The War on Remote vs Onsite Office Work

As we could read in the news Ms Mayer from Yahoo and Mr Branson from Virgin both have a very strong opinions on the topic of home office.

Yahoo has recalled all remote employees to have them work from the office again to strengthen communication and collaboration, while the founder of the Virgin group states that many employees who work from home are extremely diligent and get their job done. In the press this has been blown up as the competing fight between different mindsets. Actually I’m not sure I agree.

Marissa Mayer through her statements makes it clear that good communication and collaboration is key for her, and she is not totally wrong in wanting people to meet face-to-face, to have informal chats and to feel a stronger sense of belonging. Technology has strongly helped overcome communication gaps and remote working, but surveys have shown that people working in a virtual team become strongly individual and learn to work independently. This as such is good, but can be contra-productive when you want to build a cohesive company.

But working myself most of the time remotely I also appreciate the liberties and the resource effectiveness of remote working. I complete agree with Sir Branson that “Choice empowers people and makes for a more content workforce”. This gives me more time with my family, but admittedly I’m also willing to work until midnight with my American clients, or start before eight in the morning to be able to speak to colleagues in Asia or Australia.

So the discussion for me is not who is wrong or right, but what do you as a company want to achieve? If like most company you are keen on saving costs, then remote work is a very viable solution, but is will certainly weaken the ties to your company while attracting people looking for a better work life balance. On the other hand the lack of choice (and also of trust) reflected in Yahoo’s HR statement will scare away people used to more empowerment. Whatever you decide to do, there will be disadvantages, and to be honest in these hard economical times, many companies don’t have a choice but to promote virtual team work.

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