't invest time and money in commuting, said Brad Harrington, executive director of the Boston College Center for Work & Family.

"When employees have family or other personal issues they need to take care of, the feeling is that by being able to work from home you can take care of those in a much shorter period of time than commuting," Harrington said.

The portion of U.S. workers who performed their job at least one day a week at home increased to 9.5 percent in 2010, from 7 percent in 1997, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

In a study of call-center employees of a Chinese travel agency, researchers at Stanford University found a 13 percent performance increase for staff who worked from home.

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