Ever since Yahoo Chief executive Marissa Mayer banned staff from working from home, the practice has come under the spotlight. And it is dividing bosses both here and in the US.
Virgin Chief Sir Richard Branson has already described it as a ‘backwards step’ in an age when due to computers it is easier to work from home than ever.
But Alexandra Shulman, head of British Vogue, has stepped in to say she agrees with Mayer. Admitting in the Guardian that her instant reaction to employee requests to work from home is no, she says: “It’s very pleasant and often constructive, but it is not doing the same job as I do at work and neither is it for anyone else.”
Where you stand on the argument might depend on your own circumstances. If you have children and desperately want to fit in work around them, then of course you are likely to champion working from home. Meanwhile, if you don’t have kids, or if they’re older, it might irritate the hell out of you to see a colleague ‘working from home’ yet again – especially if you believe they are not pulling their weight as they should.
I have worked from home for over 20 years. Initially it was simply because my three children were younger – but I never went back to the office.
This isn’t about people like me, however, who run their own business from home. When you work for yourself, you don’t get sick pay, holiday pay or maternity pay. If you sit and watch TV all day or slope off shopping, you won’t do enough work to pay the bills.
This is about those on a salary who work from home – perhaps they do that a few days a week. But the bottom line is as they are an employee they will be paid anyway.
I have to say I don’t think working from home is for everyone. Many fellow journalists go freelance only to find the going very tough and hence many end up back in the office.
You do have to be very motivated to work from home. I have to say I never watch TV/go shopping/see a friend during my working day (roughly 10am until 7pm Monday to Friday) – and in fact even on my days ‘off’ at the weekends, rarely a whole day will go by when I don’t do some work. I have also written whole features on holiday, filed adds on copy from restaurants and done deals from my bed.
But would I be as motivated to work if I were getting the same salary paid into my account every month anyway? This is at the heart of this issue.
Marissa Mayer says she believes the best decisions come from impromptu chats between colleagues in the hallway and in the cafeteria. She adds speed and quality are often sacrificed when people work from home.
Alexandra Shulman – who like Marissa Mayer is a working mum – adds: “We have come to believe working at home is a completely adequate alternative to showing our face in the office. But it’s not.”
And others have joined in the backlash against working from home. British Online Business Mind Candy’s chief executive Michael Acton Smith recently revealed their preferred setup is everyone being under the same roof.
That said, a report in The Times about this issue quotes two surveys that back up working from home. BT, a leader in flexible workers, says those who never go into the office are on average about 20% more productive than those who are office based.
And an American study found people working from home took fewer breaks and sick days and answered more calls.
But how successful it is for you might depend on your boss’s view. If you have the sort of boss that needs to see you physically there in the office – doing what they are paying you to do – then you might well be better not to work from home. Another study found that bosses were more likely to use the words ‘responsible, dependable and dedicated’ to those who are office based. In this case, working from home could be out of sight, out of mind…