Last month, Yahoo CEO, Marissa Mayer, made headlines when she abolished Yahoo’s work-at-home policy and ordered everyone back in the office.  The policy change is one of several moves the former Google chief implemented to breathe life back into the flailing Internet company.  Mayer’s memo states that the importance of face-to-face interaction among Yahoo employees will foster a more collaborative culture.  Many pundits are puzzled by this strategy given the online nature of Yahoo’s business. More importantly, how true is Mayer’s statement?

Pros – Work from Home

Increased Productivity – Studies show that people who work at home are significantly more productive, and increased productivity boosts the bottom line.  When working from home, employees can plug in, and deliver quickly because they are not a part of something that is overly structured and complicated.

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Flexibility – Prerna Gupta of the New York Times described how having flexibility to determine when and where she worked made her a better employee and employer, “Smart people still work best when they can choose when and where they are working.  Such flexibility also helps employees who are parents.  Some of our employees take a break in the afternoon to pick up their children from school, then come back to finish their work.  And the work always gets done on time.”

Employee Pool Widens – For small business owners and entrepreneurs, hiring remotely opens you up to an enormous pool of people who are solely able to work remotely and not on-site.  “For every one person who is in your location or is happy to move there, there are 100 more who are not.  They’re tied down by a spouse with a job, a kid in school, a visa they can’t get, or a mortgage they can’t get out of,says David Fullerton of Fast Company magazine.

In the U.S., an estimated 13 million, or one in 10 employees, work from home.  Small business owners and entrepreneurs work from home as a way of reducing overhead and increasing flexibility.  They often have their employees working from home for the same reasons, yet there are challenges:

Cons – Work from Home

Self-Discipline – Working from home requires an employee to be extremely disciplined and self-motivated.  For the wrong person it can take a phenomenal amount of effort to begin your work day when you know you don't have to be at the office by 8 a.m.

Camaraderie – Mayer’s memo also stated that “some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people and impromptu team meetings.”  That is certainly true.  Employees can miss out on the camaraderie that stems from working with others day after day.  Without face time with coworkers, it can be more difficult to communicate ideas, reinforce personal bonds, and to learn about new projects you may be interested in.

Overworking – Although working from home provides an employee with greater flexibility, there are days when you can never escape the office and go home, because you are already there.  This also puts an employee in danger of putting in too many hours or overworking.   As improbable as this might sound, imagine that it's 11 p.m. and you suddenly have a panic attack about work.  It's all too easy to go into your home office and work until 1 a.m.  Additionally, your boss can't see that you are working hard or putting in extra hours, so employees tend to be judged more on the numbers than actual work ethic and other intangible factors.

What We’ve Learned – Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer has certainly reinvigorated the debate over working from home.  However, companies that can embrace the right collaboration tools that foster team work in a virtual environment will clearly have an advantage in a global economy.  Working remotely is a skill an employer needs to hire for, so it's important to set ground rules for your employees because many workers actually perform better with a clear structure.  Prerna Gupta of the New York Times said it best, “Rather than leaning on organizational principles designed for an older time, companies should collectively develop new strategies to remove the remaining challenges to working from home.”

I would like to thank Kymberly Sheckleford for preparing this article with me. Kymberly is a Marketing Analyst at C2G Resourcing a subsidiary of Consultants 2 Go, LLC. Don’t forget, you can email me at Peggy@Consultants2Go.com with any questions you might have and I’ll be glad to answer them. You can also follow me and my business on Twitter @peggymchale and @consultants2go.