Clearly, Marissa Mayer hit a nerve. Ever since the Yahoo! CEO abolished the company’s work-from-home policies, the web has been abuzz with reactions. My favorite so far: this funny open letter from an imaginary Yahoo! employee used to working at home.
Here’s part of it:
Ms. Mayer, you do not want me in your office.
For eleven years I have worked at home, thrilled with the arrangement Yahoo! provided. Free from distractions, free from traffic. Free from the burning, judgmental stares of other humans, from the deafening roar of each one drawing breath into their lumbering carcass.
Personal contact, Ms. Mayer? The darkness is my companion now. That’s all the contact I need.
To be clear, where I work should no longer be described as a “home”, but more a “Bunker of dark Elven magic.” Eleven years have allowed me to transform this garden apartment into the perfect symbiotic workspace, drawing from the best aspects of the Batcave (Burton-era), Tony Stark’s workshop, Cerebro, and the Batcave (Nolan-era).
I’ve been working from home for more than a decade. For individual workers, it has its perks. It has its downsides, too, which are aptly illustrated in this letter. I’ve been working at home for more than a decade. What I like: the flexibility, the chance to be with my kids, no commute. What I don’t: not being around other people, the fact that I miss out on the energy of being in an office, the difficulty of advancement, and not getting a chance to dress up!
Ms. Mayer simply judged that the downsides for Yahoo! — the lack of control and interaction that sparks new ideas — outweighed the upsides — the increased productivity and lower costs.
It’s a mistake to take her action as a condemnation of working at home. Like most things, working at home isn’t all good or all bad: it’s a situation that has to be evaluated for each person and each company. The fact that the technology is making it easier doesn’t alleviate the need to apply reasoned judgement to the decision.
Here’s the story about the original (leaked) memo.
(Elaine had another point of view on this. Here’s her blog post on Forbes).