Malaysian employees perplexed with Yahoo!’s work from home ban


Yahoo!’s Marissa Mayer’s move to ban working from home is puzzling. In a time when working from home is being promoted to allow employees to have better work-life-balance, Yahoo! chief executive officer Marissa Mayer scraps the policy.

Mayer, who left Google to head the pioneer Internet company, said in a memo that “to become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side. That is why it is critical that we are all present in our offices.”

This memo was leaked to online news site AllThingsD.

Her move shocked even business giants like Virgin’s Sir Richard Branson who criticised it by tweeting “Perplexed by Yahoo! stopping remote working. Give people the freedom of where to work (and) they will excel”.

They found working at home more productive as they are not tethered to an office environment. Chew Hwee Yen, who works from home often, says she completes more tasks by working from home which she finds is a lot quieter than the office.

“It’s surprising to know that a company like Yahoo! would make such a move because it has so many tools like Yahoo! Messenger and e-mail that allow colleagues to collaborate,” said Chew, who works for DiGi Telecommunications.

Another employee who is a mother of two teenage kids and wanted to remain anonymous even chided the decision and thinks that Mayer, who delivered her first child in October, may be experiencing a bout of delayed post-partum blues.

“When my children were toddlers, I wished the company I worked for had such a policy so I could divide my time between work and home,” she said.

She said the policy wasn’t viable 10 years ago because the Internet service left much to be desired and not many were as tech savvy as they are now.

Furthermore, there were fewer companies open to the idea, preferring to see their staff members in the office.

“Everything is connected these days and workers don’t have to be fixed to a particular environment to finish a task,” she said.

Never mind working from home — with today’s technology, you can work from anywhere. Leigh Wong, head of communications at Microsoft Malaysia, said cloud-based productivity suites allows workers to access work files even from a continent away.

“This way, communication and collaboration are quite unhindered,” he said.

A study by network equipment provider, Cisco Inc found that 70% of students believe it is unnecessary to be in the office regularly, unless they have to attend something important, like a project meeting.

The study, released in November 2011, also found that 69% of employers feel that office attendance on a regular basis was unnecessary.

If more companies now are in support of working from home, what could have compelled Mayer to make such a move?

Wong said while working from home is a step towards employee empowerment, it involves trust that is open to abuse.

It is less about measuring presence in the office and more about ensuring employees are responsible for their time and end-results, he said.

“Perhaps, it’s a simple case of when the cat’s away, the mice will play,” said one of our interviewees because it’s easy to abuse such privileges.

If the main reason behind the decision was to encourage more real-time interaction between staff members, Mayer’s move makes sense.

If preventing abuse was the reason, people who work in office environments can also waste time and resources.

A recent survey by the Malaysian Employers Federation showed that half the working time was spent on the Internet, long lunch breaks and chatter.

In the end, it all boils down to discipline and ethics, and being able to divide work and personal time.

It’s being able to have breakfast and some play time with your three-year-old before getting down to business instead of having to fight traffic to work.

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