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Recently, there's been a lot of hype around working remotely or from home due to Yahoo's CEO, Marissa Mayer, supposedly ending all such practice at that company. Supposedly, this will improve the performance of Yahoo and help make it a true competitor in the market again.

Does this have any basis in fact, however? Are there any studies or concrete facts showing that working remotely does hurt an employee's or a company's performance? Or is this all just hype, politics, and power play?


My Question:

  • How can working remotely negatively impact performance?

closed as not constructive by jcmeloni, jmac, gnat, Rhys, CincinnatiProgrammer Mar 7 '13 at 12:01

As it currently stands, this question is not a good fit for our Q&A format. We expect answers to be supported by facts, references, or expertise, but this question will likely solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion. If you feel that this question can be improved and possibly reopened, visit the help center for guidance. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    YMMV - It depends on the job, the task, the management style, the schedule, the customer... – mhoran_psprep Mar 6 '13 at 20:47
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    I'm positive there are studies, facts, and hard evidence supporting both sides of the argument, because for some people, working remotely is a legitimately Good Thing, while for others is a legitimately Bad Thing, not because working remotely is inherently Good or Bad, but because people do/do not work well in that environment due to inherently individual factors (in addition to actual job-related ones). Shorter me: some people are good at this and some not. :) – jcmeloni Mar 6 '13 at 20:47
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    @jmac It's actionable if you're in management and want to have more information so as to lead your employees better. It's also a much less localized version of those questions. Regardless, feel free to close and delete. I tried to delete it due to your comment, but am unable to now. – asteri Mar 7 '13 at 3:01
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    "Does this have evidence?" is not an actionable question. It is a request for someone to do research for you. I don't want it to be deleted, I just want the question to be edited to something that will actually help people in a similar situation in the future. If you're in management and want to know if this is a good thing to implement, just make the question, "As a manager, how should I evaluate the need for working from home?" or "If I implement a working from home policy, what do I need to be careful of?" – jmac Mar 7 '13 at 3:03
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    I could see this being reopened, provided the answers contain facts, references, specific expertise, and point to research studies as references supporting one's assertions. We've had some really good answers on questions like this in the past where folks really focused on backing up their claims. – jmort253 Sep 24 '13 at 1:23
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It depends on the job, company, individuals, etc.

For many knowledge worker positions, being physically close to other folks working on the same tasks is a "good thing". Having permission to work from home can also be a "good thing".

But as with anything in an office environment, management balances competing goods against each other. Outsourcing saves money (and sometimes time), but sacrifices closeness, communications effectiveness, and sometimes continuity and control. Working in a cubicle saves the company money, but costs in terms of a quiet, effective working environment. And work-at-home is a nice benefit for some, but costs in terms of closeness and communications effectiveness.

For some jobs/companies, the trade-offs work one way. For others they work in exactly the opposite way.

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    not just for companies, but people as well. Some don't mind the inevitable destruction of their private life as work intrudes more and more to the point you're on call 24/7 whether you signed up for it or not. For me, I want to be able to stop thinking about work when I exit the carpark on the way home and not think about it again until I hit the road to the office on the next work day. Doesn't mean occasional work from home is out of the question, but not regular let alone permanent. – jwenting Mar 7 '13 at 7:05
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While I have seen both good and bad from working frequently with remote workers, I can tell you that it only takes a very few people who abuse the situtation to make management decide to end it. While flexibility is nice to have as a worker, when it starts interfering with the ability of others who need to talk to you to get in touch, then the remote working will go away. I suspect this is what happened at Yahoo.

How can you abuse the situtation? First by not being available by email, phone or IM. Yes you may think you are being more productive by turning these things off, but all you are doing is making your coworkers and boss angry. If you are remote and people can't get ahold of you then in their minds you are not working.

Next thing I have seen go wrong is the whole, "this makes it easier for me as a mother because I can pick up my kids etc." thing. Unfortunately what tends to happen is the worker is spending all her time watching the kids and not working and production is significantly less than it was when the person was in the office. So the moms who are complaining about Yahoo's new policy are using exactly the wrong arument for a manager to listen to if they have expereinced this in their own remote workers. I don't care if it is easier to take care of your kids, you should NOT be doing that when you are supposed to be working. Period.

Of course Moms aren't the only ones who slack off when working at home. It is really easy to get caught up in the tv or games or the Internet (especially since you can have an entirely different computer to play on than the one you are connected to work from) or even housework. I have seen people who were forbidden to work from home whose output doubled or tripled when forced to come into the office. It really doesn't take too many of those people before a manager decides it isn't a great idea.

If you like the idea of remote working and you want to keep it where you work then be sure to do the following:

  • Make sure you are as productive or more productive than when you were in the office.
  • Make sure you are available when people try to contact you.

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