Get work done by showing up for work | Business| Economy and finance news from a German perspective | DW | 01.03.2013
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Get work done by showing up for work

Yahoo is putting an end to its employees working from home. Will German companies follow suit? Experts debate the benefits and drawbacks of the decision and working from home.

Sitting with a tablet computer on the lap on some California beach, smart phone always within reach and busy at work. That's the image many have of a normal workday for a Silicon Valley IT staffer. But that image is going to have to change - at least for employees at Internet giant Yahoo.

Marissa Mayer, who took over the as head of the company last summer, put an end to working from home and decreed that come June, all employees will have get their work done at the offices instead from home.

Widespread criticism

It's a move that hasn't won the 37-year-old many friends. Employees' criticism has flooded social networks. Outside Yahoo there has also been criticism, Richard Branson, head of Virgin Group, wrote in his blog, "This seems a backwards step in an age when remote working is easier and more effective than ever."

Yahoo logo (photo: Paul Sakuma/AP/dapd)

Yahoo hopes employees to be more efficient once they are back at their proper desks

There's no official reason given by Yahoo explaining the decision, though an internal memo said speed and quality suffered when people worked from home. The company's German press office told DW it was not going to comment on internal policies at Yahoo but added the policy would come into effect in offices worldwide.

Yahoo's reasons

There is speculation that it might also be a way to lay off staff members who aren't willing to come back into the office. Unlike fellow IT giants Google and Facebook, Yahoo needs to find places to save money. But no company can really afford to loose its top people that way.

In Germany too, working from home rather than the office has increased in recent years. Jutta Rump, director of the Institute for Employment and Employability in Ludwigshafen told DW that especially the IT, consulting, communication and media sectors as well as research and development have seen an increase in home office use.

More hours from home

"Employers are doing it because they want to be attractive to employees, they are looking to increase staff loyalty and motivation," Rump said.

She added that working from home could lead to increased productivity and also have the potential to save businesses money as they can save part of their infrastructure and office costs.

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer (photo: REUTERS/Stephen Lam/Files)

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer got a lot of criticism for her decision

Employees work up to three hours more if they work from home, according to a study by the University of Melbourne that looked at local administration, banking, education and IT workers' habits.

A need for clear rules

Companies can still check whether their employees are working effectively - even when they are working from home.

"The classic look over someone's shoulder doesn't work, of course," said Frank Kleemann, a sociologist with the University of Duisburg-Essen. "That's why it is really important to take a closer look at what gets done. When in doubt, the privilege of working from home might have to be retracted again."

But working from home does not only bring advantages for employees. Many complain that the line between work and free time blurs when they are expected to be available all the time.

"To make sure it not to get out of hand in terms of being available 24 hours a day and seven days a week, it is very important to define some rules," Rump said. For instance, the employee should have between 12 and 24 hours to respond to requests.

Rump said she experienced that having the freedom to organize your work day, as is the case at her institute, can also bring problems.

"How can I create a team spirit if the team is never together?" she asked, adding that she believes a combination between office and working from home could be the best solution.